Hip stability


What would a yoga class look like if we were to actually listen to what was right for our own unique bodies – rather than what we were told to do, or striving for what the person on the mat beside us was doing. The discipline of yoga, as with all movement, if not practiced with self care and awareness can lead to injuries. Your teacher is there to guide you and facilitate the movement, you are there to ultimately decide what feels right for you. There is many reasons why your body may never reach the perceived ‘perfect pose’ – from shortened muscles and ligament restrictions, to your unique skeletal structure. During our practice we are constantly getting feedback from our bodies – what feels good and what doesn’t. It’s up to us to listen! The deeper I go into my own practice, the more I pull back from being attached to perfection. Instead I look for a balance between mobility and stability by moving slowly and being guided by felt sensations and pulling back to a softer version of the pose when needed.

With this in mind, following on from 360 Hip Openers, I have started to explore hip stability. As with everything in life, there has to be a balanced approach to both stretching and strengthening to avoid injuries further down the line. Hip openers have many benefits to counteract our sedentary lives, but hip stability is just as important to incorporate into your practice too. Supporting one with the other will help you to stay within your safe boundaries and give you the mobility of stretching with the stability of strengthening. There is a misconception of yoga that it is purely stretching, but it gives you both stretching and strengthening – using our own body weight, and pressing into our foundation to trigger strong muscle activity.

The pelvis is the foundation of the body and encompasses the base of our spine (1st Chakra), our reproductive organs, our digestive system, and enables all movement. The pointy hip bones (iliac crest) at the front of our hips can tell us a lot about our alignment. As you work through this sequence place your fingertips on the hip bones at the front of your pelvis, or have a glance down at your hips, and looking for level hip bones. When you find your hip bones, hug your outer hips to the midline to activate your strong stabilising hip muscles of the glutes. This will help with your alignment in many poses - such as Phalakasana/Plank Pose, Virabhadrasana III/Warrior III and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana/Bridge. When the hips are not level it has implications on the whole body and brings the spine into a lateral bend or a twist to compensate. If you find this is the case for you, come back out of the pose and move into it slower – squeezing your outer hips muscles to the midline – and staying at the point just before the hips move out of alignment. For example in Virabhadrasana III/Warrior III - lift your left leg, pressing out through the heel, with your hands on your hip bones. If you feel the left hip hiking up pull back a little, and work on strengthening your version of the pose at this point. Your leg may not be perfectly parallel to the floor but your hips are learning all about stability and your supporting hip muscles are firing appropriately rather than being bypassed. This way you are being guided by your body rather than what you are being asked to do or what you see other people doing.

The peak pose of this sequence is Parivrtta Ardha Chamdrasana/Revolved Half Moon. Read through these alignment cues to help you find your optimum alignment for your unique body.

  • From Virabhadrasana III, inhale, lengthen up through your spine. Exhale, twist to your right from the waist, reach your left hand to the big toe side of your right foot, a foot forward, on a brick, or the ground. Keeping your left leg parallel to the ground, toes facing down, press out through the heel, roll the inner thigh of your left leg up.

  • Reach your right arm up high, palm facing right, stack your shoulders. Bottom waist rolls forward, top waist rolls back, lengthen from the heel of your lifted leg to the tip of your crown, gaze forward or to your right fingertips.

Print out the above sequence and practice with the intention of searching for a connection with your body rather than searching for perfection. Embrace what you can and can’t do as part of what makes you uniquely you. As you flow through this sequence remember our intention of stability and listening to feedback. When you find you’ve lost your connection move slower and isolate a single area (the hips points) to help you find that feedback again.

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Ruth Delahunty Yogaru