The first few days of post-op rehab are some of the most important in a patient’s recovery. We spend so much time focusing on the hip fracture, but the soft tissue needs to heal as well to create a successful outcome. The most important thing during this time is to avoid injury and work with your healthcare provider to learn how to correctly perform the many yoga poses that are a part of hip surgery recovery.
Hip openers are a form of yoga that has been popularized in the past few years. If you’ve been doing hip openers as part of your yoga practice, you’ll know that they require you to move your hip joints. In order to prevent injury, you need to make sure your body is properly prepared before the exercise.
When I first started doing yoga, I was convinced that I was a pretty inflexible person. When I learned to be smarter about my body, I discovered that I was much more flexible than I initially thought. But, as I wrote in my column last fall, flexibility doesn’t always equal better, and in fact, hypermobile yogis should be careful not to overstretch or injure themselves when performing their favorite poses.
For these yogis, strengthening mindfulness can be the best help. In other words: Strength helps flexibility. Utilizing the strength of our muscles is an excellent way to stabilize hypermobility in many postures. In this week’s column, I focus on exercises to open or deepen the hips, because when we think about flexibility, the hips are one of the first areas we skip.
To open the hip or knee
It’s worth taking a break for an anatomy lesson. The hips and knees are connected in a special way, so that if one fails, the other feels it. A complex network of muscles, ligaments and tendons connects the pelvis, hip bones and knees so we can stand, sit, walk, run, jump and do yoga.
The hips themselves are a fairly immobile area for most people, as their main role is to stabilize weight, but if you look at the hip joint, where the acetabulum meets the hip bone, there is more action. The knees, whose mobility is somewhat less restricted than that of the hips, operate mainly in flexion and extension, but have a small range of rotation. All of these players must be taken into account when opening the hips.
Start with a balanced envelope
Your pelvis is like a bowl, and to cultivate a neutral alignment, you should try to keep it straight and level without tilting it too far forward – leaning forward, or backward – leaning backward. Knowing exactly where the neutral position is allows you to better adjust the alignment to the needs of your body in a particular pose; in this case, when the opening of the hips requires bending forward, such as in Dove pose with one leg (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana).
Consider your rotation
Even if your pelvis is less mobile, it is helpful to understand the basic movements of internal and external rotation of your legs. Pigeon, for example, requires increased external rotation of the front leg and associated hip joint, and increased internal rotation of the rear leg.
In the wreath pose (Malasana), both legs are turned outward. And in the wide leg forward bend (Prasarita Padattonasana), the emphasis is on the internal rotation of the legs. As you approach the next hip extension, ask yourself if you need to develop an external or internal rotation of the leg, or both. If you are unsure, ask a qualified teacher. If you choose to do good deeds, you will become stronger because of them.
Balancing hip flexion with two subtle self-corrections
The dynamic movement of most hip-opening exercises includes spreading the legs, as in the forward shoulder bend, or placing one leg in front of the other, as in the monkey pose (Hanumanasana), but that is only part of the equation. To balance the opening of the hips, a certain contraction must also be cultivated. Here are two analogies I like to use in my teaching to support these actions:
1. Squeeze your inner thighs as if you were using the world’s smallest ThighMaster trainer.
Most of the time we don’t care (thanks Suzanne Somers!), but it’s easy for people to think of adductors when they think of bench pressing on the ThighMaster machine. You can use this contraction in most postures, but it’s easiest to cultivate this action in the Pendulum Pose, the Raven Pose (Bakasana), and even in lunges like Warrior 2 (Veerabhadrasana II).
Crescentic lung, also called high lung, is a little harder to diagnose, but it occurs there too. By squeezing your legs together, you prevent the ligaments and tendons around your hips from collapsing, reducing the number of sprains, strains, or tears you may suffer.
2. Squeeze your feet together as if you were cross-country skiing.
Let’s stick with 90s fashion and pretend we’re on a NordicTrack ski simulator. The same effect can be obtained by mentally bending the coccyx toward the pubic bone. This movement can be useful for asymmetrical or one-sided postures, including lunges, one-legged standing balances, seated hip-opening postures such as dove or monkey pose, and lying hip-opening postures such as thumb-down pose (Supta Padangusthasana).
By cultivating your own resistance from the inside out, you will safely measure the depth of your hip opening while protecting those same ligaments and tendons.
These adjustments are not as dynamic as leg extensions, but they are just as important in helping yogis leave the gym injury-free after an intense hip workout. May you be happier in your hips as a result!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does yoga make my hips hurt?
Yoga can be a great way to stretch and strengthen your hips, but it can also cause pain if you are not careful. If you are experiencing pain in your hips, it is important to listen to your body and stop practicing yoga if the pain becomes too much.
What emotion is stored in hips?
Which yoga poses are bad for hips?
The following yoga poses are bad for hips: Downward-facing dog Cobra pose Child’s pose The following yoga poses are good for hips: Warrior pose Seated forward fold Seated twist Child’s pose
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