I don’t know where I learned that the hips are where we store all of our emotions. I know it to be true though. When I’ve had a deep hip opening practice I feel like a dam has burst, and a few times this has ended in cleansing tears, much to the consternation of my family. Nevertheless, I resist hip openers in my own practice and haven’t found a really good way to work deep hip openers like pigeon pose into the hour-long early morning practice that I teach at Tranquil Space. My friend Alyson reminded me how much people love them, and so today I settled the class into pigeon and found my own heart opening vicariously.
I’d guess that hips have been on my mind for a while now. My own hips and the struggle against spread now that I’m fully planted in my middle-aged years. My daughter’s hips as I’ve watched as they’ve grown from boyish to beautiful in the past five years. My father’s and brother’s hips now that they are successfully replaced with titanium. When I cue asanas in class I feel as though I keep harping on “squaring the hips,” and have to smile to think of my mentor’s comment about “honest hips” in yoga practice.
I’ve also been working on this painting of rose hips, which are unusual in our severely landscaped neighborhood. Tom and I are notoriously terrible gardeners — we like to say that we grow children, not plants. A rose bush that I planted in the front yard has grown amok — sometimes falling over, other times hastily nailed up to the house, most of the time annoying Tom as he mows the front yard. We love to see it on that one week of the year when it is gloriously in bloom, then don’t pay it a bit of attention until the next year. It is a canopy to the window well where I keep my easel, and so when a sweet little chipmunk showed up to gnaw on acorns in front of the window as I was waiting for inspiration, I paid attention to him and then to the rose bush, which was covered in rose hips.
Rose bushes that aren’t well groomed grow rose hips — a fruit which holds rose seeds. And like all things in nature that are left to a little chaos, the lack of control can lead to wonderful sustenance. You can clip rose hips and make tea with a few of them, and jam if you have buckets of them. They have huge amounts of vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Thinking of eating this fruit reminds me of childhood. I can remember as a child having rose water liberally sprinkled on food. Or the Chartreuse green of Rose’s Lime Juice in a glass of soda and raw sugar. (Perhaps this is where the green-yellow comes from in the background of this painting.)
The pose of the month at the studio is bakasana, crow pose. This powerful pose requires open hips and a fearless heart as you hoist yourself up on the upper arms, balancing on hands, almost kissing the ground. The fruit of this pose is an open heart — tapping into emotions buried deep in the hip. As Alanna Kaivalya explains in Myths of the Asanas:
There’s a striking contrast between the way humans hold on to fear and the way animals freely let go of it…Asanas give us the opportunity to do just the same. We get the chance to move our life experience through our bodies by taking the shapes of the various forms in nature. We stretch and create space in our joints and muscles and do our best to embody the essence of each posture, learning its inherent lessons and experiencing freedom in that form. When this process takes hold and begins to release the fear from our body and our heart, we are able to live our lives joyfully, moment to moment. Fear lives in us as tension, and asana postures are designed to release tension from our bodies. The absence of tension is the absence of fear. And the absence of fear signifies the presence of joy, love and open-heartedness. As we embody these shapes in nature, we learn to fall in love with the world around us.