The hips don't lie - they can hold the key to stored emotions
Did you know that yogis believe we store emotional baggage in the hips? To be a bit more precise, in the hip flexors, or psoas (so-as) muscles. We have a pair of them and each one is attached to the lower back, runs through the pelvis and attaches to the top of the leg (diagram below). They are the only muscles that run from the back of the body to the front and keep our legs attached to the torso.
Hip flexors are sometimes referred to as the deepest core or "muscle of the soul". They are very important in affecting mobility, balance, joint function, flexibility and can often be the culprit in lower back pain. But there's a lot more to the hip flexors than just physical.
The psoas is also connected to the diaphragm, and this is where many physical symptoms associated with fear and anxiety show up. It's thought this is because there's a direct link between the psoas and the most ancient part of the brain stem and spinal cord called the 'reptilian brain'. This is where our survival instincts sit and maintain our deepest core functioning of fight or flight. It's the main muscle that responds to the sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight - think stress) and it literally starts to curl up and contract, (like a hedgehog curls up away from a nosey dog). Modern life does nothing to bring it back off the ledge! Rushing about, competing, being criticised by someone, solving last minute childcare issues, looking on Facebook at friends' 'perfect' lives has the effect of keeping us in a stressful state.
Your brain might be going at a 100 miles an hour but more than likely, your body isn't! Sitting in cars, at desks, in front of the TV, wearing tight clothes (not in your medieval woven sack today?), uncomfortable shoes and sitting in office chairs isn't doing anything for our posture and constricts your hip flexors even more. Is it any wonder stressed hip flexors lead to chronic back pain, hip and knee troubles? It can even mean problems with digestion and odd breathing. Frankly it's amazing you're not a miserable pool of stress on your kitchen floor!
"What can we do about it then?" I hear you cry. Well, focus on breathing for one (remember it calms the nervous system) and we can start to give those hip flexors some TLC. Two poses are especially good for getting right in there - crescent lunge and pigeon. As you start to stretch out your hip flexors and bring some release it might also start to let go of emotional tension and pent up stress. It can release a lot of fearfulness about life but with it should come a greater sense of inner peace, less back trouble and a better tree pose to boot. Oosh.
Further reading: "The Psoas Book" by Liz Koch