There’s no denying that our body deteriorates as we get older. Muscles are less able to contract, bones become more brittle, the cartilage in our joints become thinner, and ligaments shorten too. Simple movements like bending down to tie our shoelaces or getting up from a chair can leave us walking more like the Tin man in the Wizard of Oz!
However, as we also move into perimenopause, our joints can deteriorate even more. Estrogen is responsible for regulating fluid levels in our body; therefore, if levels of this hormone are low, the body becomes less able to hold water, which can affect the hydration and lubrication of the joint tissues, including the cartilage, ligaments and tendons.
The hips are ball-and-socket joints and are the second-largest in the body. They allow us to walk, run and jump, and bear all of our body's weight in both static and dynamic activities. However, as we age, they begin to feel stiff and creaky and as our movements become compromised, our balance suffers too. And, because the hips don’t work in isolation, pain and weakness can show up elsewhere in the body as we try to compensate for the hip’s inflexibility.
But hip problems are not just age related; lifestyle plays an important role too. If we spend most of our day sitting for hours on end, for example, our hip flexors – the muscles that connect our spine and pelvis to our upper legs – will become shortened. Also, our hips naturally respond to stress by tightening and clenching, they become a store for emotional anxiety and trauma too. Without release, the tension escalates and our hips become even tighter.
The good news is that yoga can keep hip problems at bay. By stretching and lengthening the muscles around the hips, more support is given to the joints and to the small muscles that help move and stabilize these joints. Yoga is also a wonderful release for all the tension and negative emotions; enabling us to open up that space for more love, compassion and positive things in our life.
Just ten minutes of opening and closing the hips in different directions every day will help release tension and begin to improve your overall joint mobility. However, be gentle with yourself and allow time to help you ease and deepen into some of the poses. Even better and safer, consult a yoga expert and invest in private lessons.
When your hips are healthy and ‘open’, you will enjoy more range of movement, better circulation, and more support for the muscles of the back and the spine. Healthy hips mean you can live your life to the full. Hip Hip Hooray!
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