Before I started studying and practicing yoga I didn’t know much about my body. Sure, I was aware of one or another muscle or joint when I noticed it was aching (or when I thought it looked particularly good in a mirror).
But I never understood how all the parts worked together – or how I was affecting (and sometimes injuring) certain parts of my body through nothing more than sitting at my desk numerous hours each day.
What I’ve realized from my practice is this: the repetitive stress from sitting in a chair and staring at a computer day in and day out has a negative effect on muscles and joints. But I’ve also realized this: yoga can counter repetitive stress.
Yoga’s unique method of working with the body through breathing and mindful movement offers a remedy for so many work related body (and mind) issues. But, an even greater benefit is the ability to know your body better. You become less blind and more attuned with the best way to move, sit and engage the body – both at work and in the rest of life.
I started Urban Practice because I wanted to share with you busy urban professionals how to incorporate yoga, meditation and mindfulness into your life. Going forward I’ll be giving you a monthly teaching on basic anatomy related to particular parts of your body, especially those parts that endure repetitive stress in your work life.
Think of these monthly posts as a corner office meeting about a very important topic: your body.
This month I want to talk about hips because I don’t know anyone who works at a desk and doesn’t have tightness in and around their hips.
Setting aside the emotional, psychological and psychic detriments to having tight hips, let’s just briefly discuss the whys and what you can do about it.
It’s hip to have hips
Very simply, your hips are both the joint where your leg connects with your pelvis and the groups of muscles that hold it all together. Your hip-joint is one of only two ball and socket joints (the other one is your shoulder joint). The ball and socket joint is special: it offers the most variable range of motions of all the joints in the body.
With good posture, your hip-joint is neutral when you are standing (and sometimes when you are lying down – although it depends). The hip-joint can flex (when you lift your leg up in front of you), extend (when you pull your leg back behind you), rotate outward (when you swing your leg to the side away from you) and rotate inward (when you swing your leg toward your other leg).
The muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding your hips are numerous and have hard to pronounce (let alone remember) Latin sounding names. For our purposes here, I just want you to understand that these surrounding muscles work hard to make the hip-joints move from their neutral position.
Help your hips
If you spend a lot of time making the hip move in one particular way and remain there, the muscles used to make that movement tighten. When you sit in a chair, you are using muscles to flex and rotate the hip-joint inward. And that is generally why the fronts and sides of your hips feel so tight. The longer you sit the worse it gets.
There are many yoga poses you can do to work on your tight hips, some are more complicated than others. You can also counter chair sitting by taking regular breaks to stand up and walk around.
But a basic principle you should absorb is this: to get relief for your tight hips, you need to counter the movements you make by sitting in a chair.
You can start by making the hip joint extend and rotate outward. Here is one example that is a simple stretch that you can do right in your office – without even leaving your chair!
Pigeon pose for happier hips
It’s called “pigeon pose” and it’s simple and effective. Try it like this:
- Sit on your chair about half way between the front and back end of the seat, or wherever you need for both feet to plant flat on the floor and your back to be away from the chair.
- Keep your left foot planted, and bring your right ankle to the top of your left thigh. Like the way boys cross their legs.
- Make sure your right foot is flexed (meaning your right toes are moving towards your shin). This will protect your knee-joint while you work on stretching your hip muscles. (like below)
- Start by bringing your forearms to your lower right leg. Take a few deep breaths.
- Slowly reach your hands past your lower right leg and bring your hands/fingers towards the floor. (like this below). Keep your right foot flexed actively. If it’s too intense, go back to #4.
- Breathe deeply for 5-10 breaths.
- Come back up slowly and release your right foot to the floor.
- Repeat with the left ankle on the right thigh.
If you have space, you can also do pigeon pose lying on your back and crossing your right ankle over your left thigh while clasping your hands behind your left thigh (like this below).
There are more variations of pigeon pose that I can share with you another time. If you are needing some immediate and more extensive attention to your hips, send me an inquiry here.
In the meantime, start practicing the pigeon pose I’ve shown you here and you will give some much needed relief to your hips.
If you are interested in learning more in general about how yogic breathing techniques, mindful movement/asana, meditation and work-life balance can improve your urban life then inquire here.
If you know someone who will benefit from these teachings then don’t be shy and share with your friends!
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