The Hips Don’t Lie: How to Release Stored Emotions
I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the link between a person's thoughts, feelings, and how the body physically reacts. Much like how you can get a stomach ache if you’re nervous about a presentation you have to give to the big wigs at work. Or your palms get sweaty when you run into your ex at the grocery store.
The mind-body connection is most commonly recognized with stress. Medical research estimates that as much as 90% of all doctors office visits are stress related. Patients reporting ailments such as headaches, stomachaches, sleep problems, chest pain, and fatigue clearly indicate how your emotions can make you sick.
We may agree that emotions can affect the body, but it’s also indicated that emotions can be stored in the body. Emotions are technically energy in motion. When we experience trauma, or even a negative emotion that is unprocessed, it gets stored energetically in the physical body. For this article, we will specifically cover how the hips store emotions. Because Shakira was right after all, the hips don’t lie.
The hips are a place where we store our deepest vulnerabilities. They are kind of like a filing system for all our unpleasant memories and suppressed shit.
I like to look at things from different ‘lenses’ because my inner skeptic sometimes needs science to substantiate things.
Tight Hips: Physical Lens
From a physical perspective, the hip joint is the largest weight-bearing joint in the body. It is surrounded by muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It literally supports us on a daily basis and helps us maintain our balance. Aside from holding our weight, the hips are prone to tightness from prolonged sitting. We must admit that in our society of long work hours at a computer, driving, watching TV, etc. the hips are often in a flexed position, which can make them tight. Structurally, if you have experienced pregnancy and/or childbirth, the physical changes that occur during this time (physically and emotionally) can take a toll on the hips and pelvis.
Tight Hips: Emotional Lens
Emotions, much like chocolate cake, go straight to your hips. Specifically emotions related to relationships. When we are stressed, overwhelmed, or scared, we often unconsciously tighten up. This can present as clenching your jaw, crossing your arms or legs to ‘close off’, or retreat to the fetal position (curl up) as a protective response. From an evolutionary standpoint, our hips activate to run from danger; hence the ‘fight or flight’ response. When these muscles tense up repeatedly, they shorten. And so, if the tension is never fully released (or processed) the tension along with the emotion, is trapped.
Tight Hips: Spiritual Lens
If you are into yoga or meditation, you may have heard of the chakra system. The word chakra is Sanskrit and translates to ‘wheel’ or disc’. There are seven chakras that start at the base of the spine and ascend to the top of your head. Each chakra corresponds to major organs, nerves, and areas of our energetic body that affect our emotional and physical wellbeing. The hips are located in the second chakra, referred to as the Sacral chakra. The sacral chakra is linked to sexuality, creativity, and inspiration. Home of the reproductive organs, it makes sense that there is a correlation to sensuality, relationships, and emotions. A sacral chakra imbalance may manifest as hip or back pain, feeling jealous or insecure or feeling closed off or emotionally unavailable.
Hip Opening and Releasing the Tension. Ready for a flood?
If you’ve ever participated in a yoga class, you are likely familiar with hip opening poses. Remember the hip joint is unique, not limited to just flexion and extension. The hips move in circular motions as well. Therefore ‘opening the hips’ refers to any stretch that lengthens any of the 22 muscles that cross the hip. Yes, there’s that many.
When I think about the hips storing emotions and attending a yoga class focused on hip opening, my imagination gets the best of me. I envision a flood gate of shadows and grief pouring out, flooding the entire class as I sit in a pigeon pose sobbing. Will I ever be welcomed back again? Luckily, this has never happened but many report feeling an emotional release and even shedding some tears. When you allow your body to relax into a pose and release stored tension, you can open up wounds from the past.
Whether or not you know where these emotions are coming from, releasing them is a good thing. Society teaches us at a young age to toughen up, not cry, and shove the feelings aside. But that’s not how we heal. Suppressing anything causes problems. Let this be your permission slip to open up and leave it all on your mat. Your teacher will surely understand.
How to Release Stored Tension
Deep-tissue hip opening yoga postures can release physical and emotional tension in the hips. If you are skilled at suppressing emotions and are not currently used to stretching, go slow and go easy on yourself. Welcome what comes up with curiosity. Practice acceptance. Breathe. Embrace the idea that leaning into discomfort and sitting with the pain a little bit, is the practice.
Below are some of my favorite hip openers:
Cow face pose
Deep low lunge
Aside from yoga stretches, here are some other ways to consider releasing stored emotions:
Cry, scream, yell into a pillow
Go for a walk, run, or swim
Do some cardio, dance, hit a punching bag
Meditate on releasing the emotion
Try reiki or acupuncture
Journal and let your internal voice speak
Talk with a therapist
Do something creative, listen to music, be in nature
Trapped emotions could be holding you back from reaching your full potential. As you lean in and learn to release those emotions, remember that healing is not linear. It is indeed a process. But a process that is worth it. You are deserving of living a fulfilled, joyful life. Remember to be kind to yourself, and your hips.
Peace, love, and healing.
This article was written and contributed by:
Holistic Therapist and Reiki Practitioner
Lisa Kern is a latte loving, eternal optimist with an open mind and open heart. She spent 10+ years of her career as an occupational therapist before finding her true calling as an intuitive healer.
Lisa now works as a holistic therapist and reiki practitioner helping women (re)connect with their inner knowing and align their energy so they can live their most vibrant lives. Helping women upgrade their consciousness and remove emotional, mental, and energetic blocks so they can thrive, not merely survive, is her true passion.
Lisa is also an author who has contributed to the anthology FearLess, and Mama's Gotta Grow, which became an Amazon Best Seller.