The hips are lamentably but accurately considered the junk drawer of stored emotions. If you follow the belief that the issues are in the tissues, mental health conditions and trauma create physical symptoms in our body. Even when mental stress dulls or ceases, tension lingers in the tissues of the body in the form of neuropeptides. (If you are like me and want more convincing scientific research, here is a link to one of the many neurological studies on “Neuropeptides, Emotions and Bodymind”: https://candacepert.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Advances-v8-1988-Wisdom-of-the-Receptors1.pdf)
Psychosomatic Pain Is Real
A simple definition of psychosomatic pain is physical pain that is caused by, increased, or prolonged by mental, emotional, or behavioral factors. In other words, it is physical pain in the biology of your body that is deeply rooted in emotional behavior. It is not something you are imagining or making up. In the hips, what we perceive as physical pain such as tightness in the IT band or hip flexors, pelvic floor dysfunction, and other issues like pulling in the iliopsoas are aggravated (or at least is continuing to be fed) by our vulnerability, anxiety and emotional trauma. As a bottom up, body-based approach to self-heal, somatics and yoga approach the tender trauma of the hips and sacred sacrum with grace. Moving, stretching and strengthening the hips facilitate safe emotional release. Please recognize that before any release, there is a resurfacing that may present itself in heightened emotional discomfort, tears, and involuntary re-patterning of the breath.
What is a Hip Opener
“Hip opener” is often thrown around and misused in yoga classes. The term is commonly associated with poses that open the inner thighs (external rotation and abduction of the hip) like baddha konasana (butterfly), malasana (squat), and eka pada rajakapotasana (pigeon pose – which is the peak pose in this class). In their fullest expression, the hips have 360 degrees of rotation. So “hip opening” poses include any of the muscles around the hip joint and pelvis, including the buttocks, hamstrings, outer hips and abdomen.
Hips Are Part Of The Whole
The hips are not an island unto themselves. Structurally, they connect the legs to the spine and torso, allowing us to move forward in life. In addition to propulsion, they are huge circulatory supporters – likened to an island of arteries and veins in the middle of our watery body. The hips are also part of the passionate pelvic girdle. I say ‘passionate’ because the Svadhisthana Chakra, which is the energetic consciousness of our sexuality and pleasure, holds place in the lower abdominal area. At the base of the pelvis is the Muladhara Chakra; the energetic equivalent to our survival instinct. As the first chakra to form at birth, the Muladhara (root chakra) only request is that your basic needs be met; food, shelter, sleep, etc. Fear is the enemy of this space and can imbalance our physical foundation – the pelvic floor.
Somatic Reflexes & Body Language Through The Lens Of A Dog
Watching the innate way my new shelter dog, Milo, rounds his back side and tucks his tail when he is scared is equivalent to the way humans close off the front of the hips to protect their soft, vulnerable front side. Like tucking our tail, a hunched spine, posterior tilt to pelvis or what is referred to as Red Light Reflex in somatics is a withdrawal response to fear. In modern society, this posture is mimicked physically when we sit in a chair too much. Milo’s other involuntary response is to arch his back (anterior pelvic tilt) and raise the hair on his back and neck in what is termed ‘raised hackles’. This unconscious action is a sign of anxiety, excitement, nervousness or anger. In somatics, this response is called Green Light Reflex. This involuntary reflex begins with the hips tilting forward and continues with a general enlarging of the front of the body to prepare for action; think ‘big and scary’ looking, but with unpleasant compression in the back side. These hard wired reflexes present slightly differently in dogs than humans, and in humans they can be solely emotional responses. Dogs mainly respond to physical threats. As bipeds with advanced protective brains, our amygdala responds to perceived threats that are emotional in nature as well. Even without the presence of an actual physical threat, the amygdala triggers the release of stress hormones. Persistent emotional stressors can be the cause of hip dysfunction and pain above and below the pelvis.
Hip position is literally at the foundation of our Be-ing. I refer to the pelvis as the ‘Center Of Your Universe’. Like many body structures, the hips have something to say. If you feel safe, let them speak through movement. Stop, be still and listen whenever you need to. Your hips will flourish with security and gentleness and by connecting the passion in the pelvis to compassion in the heart.
Peace and Healing, Megan