Shifting from Hip Mobility to Hip Stability

In yoga, there is a tendency to assume that we can stretch our way through perceived problems. Consider the ever-elusive “hip opening” action in the Asana practice. We aspire to use our hip-opening practice as a panacea for all our aches and woes. We imagine that open hips will allow us to wrap our legs into fancy postures like Lotus Pose. But an imperative step before the expansion of our hips is to first establish stability.

Hypermobility of the Hip Joint:

Hypermobility is a general term that refers to an excessive range of motion in a joint, with a lack of stability to support that mobility. It can be something we are born with or something we developthrough regular stretching. In the hip joint, it can also stem from weak hip stabilizers—the gluteus medius for example, from prolonged sitting or decreased activity. Hip hypermobility is something anyone can develop, especially in the yoga world where we focus so much on long, deep stretches to get that feel-good release.

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How to Activate the Hip Stabilizers:

Here are three easy steps to activate the hip-stabilizing muscles—the gluteus medius and minimus—to prepare for a balancing pose like Warrior 2. The key to each step is to keep the movement subtle rather than aim for large contractions. When we stabilize the joint, we simply need a gentle engagement rather than a huge action that can create tension.

  1. Stand in Mountain Pose. First, imagine hugging your outer hips into the sockets by drawing them toward the midline of your body. Though the movement is subtle, you will feel the outer-hip muscles gently turn on to support the joint.
  2. Next, visualize riding higher in the hip socket rather than sinking in the joint. This creates the integrity of those muscles that support the joint, to help protect the deeper structures.
  3. Finally, gently engage the lower abdominals, to help support the hip joint with your core.