Updated: Mar 3
“We do not use the body to get into a pose, we use the pose to get into the body”
Bernie Clark “The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga. pg. 29.
As anyone who has an established yoga practice knows, we gain better awareness of our bodies as we practice yoga. This is part of the point of a physical asana practice. As we begin to acknowledge the sensations, once the brain recognizes your effort to pay attention, it can react very prudently and begin flooding you with sensations. Sometimes these sensations are of deep relaxation, other times they are immediate pain and sometimes they are somewhere in between.
In a mindful moving practice, if we recognize a deep sensation that is difficult to discern whether it is intense stretch (stress) or pain – this is a common feeling. It takes time to recognize what the body is telling you. If you feel immediate pain – absolutely honour it and move consciously out of the posture without question.
If you've been in my class, you will likely have heard me mention that the hips tend to hold a lot of “stuff”. At our base, the hips, tailbone and sacrum house our grounding framework when we sit and come close to the ground in seated postures. The energy centres contained in the body in these regions hold a lot of connection points. They are grounding in nature and represent our body’s foundation (meaning our connection with our inner most nature). Our upbringing, family life as it was as a child and continuing on to our current family life, our roots (ancestry) and our ability to create foundation for those around us. Also our connection to the earth.
On a slightly less metaphysical connection basis: Our hips tend to hold emotional factors that we tend to push aside from past experiences. Traumatic experiences - physically, emotionally or spiritually can be held very deeply in our foundation. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) & acupuncture – hip opening poses deeply stimulate the kidney/bladder meridians (energy channels). Kidneys are our “store house of fears” and also moderate our “chi” – vital energy flow of the body. Examples of hip opening poses (comfortable seat, pigeon and reclined pigeon, bound angle and shoelace as pictured below)
On a completely physical basis: Our hips are ball and socket joints. As we age, with years of use (& potentially abuse – known or unknown) our joint pliability, range and ease of movement becomes restricted (we need to take an active role in maintaining what we have and working to improve its current state).
There are many factors at play (activity, food & beverage, environment, weather, emotional health & ability to deal with stress, among others) that will help to shape our body’s ability to move (or on the reverse side - ever decreasing ability to move) based on what we do and how we do it.
I appreciate the old saying “move it or lose it” – this is very apparent when it comes to flexibility, strength, balance and co-ordination…hmmm, that’s ironic – we work on all those things while practicing yoga…interesting… J
When we feel pain in the hips (or for anywhere in the body for that matter) – at the joint level, we can be feeling this for many reasons, some of which I’ll highlight briefly here.
1) Limited range of movement b/c of lack of use
2) Limited range of movement b/c of previous injury
3) Limited range of movement b/c of abuse or over-use (improper exercise or activity, repetitive strain – known or unknown)
4) Excessive range of movement due to hypermobility (either pre-disposition genetically, through repeated range of motion activities or potentially due to injury)
5) Genetic factors – skeletal make-up (pelvic alignment & boney structures, etc. outside of our control)
6) Nerve occlusion or impingement (nerves being pinched between 2 boney structures (i.e. vertebrae on vertebrae squeezed together causing nerve “pinch” or radiating “nerve pain”)
7) Boney structure calcification (excess mineral deposits on the boney structures that create a rough surface that when we glide across creates grating noises, ache or pain sensation (can lead to osteoarthritis). This is also usually accompanied by inflammation (pain, swelling, redness & heat – visually not always available from the outside) at the site.
8) When we experience pain on the resting side (the one baring the weight), there can be physical limitations as indicated above, but also may be affected by emotional factors (by things held back, unwanted and repressed feelings that are blocked).
9) Nutritional excesses and deficiencies – I am compelled to put this in here as a nutritionist…. just ask me about acidity in the body some day and it will open up a whole can of worms!!!
This is certainly not an inclusive list, but gives you a place to start when thinking about your body during and outside of practice.
When we practice asana (postures), while utilizing our pranayama (breath), our conscious and subconscious mind are more closely connected. The awareness created when we practice offers opportunity to learn about our body’s and what they are constantly trying to tell us.
I wish everyone ease of body and mind. May you continue to practice, learn, grow and experience for the rest of a full and healthy life.
If this particular blog post creates more questions, please feel free to ask. If I am unable to answer your question, I’ll hopefully be able to guide you in a direction where you can find an answer.
I hope to see you on your mat soon!