The Modern Tight Hip Problem
In 2003, I moved to Thailand and began my yoga teaching journey. The very first thing that every Western yoga teacher notice in Southeast Asia is that tight hips are very rare. Why? Natural movement patterns are still very common in the region. Squatting is a normal part of daily life for most people; there are squat toilets, temples have no chairs, etc.
But what about you? When was the last time you dropped down into a full squat to wash your laundry, peel a carrot, or use the bathroom? The answer is probably never, and that is a huge part of the modern tight hip problem. The average person living in a Western country rarely flexes their knees past 90-degrees or squats at all.
Think about it. You wake up, roll out of bed, and sit down on a knee-high toilet. You make breakfast and sit on a chair or a stool that is at bum-height (or higher). You get into a car (again in a seat), arrive at work and promptly sit down in an office chair. The muscles and tissues that affect flexion and extension, adduction and abduction, internal and external rotation are barely used at all!
Interestingly, this is not true for children.
Most kids sit on the floor, squat to play with toys, and move through a full range of hip motion throughout the day. By age 10, most kids are starting to move more like adults (meaning less) and they begin to lose flexibility. Without training, by our teenage years, most of us are just as stiff as an adult. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you can change this. It doesn’t happen overnight, but with consistent practice, you can make massive gains in flexibility.
The Danger of Tight Hips
Many people assume that tight hips are simply inconvenient. You can’t sit comfortably on the floor, many yoga poses are out of reach, and you get fidgety and uncomfortable in the car and on planes. But it’s much worse than that.
When your hips are tight, you automatically adjust your movement patterns to make up for it. When you squat, your feet turn out and your heels pop up. When you sit cross-legged, your back hunches up into a ball. When you run, your hips don’t fully extend, so your running gait turns into a clumsy waddle, especially when you become fatigued.
All these movement workarounds contribute or even cause chronic back and knee pain, among other problems. When you’re walking, sitting, and running around with poor posture, you’re simply more prone to injury.