I have been told we carry emotional stress in our hips. Evidently, many yoga teachers refer to this area of our bodies as “the junk drawer of emotions.” This idea makes perfect sense to me. I am already aware of how much our body absorbs stress and reacts to our mental and emotional state. We can literally worry ourselves sick. But my hips, it appears, don’t lie.
Diet, exercise and a general sense of self-care tend to keep my crazy at bay, but there are moments of deafening crescendo when the floodgates open and it all comes flying out. In an instant, I can be swept up in a hurricane of worry and fear. My mom is dying of Alzheimer’s. My kids are crying because they “don’t have any grandmas.” My husband deserves more attention. My job demands hours of grading. A dear friend’s mom has a stroke and is in the ICU. My heart is drowning in guilt from not being the best mother, daughter, person, etc. And you know what happens? My hips get tight. They lock up. My hip flexor refuses to do its job.
The problem is, I need my hips for many reasons. I need them to help me lift weights, my preferred form of self-medicating. I need them to help me snatch weight over my head and squat with a heavy barbell on my back. But when I neglect to care for my emotional state and get so bogged down with life, my hips say, “Nope. Not doing it.” Next, I tend to throw a very ugly, temper tantrum. “Of all the times to hurt myself! Why now? It’s just one more thing!” Yet, all the junk in my trunk does not care. I am forced to stop, sit and be in the midst of all my messy emotions screaming and clawing away in my hips.
I am a coach trained to identify faulty movement patterns in my athletes. I am aware that some of my hip pain comes from imbalances in my movement and my body’s own sneaky attempts at compensating for tight IT bands and hamstrings. I also know that I have a loose, tilted pelvis that causes me grief, but that is really just a whole different blog post. There are definitely movements and certain mobility issues that contribute to my junk problem, but I cannot deny the connection between a heavy heart and tight hips.
As it turns out, yoga has become my therapy for my emotional junk drawer. A rigorous CrossFit workout allows me to turn my brain off, sweat and empty the tank. It relieves stress without requiring me to think or truly face any of my demons. It is a weird, somewhat masochistic, escape. Yoga, however, does not allow this respite. When I am on the mat, I am required to be present. I have to focus on my breath and put that breath where I need it the most. I have to spend an hour paying attention to my body and what it is trying to say rather than silencing it through vigorous movement. All of the moving parts, mind, body and soul, come together for a round table discussion. Every minute spent in pigeon is a tug of war and battle of wills. As I slowly loosen the grip on the junk I am storing, my mind also reluctantly relaxes. Then I hear my instructor remind me to breathe. I gasp because every time she reminds me to breathe, I realize I was not breathing! Do I ever breathe when she is not around?
We always end our practice by sitting and taking in the new space we created. And guess what happens every time? My trunk becomes a little less cluttered. So, I have decided that for this holiday season I want everyone to have just a little less junk in their emotional trunk. Take time to slow down and listen to your body. Does it need attention? Love? Proper nourishment? Time outdoors reconnecting with nature? Take a moment to pause and evaluate your schedule and create time to breathe into the areas where you need it the most.
Happy holidays from my hips to yours. May your new year be merry and junk-free!