Seriously: These Hip Stretches Can Help You Release Negative Energy

Can you believe the holidays are already behind us? Let’s face it: Despite all the residual good cheer, it’s a stressful time. That comes as no surprise for those of us familiar with traditional Chinese medicine.

According to the ancient Chinese system of the Five Elements, each element corresponds with both a season (external world) and an organ system (internal world). The winter season is associated with water, which governs the kidneys and bladder. Together, these organs filter and expel waste from the body. While it’s important to assist your body in performing this necessary function of waste removal through diet and exercise, we cannot forget that the body and mind are deeply connected.

Just as it’s important to help your body remove tangible waste, early winter is a great time to release negative energy from your life—especially in the wake of the chaos of the holidays. Pent-up emotions can interfere with sleep, cause inflammation, or manifest in other unpleasant physical symptoms that affect your well-being.

We tend to store negative emotions in our hips. Think about the way you subconsciously clench your jaw when you’re angry. This same type of clenching occurs in your hips when you feel threatened. This is because the body’s natural response to stress (aka fight-or-flight mode) is to bend into a fetal position to protect the core. The action of drawing in the knees starts at the hips. When the muscles are tightly clenched, the hip flexors can shorten, and the tension is never fully released. The accompanying emotional tension—whether it’s fear, anxiety, or sadness—also remains trapped.

To feel balanced this season, you must find healthy ways of dealing with your emotions instead of burying them. One strategy is to use yoga. Whether you love them or hate them, hip-openers are the best poses for cleansing the body by releasing deep tension.

Hip-openers stretch the hip flexors, which allows these suppressed emotions to surface. Have you ever found yourself weeping in Pigeon Pose? Crying is a physical expression of an emotional release. It’s cathartic.

Posing for emotional release can be extremely therapeutic. When you’re ready to let go, here are a few of my favorite hip-opening poses for beginners. Be patient with yourself as you ease into these postures. It’s important to take your time and listen to your body.

Child's Pose

Photo:

Courtesy Amanda McMorran

Open your knees wide, extend your arms in front of you, and drop your belly to your thighs. Move your knees out gradually every 10 breaths to deepen the pose. You can modify this posture by resting your torso on a bolster for added comfort and support.

Supta Baddha Konasana

Photo:

Courtesy Amanda McMorran

Position your tailbone about two inches in front of your bolster and then bring the soles of your feet together. Slowly lie back onto the bolster. You can add a folded blanket to help lengthen the neck.

Modified Lizard Pose

Photo:

Courtesy Amanda McMorran

Start in Down Dog or on all fours with blocks under your palms. Step your right foot forward into a lunge. Spider-crawl your right foot to the right edge of your mat and then place your blocks to the inside of your right foot. Take a few breaths. If you wish to deepen the pose, you can lower your forearms onto the blocks. Repeat on other side.

Modified Pigeon Pose

Photo:

Courtesy Amanda McMorran

From Down Dog or Tabletop, bring your right knee to the outside of your right wrist. Work to square your right shin with the front edge of your mat. Extend your left leg straight back. Now, place the bolster under your left hip so that your pelvis is evenly supported. Come onto your fingertips and take three breaths with your spine vertical. Exhale as you fold forward, resting your forehead onto the mat. Optional: Place a block under your chest and head to support the cervical spine and help relax the nervous system. Repeat on other side.

Reclining Pigeon Pose

Photo:

Courtesy Amanda McMorran

Lying on your back with your knees bent, cross one ankle over the opposite thigh and draw your legs toward you, creating a figure-4 shape. Take hold of the back of your thigh or use a strap as an extension of your arms. Keep the back of your pelvis on the mat. Relax the weight of your head. If the chin lifts and your neck feels short, place a block or folded blanket under your head.

Next up: the three areas of the body where we tend to store the most physical tension.