Stretch? Or Strengthen??
Your hips feel sore and tight. You need to stretch them out, right? Well, not so fast! The tightness you are experiencing may be caused by weak, strained muscles, that, most likely, need strengthening more than stretching.
We often associate yoga with stretching. People think they need flexibility to practice yoga, and they take up yoga when they want to "loosen up". The fact is, yoga is about creating balance, and our bodies need stability just as much as they need flexibility.
When a muscle feels tight the answer often is counter-intuitive: tightness in one area may be a response to weakness in a nearby muscle, or group of muscles; rather than continuing to stretch we very likely need to add strengthening poses to our practice.
As we age, we experience loss of muscle mass. This process begins already in our 30s, but staying active helps to counter the effects of muscle loss. The problem is that, as we age, we tend to become less active, while to maintain the same level of function over time we actually need to become more active, as well as spend more time specifically on strengthening activities.
If you've been practicing yoga all along, over time the focus of your practice might change from creating flexibility to creating stability. If you are newer to this practice, starting out with a balanced routine is the key.
The hips muscles are an essential part of our core, so any imbalance in the core will be reflected in the hips. Keeping the hips both flexible and strong will help us maintain function and mobility over time.