Transcript of: How do I balance opening my hips in yoga with stability for running?
Hey everyone! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. As you know, you can submit a question and I’ll do my best to answer it here on video. Just go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. Alright, here we go. This question comes from Ali. It’s about balancing opening the hips in yoga with the need for stability in activities like running.
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Hi David, I’ve just completed your module on the knee and found it linked to my questioning every time I am in a class where lotus is practiced. I have always said I will never be able to do full or half lotus as I’m a runner and a mountaineer but I’m challenging myself now that I am [in a] TT to work towards it. Then I read your paragraph about balancing strength and flexibility [in] these tissues as you need a taut ITB [iliotibial band]. Can you tell me more about this and should I still work towards lotus? I should also say that I am in my fifties.
Alright, that’s a very good question. Let’s go bigger picture for a moment and then we’ll talk about the iliotibial band. So, first and foremost, you have to decide what your goals are. In other words, not even necessarily goals, but the activities that you like to do. If you like mountaineering and you like running, and those bring you happiness, and you enjoy them and you’re out in nature, all of those positive things that come from running and mountaineering, you want to keep doing those.
Lotus and half lotus in yoga are very difficult and require opening the hips. And this is where, let’s say the friction is, between the stability needed for mountaineering and running, on a regular basis of course. Occasionally running, occasionally going hill-walking or mountaineering, are maybe not such a big deal. But, the more running and the more mountaineering that you do, the more you need—and have, just by virtue of doing it—stronger gluteals, tensor fascia latae, hip flexors, quadriceps, all of that stuff. And, a lot of those tissues converge into what’s called the iliotibial band. A lot of its tension is controlled by the tensor fascia latae, the tensor of the lateral piece of fascia, known as the iliotibial band.
Opening the hips for yoga versus stability
So, I wrote about this in the book. In order to run and mountaineer, you need the musculature as well as the fascia, in this case the iliotibial band, to help support and create stability at the knee. That is the function of the iliotibial band. It’s a stabilizer of the outside of the knee. If however, you’re opening your hips for yoga, stretching—by opening those hips I mean stretching the tissues on the lateral side, particularly gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, maximus to some degree, including tensor fascia latae—you potentially reduce the amount of tension that is in your iliotibial band. And then again potentially, because none of this is written in stone, but you’re potentially increasing some possibility for destabilization.
Hip tension can restrict lotus
However, this whole sort of friction or conflict between these two things continues to play itself back into the yoga as well. So the tighter your hips, gluteals, etc., are—you can always go check out my opening your hips for lotus and the lotus preparation videos—the more that you’re doing running, cycling—I do a good bit of cycling myself—the more you do that, the tighter those tissues get. And then when you also try to do lotus, you’re potentially reducing rotation at the hip joint, tightening tissues generally around the knee joint. And so, when you have to rotate your lower leg, which is normal natural movement of course, and also required for lotus, you’re also going to potentially increase the amount of force at the knee joint itself.
Finding your personal balance
And so, you have to figure out what that balance is for you. There is no single answer. I wish there were. And then I could say you just need to do that and then do that and then do that. No, you decide what your goals are. You need to decide how much stability is enough for mountaineering and running and how much opening of the hips is needed in order for you to do your lotus. And that’s the play that you have to figure out. I can’t tell you sitting here. Even as a teacher watching you practice, I couldn’t tell you that. It’s going to be a sensation in your body. And it’s going to be decided by what it is you want to achieve.
Alright, Ali, I hope that helped shed a little bit of light on it and you understand that conflict a little bit more. Anyone else, if you’ve got a question, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion.