My hypermobile joints were born. I could lie on the ground and do side splits as a child. There was no resistance. When I started yoga, I believed my hypermobile body was the best for it. I could do the “advanced” postures that require extreme flexibility without difficulty.
Both students and teachers in most workshops praised my hypermobility. Particularly in Anusara workshops, flexible students won applause. However, there were some notable exceptions. Donna Farhi and Judith Hanson Lasater were two of the notable exceptions. They encouraged me to put aside my bendiness and concentrate on yoga for hip stability.
These teachers were core teachers to me, and I still respect them. However, I loved cultivating my natural flexibility. That was until my 50s when the bill for all this flexible fun became due.
Basic skills started to disappear at that point. Sometimes, carrying 10 pounds up the stairs caused severe pain in my hips. After that, I could not lift myself off the ground without my hands. Then, I could not lie on my back and walk more than three blocks.
Then, the news broke: I needed two hip replacements. Hip dysplasia was my official diagnosis. My surgeon stated that my hips would have failed no matter what I tried. However, my focus on flexibility helped speed up the process. My cartilage and labrum were gradually destroyed by my habit of practicing in my full range of motion. There was no turning back.
If I had listened to Donna or Judith, I might have been able to halt the inevitable, but it wouldn’t have happened. My practice has evolved dramatically since then. Yoga to improve hip stability is a common practice.
IT’S ALL IN YOUR BONES
Western yoga has had a hip opening as a primary focus for a long time. It has become a fetish in recent years. Hip opening is a class that teachers teach. This is what I’ve done! You can find weekend or weeklong workshops to help you achieve those hip-opening poses. This is what I did!
Maintaining mobility is vital. However, if you are already hypermobile, allowing yourself to be more flexible can lead to imbalance. Being too loose is the same as being in an imbalanced state.
It may not be due to a lack of flexibility if you can’t do the fancy poses. It could be due to your structure. There are many variations in the hip joint structure of people. Hip sockets can be shallow or deep, positioned externally or internally, and facing upward, downward, outward, or inward. There are also variations in the form of your femur bone, which can affect how it connects to the socket.
Some hip joints don’t allow for external rotation. This is why fancy poses are required. Externally rotating is difficult if your joints are this type. The neck of your femur bone may bump into your hip socket if you try to rotate externally. Your bones will always be the ultimate judge, no matter how flexible or strong your muscles may be.
YOGA TO IMPROVE HIP STABILITY
In recent years I have understood the importance of balancing hip flexibility and stability. When I teach classes focusing on hips or practicing them myself, I always start with stabilizing poses. Here are some ideas to help you balance your hip practice.
Standing balance poses: This standing balance poses, such as Vrksasana (“Tree Pose”) and Hasta Padangusthasana (“Hand-to Big-Toe Pose”), engage the muscles that stabilize your hips, particularly the outer thigh muscles. These poses can be used to start your practice. These poses are great for concentration, and balancing is an excellent way of connecting mind and body at the beginning of your course.
Utkatasana (Fierce Pose ) strengthens the muscles that stabilize the hip joints. Utkatasana strengthens the pelvic floor muscles and stabilizes the core.
Warrior poses Warrior I, Warrior 2, and Warrior 3 (aka Dekasana) strengthen the legs’ muscles. Because they combine stability with flexibility, they are incredibly balanced. All the standing poses are helpful. The Warrior poses are my favorite because they offer strength and the best targeting.
Prone Backbends: With many variations, new backbends like Bhujangasana Cobra Pose, Sphinx Pose, or Salabhasana Locust Pose (Cobra Pose) strengthen the low back as well as the glutes. These muscles can help stabilize the SI joint. Hypermobility in the SI joint is the leading cause of SI joint dysfunction. It would help if you practiced stabilizing poses.
These poses are fundamental if you plan on doing hip flexibility poses. Mainly if your hips are hypermobile. Balance is more important than doing fancy poses. Yoga for hip stability is a practice that will last a lifetime.