On the fist day of Sociology 101 in 2002, Professor Evans asked everyone in our class to look down at how our legs were positioned as we sat. She asked the women if we had our legs crossed, and asked the men if their legs were open. I think she may have asked the same about our arms. The conclusion was overwhelmingly that the women sat with legs crossed, arms close to our bodies. She said we were trying to take up as little space as possible. The males tended to look more relaxed: legs spread, shoulders back, hips open. She said the men were more comfortable being a larger and stronger presence.
My favorite yoga teacher Claudia, during class this past October, showed us a series of poses for our hips. We learned to position the hips three ways: closed, neutral, open.
Cross your legs and your hips are closed. We practiced sitting, standing, and against the wall poses where our hips turned in on one another, made narrow. She said closed hips impede our emotions from being expressed, says we store pain and unfelt feeling in closed, tight hips.
Stand with your feet and toes facing directly forward and your hips are neutral. The pelvis is horizontal and free from strain in either direction. When sitting at your desk, keep your hips neutral for back health. And emotional health, Claudia says. Easier for blood and other things to flow through open hips.
Open your hips to counteract the tightness of having them closed before. Point your toes outward, pigeon-toed, spread your legs wide, and your hips are open. Like a triangle. Release tension, open up, release the things you’re bracing from feeling. Bleed.
Now in New York, I’m learning that to keep your balance while standing on the train, you’ve got to open your hips. You’ll fall if you keep those things closed too tightly.