I've been working on a lot of hip opening practices recently, both in my own practice and in my teaching. Most yoga asanas work on the hips and pelvis in one way or another, but by focusing particularly on hip opening practices we are, on a physical level specifically working into the mobility and strength of the hip joint.
It seems incredibly important to me to work this part of the body. The hips are the point in the body where the upper and lower parts meet, securing our spine to our legs and providing the beginnings of both the grounded feeling through our feet and the lifted feeling through our torso neck and head.
We all move the hips forward and back. It is called walking, most of us do it for long periods of time every single day. But how often to we use the full rotation of the hip? How often in daily life do we sit cross-legged or squat? And the reason most of us don't - because it's too difficult.
The hip joint is extremely solid - it has to be to hold us up, to provide that connection I was talking about before. This means that working through the hip joint is a slow process. We cannot force the joint - that will just cause knock-on damage to the knee; so we have to cultivate patience and a sense of inner awareness to slowly, slowly work through the tension towards release with compassion, without judgement, without comparison to others. Hip openes need to be practiced regularly, daily if possible and maybe, maybe you will one day be sitting in full lotus position (see picture)!
As any student of mine will tell you, my hips are notoriously stiff. I'm afraid sitting in full lotus is not for me in this lifetime. You see, our hips joints are set a certain way in their sockets. For some people this means hip opening practices will develop into half lotus at least, for others this means they have been able to sit in lotus since they were kids. But when bone meets bone in the socket you cannot stretch any further. If you try it will only twist into the knee.
Just because I know I will not sit in lotus does not mean I shouldn't bother with hip openers however. We carry and awful lot of tension it the hips and pelvis, and therefore a lot of unrealeased emotion. Slow and patient release is key. And a healthy hip joint will carry a healthy body!