A little while ago I taught a hip opening workshop at Huddersfield Yoga Festival, to date it is the largest group of people I have ever taught and I was EXTREMELY nervous. I have always had a habit of 'people pleasing' and as a yoga teacher (and human) that can be hugely problematic - everyone likes and wants something different. Recently I have found the best thing to do is just be myself. Arguably slightly boring advice but also very true. We can only teach from our experience with the practice, and there may be some people who don't enjoy our style, it's not personal. We get to choose to let go of the idea that it is.
When planning for the festival I didn’t just want to focus on the physical aspect of hip opening, I find that a difficult concept anyways because what do we even mean by the hips? The hip flexors (or psoas) are connected to the trunk, and our ‘hip capsules’ (think glute medius and piriformis) are also part of our glutes. When we try to define opening do we just mean flexibility? Or we are thinking about strength and mobility too? Because in my experience weak but flexible muscles feel anything but open. So instead I shifted my perspective and tried to find more clarity by going down the 'yogi route'.
In yoga the second chakra, Svadhisthana meaning ‘own seat’ or the ‘dwelling place of oneself', falls at the hips. Chakras are places in our spine where channels of energy within our body meet, and it is thought that when the lines of energy here are ‘blocked’ we are repressing emotions and feelings (super fitting: think about spending a long time in pigeon pose - how much do you want to run from that feeling). The idea is that if we are not open in this area we often feel stuck, we do all we can to avoid the discomfort (perhaps numbing through food, social media, alcohol, over exercise….) that comes hand in hand with change, vulnerability and uncertainty.
So, how can we make our way through that? Well for me this is where the physical comes in; if we can learn to sit with discomfort in our practice can we harness that calm and use it when we need it as we go about our day to day lives?
Recovering from my eating disorder is the biggest example of this I can think of in my own life. Getting bigger, eating more, all felt uncomfortable to the point where all I wanted to do was run away, to go back to what I knew and what felt okay. And yet I also knew that the only way to get better and to move forwards was to sit with that discomfort; to observe and notice it but not act, to instead trust that it would pass; I would not feel like that forever.
And it did. As a result I am a stronger, happier human. I have grown. And so can you. Discomfort isn’t always bad. It is a sign that change is happening. Can you feel that too?