Those of you that practice with me regularly will know we spend a lot of time working on the hips, most practices will find some sort of deep hip opener hidden or very obviously placed to bring the focus 'down there'.
There's a myriad of different reason but the main one is to allow the body to fully work out the stress response and arrive in a deep state of relaxation. So how does this work?
When we get hit with a stressful trigger our body gets placed into the sympathetic nervous system, or Fight & Flight mode. Remember a stressful trigger can be anything that makes us feel unsafe, vulnerable, worried, insecure, anxious, angry, fearful, nervous or stressed. Any emotion that we feel that is linked with the above feelings is a stressful trigger.
When we hit a stressful trigger, and our body moves into fight and flight our brain floods our body with hormones that signal the response that we need to get ready to go. These hormones are things like adrenaline, and many others and one thing these hormones do is charge the muscles ready to take flight or have a fight, and the muscles they charge mostly are the ones that are needed to do this, the power muscles of the thighs, glutes, and arms.
Ok but the stress has gone away?
In todays world most stressors are not lions in bushes ready to pounce, most are emails from the boss or an awkward client, children tantrumming, a text message that feels odd, a driver driving carelessly, or a million other things. Once the stressor has gone the problem is our muscles are still charged ready to go, because we haven't gone, we haven't discharged this energy that's been sent to these muscles and so they are tightly coiled like a spring ready to shoot into action, yet we haven't acted!
Over time this muscles gather this tightness, stressful situation after stressful situation, becoming tighter and more coiled.
The only way to get that coiled spring to unravel is to either GO, which is why some find running deeply healing, or to stretch, to move those tightly coiled muscles until they are a little more relaxed, and over time the stress stored in the body dissipates and we feel safe again, our body can finally relax.
Why can't I just let the tightness build?
You can, but the body and brain work as a constant messenger service, the body sending signals to the brain and the brain sending messages back down in response to the body. When our muscles are tightly coiled they are sending the message to the brain that we are ready to flee, the brain picks this message up and reads it as the body must be in danger, more hormones are released and the cycle continues. As with all cycles someone needs to break them, and so just thinking you are relaxed isn't enough.
We have to get our body to tell our brain that we actually are relaxed, that we are no longer ready to run. Stretching the muscles whilst exhaling slowly and deeply is the perfect way to tell the brain we are safe, we can let the guard down and relax.
So why do I feel emotions when I stretch these muscles?
These emotions are all the build up of what's been coiling up every time we get stressed, our muscles are holding it all, over and over again, and because they never release when we do take the time to let them relax the emotions over flow, sometimes its frustration, anger, tears, relief, ultimately it's the overflow of not being released that causes the emotions to flow.
Why do we talk about the hips as being a place of grounding?
Because by releasing the tension held in the hips we tell the mind we are safe, that we no longer need to be ready to flee or fight and so we feel able to fully relax, not just surface relaxation but deeply deeply relax, this is the feeling of being grounded, safe and home within ourselves.
And the most important thing?
To be kind to yourself, the body only does what it needs to do, the body doesn't set out to make your life harder, it responds to the situation and puts into play what is required, as we practice and meet the tightnesses, I hear all the time people venting frustration at the fact they can't do a certain pose or its hard, but the reason it's hard is we have lived a life, we have collected these tightnesses along the way and so to be kind as we gradually release them, beating ourselves up isn't going to give the message that we are safe, so the tightnesses will stay tight and the cycle won't be fulfilled.
Two practices this week on the wilderness focusing on the hips are
Deep Flow - Heading into the hips & finding home
Slow Flow - The intricacies of the hips
Go take a look and feel.
Lots of Love