What is Yoga?
Yoga is a journey of self-discovery. There are times when individuals become frustrated from tough situations in life and unconsciously increase more stress on the body while coping with them. Yoga helps you cope with them from more of a meditative perspective. Since you are struggling with tight hips it can be quite frustrating to stand up after sitting too long, or practicing an asana that requires hip flexibility and strength. Thankfully, there are asanas that will help open and stretch the hips. Before my yoga journey, I had no idea how tight my hips were, until I gained interest in learning about my body. As we get Into the intense postures your mind may begin to feel flustered which is why we focus the awareness on your breath which leads to the meditative practice of yoga. Before performing these asanas you must nourish your mind, body and soul with the right nutrition depending on what works for you. For instance, there is an Ayurvedic diet that will help you understand the type of body you are born with. As you should know water intake is always extremely important.
I have been practicing yoga for about three years now and I havenʼt regretted it since. Yoga has the ability to heal the mind, body and soul. Itʼs not just ordinary stretches that help with strength and flexibility, itʼs a meditative experience as well. With every movement you inhale and exhale. Iʼve learned that breathing is a completely different language. For instance, if you are in Plank pose you will either retain your breath or entirely lose control of your breath. Usually when that happens the postures are more difficult; however, when you reconnect to your breath and inhale and exhale deeply and slowly itʼs much easier to cope with the intensity of the posture. The power of the breath is wonderful and will master your senses. There are times when we want to push to our limit without even listening to our body. Yoga is completely different, we listen carefully to our body and slowly work up to our limit then once we feel comfortable enough to move on to the next variation or advanced posture then we move on. Our main goal is to learn our body. With that being said, if someone like you is struggling with hip pain or flexibility there are different asanas to heal the body. Take it slow and remember to be patient.
What is Pranayama?
Pranayama, which is defined as, “the force which exists in all things, whether animate or inanimate.” Is also interpreted to energize the control and flow of your breath. Pranayama has the ability to essentially tranquilize the mind with the energy force based on your flow of breathing. Due to your tight hips, many asanas that include hip stretching will be challenging which is why your focus should be well balanced with Ujjayi Pranayama, also known as, Psychic breath. It is a form of deep breathing. You can practice sitting in a comfortable meditation asana or during an intense Asana. While sitting in a comfortable meditation Asana, you will gently shut your eyes and relax the entire body. Shift your awareness to the breath in your nostrils allowing your breathing to become calm. Once you find your natural breath shift your awareness to your throat, Contract the glottis. Observe inhaling and exhaling from your throat. When controlling the rhythm of your deep slow breath, it will manifest into a soothing oceanic sound. It is important to incorporate Ujjayi breathing during your asanas because it will calm the mind and nervous system. In addition, it has the ability to slow down the heart rate. Depending on your Asana your breath will flow according to your speed. There are heaps of meditation techniques that are extremely supportive to oneʼs daily life. My favorite is Decluttering of the Mind. This technique is a visualization practice that helps reduce stress and clutter from the mind. First you sit in a comfortable meditation position, like crossed legs. Make sure your spine is straight, your shoulders are relaxed down and your chin is tucked in. After focus on your natural breath then inhale and exhale deeply with your diaphragmatic breath for three times. Then shift your awareness to your cluttered thoughts that no longer serve a purpose in your life. Imagine those thoughts going down your spinal chord and out of your coccyx steaming out of you. If you have never practiced this technique start with five minutes. As you continue this practice increase the time up to fifteen minutes. Once the practice is complete you will feel your body much liter, as if weight has been lifted off of you. It is rewarding to experience the stress lifted off of you.
There are many hip flexor asanas that will support your tight hips, but we will focus on three main ones that personally helped my hips open.
Titali Asana also known as Butterfly Pose also focuses on your hip flexibility. There are many different variations but we will focus on one. First you sit in the base position, bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet together. If your knees are high then put a bolster underneath to support them. Your heels should be as close to the perineum as possible. Your spine should be straight, elbows in, and chest up. You can interlock your fingers on your toes or simply hold your ankles. Hold and Count fifteen to twenty seconds. If you are interested in deepening the stretch there is a partner stretch that is useful. As the participant is in titali asana, the partner is standing in front of them. While the participant inhales the partner pushes the thighs externally down. The participant holds on to the partners calfs and exhales as the partner steps back. It is extremely important to focus on your slow deep ujjayi breath, since this posture is intense. You will hold for fifteen seconds.
Childʼs pose is a soothing asana that you can practice in between postures. The toes of both feet should remain in contact with each other and the knees should be mat distance apart. Once you are in this position inhale then exhale and bring your arms forward with your palms on the ground. Your third eye should be on the ground. To deepen the stretch inhale and extend your spine and exhale bringing your buttocks on your heals. Your shoulders should be open and relaxed. Your breath should be slow and calm. Find your natural breath. This posture benefits the spinal chord when extending the spine and opens up the hips when bringing your buttocks down and widening your knees to the Mattʼs width. It also soothes your mind because of the stillness of the breath. You are more than welcome to modify this posture by bringing your arms to your side to relax your shoulders. Sometimes when my shoulders are tired I rest my arms beside me.
Namaskarasana (Salutation Pose)
Namaskarasana also known as Salutation Pose is an Asana that benefits the nerves and muscles of the thighs, knees, shoulders, arms and neck. Itʼs main benefit is hip flexibility. However, if you struggle with knee problems or sciatica then avoid this asana. Your first step is to squat with your feet flat on the floor about hip width distance apart. Be mindful that the knees are wide enough to press your elbows against the insides of your thighs. Your abs and legs should be engaged to strengthen your stability and flexibility. Bring your hands to prayer pose. Depress your shoulders away from your ears. Your dristhi may be open gazing straight ahead or closed. Use your ujjayi breath to inhale with your throat and bend your head backwards. Remember to simultaneously use your elbows to comfortably push your knees as wide as possible. Hold this position for three seconds while retaining the breath. Then exhale and straighten your arms in front of the body. While pushing in your knees press your upper arms inward . Bend your head and bring your chin down to your chest. Hold this for another three seconds then return to the starting point of this Asana. You must inhale your ujjayi breath while bringing your palms together then exhale while extending them straight forward. If you feel it is necessary to support your butt, you can place a block under it horizontally lying flat. Practice five to ten seconds. Once you master the proper alignment, you will feel it in your groin and your hips.
While learning about your body through your yoga journey, it is extremely important to incorporate a healthy diet and water intake for your mind and body from the nutrition your body consciously desires.
However, everyoneʼs body is different and there is a way to differentiate it from an Ayurvedic perspective. Our body is built on the basic elements of life and what we are individually born with. This is called Dosha. There are three types of Doshas: Vata which is air, Pitta which is fire and Kapha which is water and earth. Depending on your specific Dosha you are born with you want to balance your diet accordingly. For instance, since I am Vata-Pitta I need to eat less cold leafy greens because they increase air and eat more grains, night shade vegetables, and spices. Furthermore, your specific Dosha determines your characteristics and personality. Learning about your Dosha is a good way to set up your diet.
Yoga is a very spiritual practice. When I had first started, I had expectations such as gaining flexibility and strength. When I first attended my first yoga practice at a studio, I was guided by who is now my favorite Yoga teacher. She made me feel as if I was in tune with my body and breath even during the intense postures. You not only gain flexibility and strength in your tight hips, but you learn something about your body through each posture. You then get to experience meditation under stressful situations, like intense asanas. As you know, nourishing and hydrating your body with the nutrition your body needs will help you continue your yoga path, and ultimately benefit your daily life. Yoga has the ability to heal the mind and body with balance and patience.