“If you want to make someone cry, teach hip openers.” My 200-hour teacher training was six years ago, but I remember this particular session like it was yesterday. (My teacher meant crying in a good way, of course.) A light bulb flashed above my head as I began to understand my own unexplained tears at one of my first yoga classes. Back then hip openers were uncomfortable and intense, and I wanted out of them almost immediately. Finally, I understood why. We hold all sorts of negative emotions—sadness, fears, guilt, stress—in our pelvis and hip area so when we open the muscles there emotions surface and the result is a release that can be powerful enough to bring on the tears. It’s especially true, I think, for beginning yoga students who haven’t ever really focused on opening their hips.
After practicing hip openers on a regular basis for a few years, this type of pose feels great in my body, not uncomfortable at all. I’ve never experienced another flood of emotions like I had in my early days of practice. I can only guess that by regularly practicing hip opening poses, I’m not holding on to as much emotion there.
Today, I am obsessed with hip openers. The poses have become less about releasing negative emotions, and more about the joyful experience of freedom I feel when I practice them. They might be the most practical poses of all since they make sitting more comfortable, whether it’s at a desk or for meditation. I am amazed at how many of the poses I practice everyday can be subtle and gentle hip openers if I put the emphasis there—Warrior 2, particularly. And it’s fascinating how hip openers can prepare the body for all kinds of different poses—especially my beloved arm balances and standing balance poses. (Hip Hip Hooray!)
Thinking back to my first experience of hip opening makes me realize just how much a long-term asana practice can transform, not just your physical body, but how you cope with emotions, too. My practice of hip openers has changed so much through the years, I’m practically giddy with excitement to think of all the ways the poses will change my life over the next 10 years of practice.
Has your relationship to hip opening (or any other group of poses) changed over time?