The single most complaint I get with new clients, are how terrible their hips feel. The urge and "need to" stretch comes from their physicians, therapists and mostly advice on TV or wellness platforms. No one is wrong wanting to have "open hips" but open hips come with a price. The price is to let go of the old notion of wanting to stretch them, but be committed to consciously and consistently work on strengthening them.
Remember when you barely could walk?
You owned the most perfect squat. Then your parents sent you to school, you sat for 7 hours a day in a chair, and your squat... disappeared, and with it came a trajectory for bad posture lower back pain, neck and hip pain.
My teacher Irene Dowd would always say "you're tight for a reason". Muscles don't decide to be tight. It's your subcortical brain that controls muscles, especially the tight ones, I'd argue. Tightness keeps you safe and functioning. Going from A to B, doing things, just at some point even that feels tough and you start to look old and forward bent.
Why are tight hips such a thing? MODERN LIFE. Sitting for hours on end in chairs, planes and automobiles is literally killing our hip mobility and strength. I jokingly say "if you wash your cloths squatting by a river, you don't have hip "issues".
Why do we want open hips? Because even if we don't know really how the body functions properly, poor hip mechanics make for a less active lifestyle. Hip flexion, bringing your knee to your nose, is for most fist time clients impossible, Yes, hard to believe. We sit tucked under and hip flexion becomes spine flexion (very rounded lower back and/or upper back, any combination there of) and the brain just holds whatever it can to stabilize a deeply unstable body.
That's the tightness we feel and know to be wrong. Cue: the yoga teachers who teach us hip opening, the personal trainer and Dr. Oz, who recommend stretching. Where does it lead? To open hips, more mobility, feeling better, moving better?
We really have to change the approach to how we deal with tight hips and really and other tight muscle we need to add strength and deep engagement (under load) to coax length (mobility) without threatening the brain to re-tighten.
One of my former clients in NYC, a famous spine surgeon (and avid Pilates student), once mentioned that under anesthesia there are not tight muscles. Muscles are only tight when the nervous system is "alive" and under "treat". That really gave me the clue that we have to go beyond the muscles and talk to the brain first and foremost.
Cue: Pendiculation , squatting, sitting on floor, varied sitting, stop stretching.
To be continued....