Monday, January 17, 2011

But My Hips Didn't Die...

But My Hips Didn’t Die…
Hmmm, I wonder if his hips hurt?  Wait a minute, he doesn’t have any hips!  Which is exactly how you should start to feel after the Hips Don’t Die sequence finishes in a few weeks time—as though your hips have become empty and light (or at least emptier and lighter). 
We’ve had some interesting comments coming from the Hips Don’t Die class.  One I have heard a few times is: “I didn’t feel any pain the next day”.   Which I think is great as it means you are one step closer to those empty hips.  And I thought to write this blog to talk about the issue of “feeling it” the next day—why some people do and some people don’t and whether it really matters.  I am, of course, limiting myself to the idea of “feeling it” in your muscles. 
“Normal” aches and pains
Some of us are going to feel a few aches and pains the day after a yoga class as new and interesting parts of our bodies ‘awaken’.  And this is pretty normal, although I will say again what I often say in class because it is well worth repeating.  If you ever have a sudden pain anywhere, or if you ever have any pain very near to or ‘inside’ a joint, then please let me know; we are looking to move around the joints in yoga and not lock into them or strain them in any way, and we are looking to help the muscles into a place of ease rather than pull and jerk them around. 
Delayed onset soreness
Anyway, the type of soreness you may (or may not) experience after a yoga class is a delayed onset muscle soreness that usually appears a day or two after the class.   You can get this in a lot of activities and not just yoga.  Whether or not you feel this sort of soreness depends on a lot of things and even experienced yogis can get it after attending workshops or classes where they have re-connected with parts of their body they may have let lay dormant.  I know that when I first started going to my teacher’s weekend retreats—she does some pretty intense back bending—the muscles all up and down my spine would be protesting on the second day.  If they could speak they would surely be complaining “Aiyoooo!  Aineeeee!” like an aging relative telling me I didn’t visit them enough.  And, if the truth be told, if you visited more often (muscles and relatives that is) they probably would not complain as much! 
Pain is good mentality
Dormant muscles and aging relatives aside, we don’t need to associate muscle soreness with a ‘good class’.  Just because you do not feel sore the next day does not mean your yoga is not helping you.   It is likely that it is a sign that your body is already slightly more awakened in that area.  So if you don’t feel sore that is great news!  And let’s face it, if you were walking like you’d just run a marathon every time you came out of yoga class, would you really want to come back?!
By the same token, for those of us who do feel sore the next day, this does not mean there is something wrong.  You should also rejoice because it means your body is waking up.
Now, if you don’t even feel your hips during the class then you do have to ask yourself whether or not your technique is correct. 
Playing the edge
The thing about Hips Don’t Die class is that while you are in the class, holding some deeply challenging hip-opening postures, your hips should be talking to you.  For some of us they may even be shrieking like a gang of parrots.  This is ok and it is important to keep in mind that many of the deep hip-openers are, in fact, all about playing the edge. 
If your hips are not even whispering to you as you practice then perhaps you need to increase the intensity just a little bit so you can hear them.  Not so much that you are deafened by them, but just enough to be reminded that you have hips; a bit like that sometimes annoying person who stands with their toes just inside your personal space.  That is, close enough to remind you that they are there but not so close that you feel the need to tell them to back off, while all the time being mindful that if the person gets too close—and if the feeling in your hips become too intense—you can take measures to ease off and move back into a manageable intensity. Practice like this with your hips and pretty soon your comfort zone will widen as your hips become more spacious and light. 
Pouty Hips, Smiling Hips
All in all, those messages you feel from your hips are just their way of pouting a bit to remind you not to forget them.  For those of us who might have to dust off the cobwebs from our hip sockets, they will probably pout for a bit longer.    
Having said all this, maybe the next time you are in class you might imagine that any sound that is coming from your hips is actually not a pout or a shout at all.  Instead, can you imagine that maybe, just maybe, the voice you hear is a big sigh of relief and a thank you for all of the time you are giving to them!     
Here’s to empty hips.

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