Hip openers tend to be both very challenging, but also very loved in a yoga practice. Even when they feel somewhat uncomfortable, pretty much everyone who keeps up a continuous practice grows to love them.
So what is it? What is that strange mixture of unease and wonderful release in hip openers?
1 – Releasing Stress – One of the main benefits of hip openers is stretching and strengthening muscles that are directly connected to our stress response. One muscle in particular, the psoas, is a muscle that attaches the lumbar spine to the femur bone, and is triggered when we feel stress. So, even though we don’t really have much of a need to literally “fight” or “flight”, when the body experiences stress, the signal still travels to this muscle. So, you can see how this muscle can carry a great deal of residual tension and benefits greatly from being stretched with hip openers.
2 – Supporting Lower Back – Tight hips cause strain on the lower back by asking for too much effort from the spine. When hips are open, there is more range of movement, better circulation, and more support for the muscles of the back and the spine.
3 – Alignment – Hip openers can help the joints of the lower back, hips and legs to come into better alignment. When hips are tight or causing mis-alignment, it can have a big effect on the back and on knees, and even feet. Working with strength and flexibility in the hips can help to re-align this supportive space for greater and stronger mobility.
4 – Expand Creativity – Energetically, the hips are associated with the sacral chakra, or the creative centre. If you think about it, the hips are what hold and support the reproductive organs–the organs of creation. So when we focus on this area in the body, we help to unlock this creative centre and support it.