Our roots are the connection to the earth and therefore serve to ground us. Grounding orients us in space and time. Being grounded gives us a source of strength through the connection to our body and the environment, physically this happens through the pelvis, legs and feet.
To be strongly grounded allows us to stand on our own two feet and face what is in front of us without flinching, to remain anchored to our truth in the face of opposition so that we may remain clam and secure. From security we can then safely explore the idea of movement and yielding; only when we feel safe and grounded can we learn to let go and flow. As we begin to move the body, we increase heat and fluidity allowing us to penetrate into the deep layers of muscle and connective tissues found in the hips, where due to the dense layers of connective tissue, tend to be areas of stickiness for most. The body remembers what the mind has long forgotten and because the hips are the largest joint in the body, penetrated by the largest nerve, surrounded by the largest muscles and home of the first and second chakra it only makes sense that the hips tend to be an area of “stickiness” for most people, similar to a dam that prevents the flow of water, stagnant energy in the hips leaves us feeling heavy and dull and prevents us from moving forward. The downward flow of consciousness in the body is our manifesting energy. It is this energy that supports movement and action. Effective “leg and hip work” utilizes this energy to create inertia and movement, allowing us to become un stuck as opposed to uprooted, propelling us forward in the direction of our goals.
Often when working with the hips, we tend to overemphasize the stretching or “openness” component, however most hip and leg dysfunction is often a result of a stability or strength issue as opposed to a tight muscle issue. If your stability is comprimised, your foundation is weakened, and ultimately the entire structure will begin to bear the burden of support, until eventually the integrity becomes so compromised and exhausted that everything begins to crumble. Let me explain.
If there is instability in the pelvis and hips then the larger, stronger muscles of the hips and thighs tend to over work, grip, spasm and pull to compensate for this instability. I spent years stretching my hip flexors, gluteal and external rotators, only to find that my hip pain and guarding was getting worse. I also found it quite paradoxical that the hip where i had all the pain was also the hip with a crazy amount of flexibility. It was not until i really slowed things down (yes dropped some vinyasa practices) consulted with a rolfer and chiropractor and got back into the weight room that i actually realized it was an unstable joint that was causing my larger, stronger muscles to over contract, which ultimately pulls the bones out of optimal alignment, reducing ROM, while the deep stabilizers were going to sleep. This pattern is called compensation. It typically starts with an injury, that eventually turns into compensation. I am not sure what the original injury was, but i have a few good ideas. Compensation is not inherently good or bad, it is in our biological make up to seek pleasure and avoid pain and therefore the body will do whatever it needs to in order to avoid discomfort, even at the expense of the “integrity” of the body.
Compensation to avoid discomfort at the expense of your integrity?
The healthy function of the hip joint requires that it maintains a balanced joint space through it’s entire ROM. This requires both strength and stability (stithra) and suppleness (sukha) Without each of the muscles functioning properly, meaning they turn on when they need to and off when they don’t, we can not maintain this balanced joint space and often find ourselves compromising our integrity to go further in specific postures or movements.
Turning on specific muscles in postures actually allows us to maintain a more stable or “open” joint space, as opposed to just dumping into the joints,”here hold me” expecting that they will support us. From strength and stability we can then safely move forward into the unknown without the fear of being injured or uprooted. There are many simple exercises that can be done to both test and strengthen specific “stabilizers” of the hip including squats, lunges and bridges (two legs for strength and 1 leg for stability) I highly recommend a healthy balance between “yang” or movement and strength based exercises combined with “yin” or deep stretching and relaxation exercises. Functional muscles need to be able to both contract and relax and work within the community of the body. I also recommend some rolling in order to hydrate those sticky, tight places in the body so they can more effectively be stretched.
Whether it is in the body or in your life, too much flexibility often compromises integrity.
If you are interested come join us in the Empowered Lab. This week we will be putting the hips under the microscope.