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Here's why i cringe when someone says to Stretch the hip flexors (or anything...)

We automatically think that if something is tight we ought to stretch it.

Instead of stopping and watching, learning WHY it is tight. More often than not, it’s tight for a reason and if we don’t address that reason we’re just passing the problem around the body or causing another one later down the road.

The prevalent thinking is that if this is where the pain is this must be where the problem is- but it’s not. This is rooted in the archaic mechanistic thinking from the 1500’s that we are 200+ bones and 600+ muscles (among other things).

While it is true that we have 200+ bones, 600+ muscles, it not a total system thinking – or wholistic understanding of the body. We can’t just replace a screw or nut, we have to balance our bodies as a whole in stillness and in movement.

When we learn to see our bodies as a tensegrity; a woven web of balance of tension and softness/contraction and elongation our understanding of working with tension and pain shifts.

We understand that those 200+ bones and 600+ muscles are really a multitude of relationships that are dynamic for each one of us.  All those ‘different’ tissues are the same thing expressing itself in different density and relationship. The muscles thicken into tendons that becomes bones.

A tight hip flexor may be excessively tight for many reasons, here are only a few:

they might be holding the hips together because the other hip muscles aren’t working properly,

the ribcage is twisted, bent, too far foward or backward,

the hip(s) may be twisted or elevated,

an old injury with scar tissue is there,

a reptile motion or habit to walk/run without full extension…

There are soooo many reasons to have an area be in pain or tight, and if we go straight for the hip flexor we won’t resolve the real issue which may be something much larger that gets ‘released’ once the hip flexor is stretched…more likely though, the hip flexor won’t release and all the efforts will only last for a few moments of relief and the flexor will go right back to being tight because the relationship with the other body parts hasn’t been seen.

Yoga is a beautiful practice that has many layers to it, but it isn’t about stretching.

Sadly, even in Yoga, we are still divisive in our thinking of our body. We talk more about stretching and getting deeper into the pose instead of feeling the wholeness of any movement. What’s moving, what’s not, what am I using to do this movement with, what ought to be doing the movement?

The physical postures offer us many things, from being able to have the skills to be ever more present with our physical bodies, being able to shift and transform our mental and emotional states, but to me, the most important skill is to be gently rooted in reality.

This is hard one for many us in the west, especially when it comes to the physical postures, often I see people wanting to go further than they are truly able and so compensate. Sacrificing the integrity and tensegrity of the body and movement in order to accomplish the depth of a pose.

So if the flexors (or hamstrings, or back) are tight, stop and breath and feel for awhile – what else is going on? When do you feel it the most? Is it on one side more than the other? Does it hurt more after, during, before a certain movement? Are the hips moving together? If the flexors are too tight, what’s too loose?  Are you learn to feel and see the body as a whole.

The asana (physical postures) are a question to our bodies, a contemplation and interaction. Are you able to hear the conversation?

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