I’ll be honest: Yoga is not my cup of tea. With my Type 1 personality, I get frustrated over whether I’m doing the poses correctly and have a hard time getting behind the slow pace. But when I give it the old college try, I can’t help but let out an audible “ahhh” as I release pent-up emotions with each hip-opening pose. There’s no denying the strong mind-body connection we all possess, and the hips are the window to our emotions.
Whether or not you realize it, you can hold onto experiences, stress, memories, and trauma in different parts of your body (think: the hips, jaw, neck, and shoulders) if they’re not processed. The good news? I tapped into the know-how of experts to learn why emotions get trapped in our hips and how to release them. Spoiler alert: The hip stretches ahead are life-changing. Let the healing begin.
How and why do emotions get stored in the hips?
We can all attest to how our emotions manifest physically in our bodies: butterflies in our stomachs, racing heartbeats, tightness in our chests, rosy cheeks. But why do we feel a significant release when we focus on the hips? “The hips are often referred to as the ‘junk drawer’ of the body because they have the unique ability to store quite a bit of unprocessed emotion,” said Megan Sherer, a licensed holistic therapist.
“The deep muscles of our hips are closely connected to the adrenal glands, which are responsible for processing our fight-or-flight emotions. They are also our biggest stabilizing muscles and can often clench or become tight in moments of emotional activation or trigger. The tissues in our hips hold onto the unprocessed emotions from these moments as a way for the subconscious mind to remember to avoid that same trigger in the future,” Sherer explained.
Considering the hips are the largest joint in our bodies, they bear a lot of the weight—literally and figuratively. They are integral to how the entire body functions. “[The hips and glutes] are responsible for not only the complete movement of our legs in the hip joint, but also for muscles relative to walking, breathing, digesting, and sexual activities,” elaborated Leah Ehinger. Ehinger is a somatic therapist, yoga instructor, and trauma-informed personal trainer.
“The hip area is associated with your sacral chakra, which holds our creative and sexual energy,” described Sarah Donner, a holistic health coach and founder of Siva Wellness. “Your sacral chakra is believed to be a big part of our emotional world and how we relate to others. When we do not express our wants and needs, the sacral energy can get stuck and cause physical pain on top of an emotional one.”
That said, you can let go of trapped emotions in a variety of ways. Mind-body practices such as yoga, mindfulness, breathwork, and meditation can help release emotions. Stretching can help with this too.
Stretches to open the hips
1. Pigeon Pose
From your hands and knees, bring one knee forward toward the corresponding wrist. When you’re ready, extend the opposite leg out behind you, pointing your heel up toward the ceiling. As you inhale, lengthen your spine, draw your belly button to your spine, and open your chest. On your next exhale, slowly walk your hands forward as you bring your chest toward the floor. Then, repeat on the other side.
2. Low Lunge
Begin in the Downward-facing Dog Pose. Step one foot forward between your hands. Make sure your knee is bent at a 90-degree angle and stacked over your heel. Lower your back knee to the floor and slide the foot back until you feel a nice stretch in the hip and thigh. Keep the hips low and level. As you inhale, engage your core, lift your chest away from the thigh, and extend your arms overhead. Then, repeat on the opposite side.
3. Lizard Pose
Start in a Low Lunge. Then, inch your front foot out to the side, creating a wide lunge. From there, take your back knee off the floor and plant your hands or forearms on the floor beside your front foot. Keeping your chest forward, navel in, and back leg extended, hold the pose for 10 seconds. Then, repeat on the opposite side.