Rewriting the story: I do NOT have tight hips!

I remember my first yoga class.  I felt pretty good overall – for the most part I could do the poses the teacher guided us into, and I enjoyed the effects of the poses on my body.  All except for that dreadful “pigeon pose,” which was torture.  It didn’t look good, it didn’t feel especially good, and I wanted out.

I’m looking mighty happy there. Must have been one of the good days!

Fast forward a couple years, to my first big workshop – a weekend with John Friend and 200 other participants in a big gymnasium.  At that time, John had teachers travel with him to assist workshop participants.  Not surprisingly, we did a few rounds of pigeon, and each and every time one of the assisting teachers came running over and asked, “are you okay?  What was your injury?”

And the embarrassing part?  There was no injury.  There is – and was – nothing wrong with my hips.  I was never hurt , never injured, never diagnosed with any sort of problem.  I just simply couldn’t do pigeon, or firelog (agnistambasana), or baby cradle, or anything else that required external rotation of my hips.   Let’s be clear, it wasn’t for lack of trying.  I pushed myself in those poses, at times to the point of nausea.  Nothing.  No progress.  Meanwhile, as I became a more dedicated practitioner, teacher trainee, and ultimately a teacher, most of my other poses more closely resembled their “finished form” – creating an even more glaring contrast between my pigeon pose and the rest of my practice.  I became known as “the strong and open mountain girl with the tight hips.”

Yes, this contributes to some hip tightness. But it’s so fun….

Years passed.  I kept working.  I dug deep, scrunched up my face, and pushed myself to get those dang things to open.  I made a little bit of progress on my right side, and absolutely none on my left.  I asked famous teachers for help, I had ultrasound on my IT (iliotibial) band, I lost weight, I gained weight, I did more yoga, I did less yoga…nothing.  So I gave up.  I decided that I would always be the Certified Anusara Yoga Instructor who could barely do pigeon…let alone lotus.  That was my story.

Giving up didn’t mean avoiding the poses.  I still did them; I just didn’t try very hard, and I stopped caring altogether about what they looked like.  I decided that the problem was either anatomical (my femur head didn’t sit right in my acetabulum?) or emotional (don’t even want to open that can of worms…!) and either way I couldn’t do much about it.  These were details that I added to my story.

I bet I spent about three years in that phase, with no externally visible progress.  There was big internal progress though, as I stopped beating myself up for having strangely tight hips.

About six months ago something happened.  I noticed that my shin was creeping further and further towards the front of my sticky mat.  On the right side, it actually arrived at the parallel position, and I could even bow over.  Although my left side continued to lag behind the right, it was getting somewhere.  Then, last week I attended an awesome, blow-your-socks-off asana intensive with Darren Rhodes, Christina Sell, and Amy Ippoliti where we did a lot of reclining baby cradles and pigeons, and after three hours of practice I was in the completed form of the pose.  No one was looking at me funny and no one was rushing over to ask me about my injury.  No angels were singing either…but I was noticing.

A tight psoas muscle is the cause of a lot of hip limitation…and a commmon place we store pent up emotions. Hmm….!

And then I realized it: I am not the mountain girl with the tight hips anymore!  No one in that room thought of me that way, and I shouldn’t either.  For a moment I was actually sad.  I mean, this has been a part of my identity for my 12-year yoga career.  If I am not the mountain yogini with the tight hips, well, then, who am I?

I am more than just my body and its gifts and limitations, that is for sure.  And I am definitely more than the identity story I tell myself and the world.  Ironically, this is what my whole spring and early summer have been about – dropping the stories.  Since Kali stripped me of so many ego-oriented trappings and left me mostly naked, I figured I’d better really get down to bare bones and shed this layer as well.  It’s been the focus of my morning meditation, and while I am getting more comfortable sitting in the story-less space, I have not necessarily seen it have ramifications in my daily life…until now.  Pigeon IS my daily life.  And, it’s different, deeper, more pleasurable, and more accessible.  Did I get into this pose because I dropped the story?  Or did I drop the story because I got into the pose?  Does it matter??

Yoga works on us in funny ways…from the inside out and the outside in.  It sneaks in through cracks and worms its way around dark twisting passages to illuminate dusty corners.  The cool thing is we just have to show up.  And show up, and show up again.

Need some help with Pigeon Prep?  Try out this video….


~ by bridgetannlyons on July 2, 2012.

2 Responses to “Rewriting the story: I do NOT have tight hips!”

  1. Fantastic post! Always nice to read you Bridge.

  2. That is very much me, the tight hips. I am an energy therapist and healer that uses dowsiing in my practice and maybe it is time to take a peek at the the tight hips. Been like it since early childhood….you have inspired me to now ask what the block is….thanks for the inspiration

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