Loosening up the hips

In yoga one of the most common recurring stretches is the 'hip-opener'. These exercises are key to preparing the body for an entire series of poses. In pregnancy, these can also be surprisingly beneficial.

Understanding Yoga Therapy

A new feeling of lightness

For those who have regularly practiced yoga before pregnancy and perhaps experienced a love-hate relationship with hip-openers, you are in for a pleasant surprise. You will suddenly find it more natural and much easier to stretch the hip muscles to create space and promote flexibility than before. Nature helps us to prepare for birth by easing our ability to develop more space in this region of the body, especially in the later stages of pregnancy. 

But how do we suddenly gain this added flexibility in our bodies? The answer is simple: it's  the changing hormonal levels that you experience during pregnancy. The additional hormones your body produces work to soften connective tissue which naturally provided you with more flexibility in the hip. 

While this is great news for preparing your body for birth, you must remember that this connective tissue is what stabilizes you, meaning that you want to be quite mindful with how you are stretching as over-stretching can lead to injury and undue wear on your body. 

Emotional center

While the hips play an interesting anatomical role in the body, they are also associated with emotional experiences. You will often hear people in the yoga world simply refer to the area of the hips as the second cakra, or Svādhiṣṭhāna Cakra.  Literally translated it means 'one's own base'. Broken down, the sva stands for 'own', ā stands for 'reinforcement', dhi stands for 'carry', ṣṭhāna stands for 'stand or posture'. This cakra is related to the element of water and encompasses  change, relationships, creativity, fun and sensuality. 

Explained from the point of view of a psychotherapist, a variety of physical experiences and memories are stored in the hip region. Suppressed emotions can lead to chronic tension in the pelvis and hips. When you stretch this area, it often brings up feelings and memories which are stored there. This is a way to recognize and experience these emotions and can be an emotionally-healthy process. 

Die Hüfte in der Schwangerschaft

With regard to pregnancy, the hips and pelvis play a central role in the experience and outcomes of childbirth.  If the pelvic region is soft and relaxed, it anatomically facilitates a more pleasant birthing process. 

Also working with the emotions associated with birth can help you to more effectively work with hip-opening. After all, the pelvis is the gateway in which new life enters this world!

Exercises

With the following pictures, we would like to introduce a set of exercises which you can use to compliment your yoga practice and to help you to gently cultivate more flexibility in the pelvis. It feels pleasant and creates a soothing sense of space and openness. Enjoy!

Deep squat

Place your feet a bit wider than hips distance apart, turning the feet slightly outward. Bend your knees and squat down. Make sure that your knees are pointing in the same direction as your feet. 

Place your hands at your heart center and enjoy the stretch in the hips. If you are comfortable and want to intensify the stretch, you can create counter-pressure between the inner thigh and the elbows. Stay for a while and enjoy the pose. 

Effect: This is a classic exercise for stretching the pelvis and is probably taught in every birth preparation course. This is for a good reason: it develops the space needed for birthing. 

Squat with twist

From the last pose, set your right hand on the ground for support, and your left hand on your left knee. Twist from the thoracic spine, and turn the neck to gently gaze upwards. Breathe into your chest and observe how each breath creates a bit more space. Release and switch sides. 

Effect: With this exercise you continue to stretch the pelvic muscles while stretching the muscles needed for deep breathing. 

Happy Baby

Lie on your back and grab the outer edges of the feet with your hands. Bend your knees. The upper body maintains contact with the grounds as you pul the feet toward you and rock back and forth. 

Effect: This exercise releases tension in the lower back and pelvic floor and promotes relaxation. 

Thread the needle

Remain on your back from the previous exercise, crossing your right ankle across your left thigh just above the knee. Now grab the left thigh and draw it in towards the body. Using your right elbow, you can press your right thigh outwards in order to intensify the stretch of the M. piriformis, or pear-shaped muscle, further.  Hold for a few breaths then switch sides. 

Effect: This exercise promotes relaxation space and releases tension. I can also relieve lower back pain. 

Enjoy your practice!

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