The Question: I started doing yoga about six weeks ago. Ever since then, at night, my hips are really achey. I don't feel like I'm pushing too far in class. As it is, I'm not even close to full depth on hip opening stretches. I always use the alternate movements to make it easier. I'm a former runner with tight hip flexors. Any suggestions? Shannon
Ah, the hips. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but we tend to hold a LOT in our hips — fears, emotions, insecurities, etc. and it’s almost always held in there by tightness. Especially when we start getting deeper into our yoga practice, we start to feel that tightness more, and may even be enhanced. This is totally normal, and in my opinion, a great indicator that you’re coming to a place where you’ll be ready to open up.
So, where you are right now is perfect. Being able to be in these poses (without pushing too far, that's important!) and feeling into the tightness and even the discomfort is great. Sometimes it might feel easier to want to bail out of the poses that are so difficult for you, but to be able to work slowly into it is so much more rewarding.
It’s okay that you’re not in “full depth” in your hip opening poses. In fact, it’s possible that you may never be, and there’s nothing wrong with that! If those alternate poses, those modifications, make the poses easier for you, then why not use them?
I talk about this idea of coming to yoga with expectations often in my classes. I think a lot of people bring themselves to the practice wanting to do particular poses or reach particular destinations, but in reality, what is it all for? Challenge is great, but struggle is not. In fact, the point of yoga practice, in my opinion, is to eliminate struggle from everything — especially from the poses.
Use props if they help you. Modify your postures. Get past this mindset that doing less is being less, because that’s silly. In fact, toning it down a few notches will probably get you deeper than you would get if you were pushing yourself beyond your own capacities.
Continue to stretch and work slowly into the areas of your body that are tight, whether that’s the hips, or the shoulders, or the neck. Start to notice how these areas work in poses that aren’t necessarily focused on them as well (what are your shoulders up to in Warrior II, how does your neck feel in a squat, etc.). Figure out ways that you can continue to relax into the tightness, and no matter what, enjoy the place you’re in right now.