A healthy body is capable of moving in many directions simultaneously. For instance, during ice skating you would find yourself externally rotating the upper leg used to stride while slightly internally rotating the other leg used to glide. In order for these multi-directional actions to operate effectively, the legs and pelvis need to move independently of each other. In yoga, we refer to this as wringing the hips.
This “separation” of the legs from the pelvis is responsible for our flexibility, strength and mobility. However, the pelvis and outer hips are where most North Americans hold their emotional tension.
Our “issues” are stored in our “tissues” due to—suppressing rather than expressing emotion and repeating behaviours such as pressing on the gas and brake pedals or standing and walking with our feet turned outward.
Releasing tension or tightness from the outer hips unlocks these life-long holding patterns and liberates us from old traumas, which is why yoga is a spiritual practice as well as a physical practice. Because of the shape of our hips, standing with an external rotation of the legs is most common. Over time, this overuse of the outer hip and outer thigh muscles and underuse of the inner thigh muscles results in the pelvis and legs sticking together.
Without the ability to wring the hips, the stuck pelvis and legs can jam and pull the sacrum as well as torque the knees.
Working with the actions below resolves many of the hip imbalances due to habituated patterns.
Action: From the centre of the outer hips, release the skin and flesh in two directions; forward toward the navel and backward toward the sacrum.
For more advanced practitioners, maintain the above action while externally rotating the skin and flesh of the upper legs from the inner thighs to the outer thighs.
Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
Sit on height so the knees are level to or below your hips. Bring the soles of your feet together and the legs out to the side. To release the knees towards the floor, find the actions in both outer hips and legs. Hold for 10 breaths.
Start with legs straight and a wide stance between your feet. To turn the legs outward, find the actions in both outer hips and legs. Bend your knees in the direction of the feet, and take your tailbone toward the floor. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths. To come out, press into the feet and straighten the legs.
Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Pose)
Add height under the sit bones if your lumbar rounds. Bring your right foot along your inner left thigh and release your right leg outward. Support your knees if they are not resting on the floor. Hold your left foot with your hands or belt. Find the action in both legs and hips. Hold for 5 -10 breaths, repeat with left knee bent.
For more information, refer to Creating Space — Yoga Actions for Pelvis & Psoas.