Opening the Heart
In yoga, it is believed that the hips are the emotional energy center of the body. The place where all of the past pain and trauma accumulates, clogging our well-being like leaves in a gutter.
And I think yoga is onto something.
For the most part, I gravitate towards an active practice, vinyassas that leave me sweaty and panting with muscles trembling from the challenge.
But those are the easy classes for me.
Yin is a form of yoga where you move your body into a particular shape or pose and then you hold the pose for an extended period of time, often somewhere between 4 and 10 minutes. The poses themselves are not difficult. In fact, they are designed so that you can maintain them with a minimum of energy.
So what makes yin hips so difficult?
For the first two minutes or so of a pose, I’m simply learning to drop in. Feeling the edges of the stretch and focusing on my breath. And then inevitably, I realize that I’m gripping. Tightening where I should be releasing. And I start to consciously let go.
And it’s difficult. The hips spring back at the slightest suggestion of “Too much; I can’t do this.” from my mind. It’s as though they’re afraid of release. Afraid of letting go.
And so I breathe. And tell myself it’s okay. I can let go.
And by the time I uncurl myself from the form, I can feel structural changes in my hips. An openness where once there was only a blockade.
It’s a lesson that has to be repeated at regular intervals. Left to their own devices, my hips yet again contract and withdraw. Hiding from the fear of the pain and the discomfort of release.
And so I remind them again that happiness is found in the softening and accepting, not in the false whispers of hiding and protecting.
In yoga, it is believed that the hips hold our emotions. That there is a direct line between the hips and the heart. And I think they’re onto something.
Because opening the hips is exactly like opening the heart.
And it is at once the most challenging and the most rewarding exercise of all.