Hip pain and issues are a possible eventuality for us all, but there are ways in our lifestyles that can prevent or limit the amount of problems you will have in your future. Yoga isn’t just a healthy exercise, it is incredible for your body, hips and joints.
The confluence of a few simple factors can create a perfect storm of stress in the hip joint, especially for those leading an active life: joggers, walkers, weekend athletes, and of course asana practitioners (when we are not careful). To understand the problem, we’ll look at two important sets of muscles: the adductors (muscles of the inner thigh and groin that draw the legs toward the midline of the body) and the abductors (muscles of the outer hip that move the thighs apart, away from the midline).
The groin muscles tend to be tight, pulling the heads of the thighbones into the sockets. The thighbones are meant to be centered in the socket and stabilized by the abductors, which oppose the groin muscles. But when these abductors are weak and stressed, as they often are, the resulting imbalance causes grinding and deterioration in the joints.
Yoga gives us the tools and the understanding to “hold close” to our spacious center, not just for the sake of our spiritual lives, but also for the health of our joints and the graceful aging of our bodies. Yoga, which aims for balance and harmony at every level of life, can help us stabilize and revitalize our hips.
What Causes Hip Pain And Injury?
There are two sets of adductor or “groin” muscles. The shorter set extends from the pubic bone to the inner thigh, and is often injured. These muscles tighten from prolonged periods of sitting, driving, or postural stress. This tightness is increased by activities that torque the pelvis, such as running with bad form, carrying a growing child on one hip, or performing asymmetrical yoga postures improperly. This tension can also be brought on by emotional stress, which causes us to contract and huddle the thighs together. The results can be a groin pull. With sudden stretching it can cause the tendons or muscles to tear and/or strain.
Injury can occur in asana practice as well. The groin adductors are strongly pulled when we draw the pubic bone back away from the inner thigh of the forward leg in postures such as the revolved triangle or the single-legged pigeon pose. In these poses, we are often instructed to “hug the midline,” but in doing so we may actually be gripping too tightly, failing to create the space necessary for the bone to find its center in the hip joint.
How Does Yoga Help Prevent This?
Balancing the tone of these two sets of muscles will help prevent injuries. It will also awaken new understanding of the dynamics operating the legs, hip joints, and pelvis. This deeper level of awareness begins with attention to the simple standing posture—tadasana.
When we extend through our legs and stand tall, there is a natural outward rotation to the thighs caused by the gluteus maximus and other rotator muscles deep in the pelvis. Excessive rotation can cause problems in the hips. We must find the right balance, but that is challenging. You have to release the tension in the groin and then we must discover how to extend through the legs without overusing the buttock muscles and hardening the groin. Both of these actions require us to properly engage the longer, deeper set of adductors running from the sit bones to the inner knees.