Them hips, they don't lie / by Anita Cheung

Whenever I ask for requests before teaching a yoga practice, the number one response I hear back is: Hips. 

So what's the deal? Why are we always feeling tight in our hips?

For those of you who don't know what it means to have "tight hips"- I applaud you. For the rest of us, we are either office workers, runners, or just victims of a 21st century lifestyle sans stretching. Our hip flexors are responsible for helping us bend at the hips- which is needed for walking, sitting, and general daily living. Not-so-recently, I came upon this article that details how our hips are linked to our emotional well being. Have you ever heard your yoga teacher say "Your hips carry tension?". Sure, he/ she is talking about all the extra work your hips take on when the rest of you is out of balance, but your yoga teacher is probably also referencing this article: (link here)

To summarize:

  • The Psoas muscle (pronounced sew-as) is connected to our diaphragm and thus connected to our breath. It is also linked to our reptilian brain- that part of our brain that our survival instincts come from.
  • As such,  the psoas muscle is related to the fight or flight part of our survival instincts. It helps us run away or curl up and protect ourselves. With all the stress we experience in our daily lives (phones that chime with emails even when we're not at work, responsibilities left right and centre... you get the drift), our psoas muscle is constantly "on". This causes it to contract and tighten which can wreak havoc on other parts of our body- both externally and internally. While a ready-to-go psoas was probably beneficial in our prehistoric caveman days, constantly being in fight-or-flight affects our sleep and digestion, amongst other things. 
  • When the psoas is released or relaxed, it signals to the brain that we aren't in "fight or flight" mode anymore. Not being in fight or flight is a great thing. It lets us chill out and allows the parasympathetic (aka rest and digest) system to take over to- you guessed it- help us rest and digest.

So whether your hips are tight due to emotional turmoil we've been carrying around or because you need a new desk chair, give them some TLC by requesting "hip openers" at your next yoga class.