Our hips are those beautiful curves in our center that lead the swish in hula dancing. They are the key to a snug bikini bottom, and they make the Bump and Twist magical if you bring those moves back to the dance floor. So, what happens when your hips start to bother you? When your swish starts to swoosh? When you can no longer sit cross-legged on the Earth and play with your kids or grandkids? You begin to realize that your bod is telling you something. It needs your attention! I’m not a doctor (nor do I play one on TV), so it’s important to find out the cause of your pain so that you don’t inadvertently do any damage. Then check out the following tips that may begin to make a difference.
1. MINDSET – Start with a grateful heart and an open mind. Be grateful for whatever you can do. It’s important to start any type of growth practice with an appreciation of where you already are. Your movement on this planet is a gift, and there are others facing greater physical challenges than you, so begin your steps to better health by recognizing and honoring all of the wonderful things that your body allows you to do today. Then be open to new ways of engaging your body and strengthening it. As we grow, our bodies change and we may need to learn new ways to challenge it. (I’m not saying shelve your plan to run the New York City Marathon here; I’m saying be open to new ways of training for it that may offer your body an easier road to get there.)
2. STRETCH/PRACTICE – Change will occur over time, but it takes practice. Try to incorporate stretches focused on your hips into your regular, everyday life. When you grab a snack from a bottom kitchen cabinet, fold forward and stretch the back of your hips as you bend over (honoring any tightness you might feel in your lower back by bending your knees slightly). Checking out a bird in a tree or a cloud in the sky? Place your hands on your lower back (fingers pointed down), feet parallel with one another, and gently tilt your head up and back. Keep your head and neck in line with your spine and gently open your shoulders. When you sit and watch TV or read on your couch, try to do so cross-legged. Tuck pillows under your knees to support your hips if need be. These simple stretches—when done mindfully and regularly—have the potential to have sweet impacts. As you bring simple stretches into your everyday world, they will naturally become a part of your life. (Read on for specific yoga postures that stretch your hip area.)
3. PROPS – Use them. I’m not referring to something you’d find on a movie set. I’m referring to anything that you can use to help you sit, stand, or move with more comfort or greater ease. Let’s say you can sit cross-legged on the Earth, but your knees don’t fall open readily. Place some towels or pillows (“props”) under your knees. Give your body a break so that you can breathe more easily. When you are able to breathe and relax, your body loses tension, and an invitation to open unfolds. As you perform different stretches regularly, you may find that you can lessen the number of props that you use. (Maybe next month, you only feel the need to use three towels under your knees as opposed to four!) And recognize that each day our bodies change, so if you need to use more towels one day than the day before, use them. Stay aware of what your body is telling you. Reminder: Keep your mind open and heart grateful for all that you can do.
4. RECOGNIZE CONNECTIONS – Your hips don’t hula by themselves. They’re connected to your entire center and your entire body. As you begin to strengthen your hips, also perform stretches that engage your lower back and torso. We are connected to so many things (actually, everything, if you really go deep with the Kevin Bacon law of connection or you explore quantum physics). The food we eat, the shoes we wear, the activities we partake in (or don’t partake in) affect our bodies. It all affects our hips. Make conscious choices when you grab your next potato chip (or sour patch kid in my case—not sure why they’re so hard to resist), slap on those cute, old shoes with barely a sole hanging on, or binge-watch your next Netflix favorite. Hint: eat healthy, dress for healthy comfort as well as style, and move your bod!
5. START RIGHT NOW – Yes, right now! Get up and stretch and breathe as you read this last little part. Honor your breath and your body by beginning a practice to stretch your hips today. Try to make gentle stretching part of your routine—even if you just start by stretching long in bed after you wake up, giving a little love and gratitude to your bod and the Universe for all that you can do and for the new day in front of you. Every little stretch and ounce of appreciation counts toward positive growth in your mind and body!
There are numerous articles available online about specific yoga stretches that benefit your hips. I will mention a few by name here and would advise you to check with your health care advisor before attempting them—and know the source of the information describing the stretch so that it is explained safely. Also, it is important to warm up your body with gentle stretching prior to engaging in your practice. And what else? Oh yes, step into every day with an open mind and grateful heart.
Useful Yoga Stretches for Hips while Laying on the Earth: Supta Kapotasana (Reclining Pigeon), Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle, Cobbler’s Pose), Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby), Apanasana (Knees to Chest Pose)
Useful Yoga Stretches for Hips while Seated Cross-Legged on the Earth: From Sukhasana (seated cross-legged), fold forward with arms extended on Earth while Forehead also moves downward (walk hands right and left while extended), Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle, Cobbler’s Pose), Upavistha Ardha Chandrasana (Seated Half-Moon Pose)
Additional Useful Yoga Stretches for Hips: Balasana (Child’s Pose), Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), Ustrasana (Camel), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog), Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle)
Celebrate all that your body can do every single day! Something that may look like a small stretch on the outside to one person may, in fact, be a huge stretch for another both physically and mentally. Honor your body! Embrace where you are and seek positive growth on every level! Your tomorrows will hug you for it! Then get out there, shake those hips, and hula! (Grass skirts optional.)