LET’S MEET IN THE MIDDLE: HIP STABILITY AND STRETCHING FOR THE TRAIL
Words and Video by Kat Englishman, Photo by Joe Klementovich
One of the quintessential ailments of a hiker and backpacker is feeling tight in the hips, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. It makes sense that these would be hurtin’ when you think about the effort it takes to walk uphill and back down again. The body works hard to keep you moving against gravity while you’re stacking vert and bagging lofty peaks, so it’s not a bad idea to set aside a short period of time before hitting the trail to ensure those muscles and tissues can function optimally. Plus, strong and mobile hips equal happy knees, and sad, banged-up knees are zero fun, so…
These intricate muscle groups can seem pretty mystifying for most if you don’t already have a baseline of knowledge about the hips and pelvis. It might help to consider that the pelvis generates a lot of power throughout the whole body as you move, creating a chain reaction that sends locomotive energy up the spine and down through the feet. So, in a sense, we want to keep this area flexible and mobile! Think of how it feels to ride a bike that has a buildup of dirt and rust in the chain — it won’t shift gears and ride as smoothly as a lubricated chain will. The same goes for your hips! Stretching and strengthening these tissues keeps them hydrated and fluid so that it all runs smoothly and there’s less wear and tear.
Frequent doses of small movements, like yoga poses, can help counteract the tension and limited flexibility that results from being a full-time desk jockey who likes to go and crush it on the weekends or an excited hiker who is new to the outdoors and beginning to feel it out.
Where yoga differentiates from a simple stretch is the added layer of learning to be curious and mindful of what you’re feeling without judgment. Just like a good tune-up will give a bike, a backpack, or any other piece of gear better performance and longevity, your yoga practice can be a place to do a little maintenance for yourself without any expectation. Our body is always fluctuating and evolving, so it helps to tune up the physical and the mental to keep doing what we love for the long haul no matter what life throws our way. Practicing yoga is a lot like being out of doors: it’s a practice of realizing that everything is connected and appreciating every moment, even tight hamstrings.
Enjoy this short sequence for happy and healthy hips and let me know how it goes!
Katherine Englishman is a writer and yoga teacher based in the beautiful state of Maine. You can find her outside skiing, hiking, biking, or teaching yoga and meditation for the modern yoga student at Waypoints Yoga