Supta = ‘Supine’ Baddha = ‘Bound’ Kona = ‘Angle’ Asana = ‘Posture’
A great way to passively release tension from the hips, Supta Baddha Konasana primarily opens the psoas and the inner thighs (adductor muscles). The hips are a central and important place to maintain in good health; for women, the hips are the centre of gravity, while men tend to lead from the hips as they walk. Essential for healthy posture, the hips have a big impact on the health of the joints surrounding it. ‘Tight’ and habitually contracted hip muscles lend themselves to knee pain because of the inability to freely move the pelvis and hips, therefore directing the pressure into the next available joint, while weak outer hips tend to cause the quadratus lumborum (the lower back muscles) to compensate, a common cause of lower back pain.
Emotionally, the hips play a big part in storing our tension, worries, fears and anger. You may have heard of teachers speaking about ‘storing emotions in the hips’, and for a long time I admittedly also disregarded this as ‘another strange thing you hear in a yoga class’….
The hips are indeed a powerhouse of stored emotions though, and here’s why:
Our natural instinct when responding to stress is to contract certain muscles of the body. When we experience the common ‘fight or flight’ response, the primary muscles which contract are the hip flexors, because if we need to run away from danger, these are the muscles that are going to help us! (The hip flexors help to flex the leg, i.e. initiating the lift in each leg that helps us to walk and run).
If we keep putting ourselves under stress, the habitual contraction of the hip muscles begins to become a ‘normal’ occurrence. We end up thinking we’re ‘just one of those people with tight hips’, accepting the pain and lack of motion in this important part of the body.
So the emotional part?….
When we constantly respond to stress by holding on to contractions in the body, our fascia (yes, I’m fascinated with this stuff at the moment) begins to shape itself to fit this contracted state. In essence – our body begins to mould in to the shape of a stressed-out, tense version of ourselves. Subconsciously, we remember that these contractions in the hip flexors relate to a feeling of stress and negativity, and so we adopt this feeling whenever we pay attention to how our hips are feeling.
As I’ve said before, ‘tightness’ in the hips isn’t always down to muscular tension; it also has a lot to do with how our bones are shaped. (Click here if you haven’t already read about this!)
Thankfully, if it’s muscular tension we’re working with, this can be worked on and released. If we work to release both the emotional tension and the physical ‘tightness’, the musculature and connective tissue surrounding the hips can learn to adopt new habitual patterns of remaining calm and relaxed when they aren’t needed to help us run and move. When we release these physical patterns, the emotions that caused the initial tightness often bubble up to the surface as we work through the muscle and tissue. This is why you’re likely to see many people in an emotional state either during or after an intense hip-opening yoga class.
While I recognise that those who aren’t familiar with a long-term yoga practice may see this all as complete rubbish, there is scientific evidence behind this, which makes it all the more fascinating to learn about….
The psoas is the only muscle in the body that connects the spine to the legs, and when it is habitually contracted, this can cause lordosis (an over-arching of the lower back) and compression in the spine. Also connected to the psoas is the diaphragm – our primary breathing muscle, and the biggest muscle in the body. When the psoas is chronically shortened, this can have a big effect on our ability to breathe fully, which is obviously vital for our health and wellbeing!
Our cultural obsession with flat abdominals and a toned stomach means we’re constantly contracting the hips when we perform crunches or any other workout that promises a six-pack and ever lasting happiness…. So take some time out with Supta Baddha Konasana and allow yourself to let go….
To prepare for Supta Baddha Konasana:
There isn’t a whole lot you need to do to prepare for this posture, but to get the most out of it, begin by sitting cross-legged on the floor, letting the knees and hips relax.
After this, come into Baddha Konasana to give a preliminary opening to the adductors and hip flexors, before coming to lie down in Savasana.
- From a supine position on the floor, bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet in towards the buttocks.
- Open the knees out to the side and bring the soles of the feet together, as you would for Baddha Konasana.
- Instead of pushing the knees down towards the floor, focus more on solely relaxing the hips. With each exhale let go a little bit more and allow the knees to drop lower and lower.
- It’s especially important not to care how open your hips are able to be in this posture, as flexibility never comes from willing and pushing ourselves to open up, it comes from letting go and allowing the brain to send a message to the body that it’s ok to release, relax and let go.
- Stay here for however long feels good. This can be a great posture to rest in after a busy, tiring and physically demanding day before you go to sleep.
- When you’re ready to transition out of the posture, bring the knees back together and lay back in savasana.
- If you feel the need to counterpose this asana, hug the knees towards the chest and rock gently across the lower back a few times to re-integrate the hips. For a stronger counterpose, you could come into table top pose by bending the knees and placing the soles of the feet on the floor, bringing the palms behind you with the finger tips facing forwards, and lifting the hips up so your body comes to form the shape of a table top.
If you’ve had a busy day, end it by relaxing in Supta Baddha Konasana, and let any built-up tension melt away….