“I’ve got shifty hips!”–The softening of the ligaments and joints in pregnancy.

 “A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips,” so the expression goes.  For many of us, the widening of our hips may bring a negative reaction.  For much of human history, however, the hips have been a symbol of sexuality and fertility. The hips are the home of our second chakra, our sexual and emotional chakra, ruled by the element of water.  Images of fertility goddesses usually have full hips or even exaggerated hips which would be anathema in today’s weight obsessed world.  But the widening of the hips are important and necessary in pregnancy and childbirth.

Fertility Goddess, Uma. Notice the wide hips and full breasts. You can read about Uma and other goddesses at A Goddess A Day.

 ‘Shifty’ or ‘loosey-goosey’ are just a couple of descriptions of how the hips feel when they go through the process of softening and the subsequent widening during pregnancy.   The body secretes the hormone,  relaxin ,which causes the ligaments and joints to loosen.  The purpose of this is to allow the pelvis and the hips to expand in order to accomodate your growing baby and help make  your baby’s entrance into this world more accessible.  For most women, this process is a source of just a little discomfort which can be relieved with exercise and stretching.

{For about 1 in 35 women, however, the secretion of relaxin can  result in Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction.   Due to the softening,  small gaps form between the bones in the pubis, resulting in too much ‘play’ which leads to pain and discomfort.  It is best to follow your care givers advice regarding this and avoid postures that open the pelvic floor deeply.

Strengthen and Stabilize

In order to cope with the newfound softness, it is best to strengthen the muscles supporting the pelvis.  Prenatal yoga  focusses on the areas of most concern to the pregnant mom.  Many postures highlight the hips and the pelvic floor.  The Transversus Abdominus (TVA) muscle is activated through standing postures and during deep belly breathing .  The TVA not only stabilizes the core and pelvis, but it is the primary muscle used in pushing during labor.   Yoga  is hugely beneficial to the pregnant body and can counteract the minor aches and pains that come along with this remarkable transformation..

Buddha Squat

One of my favorite postures to teach in class is Buddha Squat.  It is not as deep as a full squat, but it serves to strengthen the legs, tone the pelvic floor and activate the TVA muscle.

Barbie in Buddha Squat–Unfortunately, she cannot press her heels to the floor.

  • Begin with legs a little more then hip distance apart.
  • Turn heels in toward each other and begin to bend deep in the knees.  Be mindful that the knees do not go beyond the ankles.

    Barbie in Buddha Squat near the wall–Notice her little baby bump?

  • The inner thighs rotate externally–think “roll open.”  Press deeply into the feet.  Spread the toes wide.
  • Tailbone comes down, engaging the pelvic floor and lengthening though the low back…This will counteract over-arching.
  • Hands come to namaste.  Breathe in deep and full for a few breaths.
  • Slowly lengthen the legs to straight.

If you feel unbalanced in this posture, perform it near a wall or hold onto the back of a chair, for safety.  Always listen to your body!

If you notice too much pain in the pelvic floor, always, come out of the posture.  If you are suffering from SPD,  do not perform the posture.  It might be possible to modify with a chair.  Avoid this posture if your baby is breech during the last 6 weeks of pregnancy. 



© mahamamas.com and Janet MacFarlane, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janet MacFarlane and Mahamamas.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Janet MacFarlane is a Yoga Alliance registered teacher at 500 hours, with a specialty in  prenatal yoga.  Janet is also a Certified Prenatal Fitness Educator with ICEA.

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2 thoughts on ““I’ve got shifty hips!”–The softening of the ligaments and joints in pregnancy.

  1. The human body is an incredible thing — so interesting how this process works. I have never had kids and my body loves the feeling of open hip postures, so if I ever get pregnant, it will be interesting how “shifty” feels in my body.

  2. Just when you think your hips couldn’t open more! This whole process is one of the most important reasons to modify your practice when pregnant. A body has the potential to be more open and flexible, BUT if you over-extend the ligaments, they won’t just go back in place. You also strain the round ligaments of the uterus if not mindful. Mindfullness is paramount.

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