Your Hips: The Junk Drawer of Emotions?

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By: Catalina Hubbard

Often times in yoga class the teachers will tell you “hips store a lot of emotion, and hip opening postures can evoke a powerful experience.” I always sat there, bent over in pigeon pose, wondering exactly what this meant. I pictured tiny, sad, angry, and anxiety ridden gremlins living somewhere deep in my psoas and iliacus. Or sometimes I would visualize a series of miniature filing cabinets sitting on my sacrum, overflowing with papers describing my worst days. In my true answer seeking nature I really wanted to find out exactly how we “store emotions in our hips,” and what I came across was incredible.

Our body’s sympathetic nervous system response can stimulate a strong contraction of the flexors of the body, drawing the ribs around the visceral organs and the knees up to the torso to offer protection. This tightening can stay with us long after the original threat or stress is gone. Tightness in the hips and other muscles of the body often arise due to insufficient relaxation of the muscles subject to the contraction of repetitive mechanical or emotional stress. The tightness itself further inhibits relaxation because when the psoas is tight, deep abdominal breathing is constricted. Stretching these muscles can ease back pain, allow for deeper breathing via the diaphragm, and improve circulation to organs such as the intestines, liver and pancreas.

Here is where the neuroscience comes in, and things get really interesting. Candace Pert, an internationally recognized neuroscientist and pharmacologist, found that neuropeptides actually act as biochemical agents of emotion. To put it very, very simply, neuropeptides are molecules that influence the activity of the brain in specific ways based on triggers. They bind to receptors on cell surfaces, and activate a chain of biochemical reactions in the body. These reactions change the aspect of the cell to have either a positive or negative effect on the body. This research basically supports the idea that every cell of the body has a consciousness that stores memories and emotions, hence the “emotion is stored in your hips” claim.

To make this information even more amazing, it coincides with ancient Hindu philosophy. The second chakra, known as the sacral chakra or Svadisthana, encompasses the hip region and is known for its connection with emotion. The chakra system originated in India between 1500 and 500 BCE in some of the oldest texts called the Vedas. This means that while we just made the scientific correlation between emotions and our hips in the last 100 years, ancient civilizations have know about this for thousands of years!

So, next time you’re deep in a hip opener and you get the overwhelming urge to let the water works flow, embrace it!  It’s our bodies way of saying it’s time for some spring cleaning of the frequently ignored junk drawer.

Catalina Hubbard is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz, yoga student, and receptionist at NOURISH, in Santa Cruz, CA.