Yoga for hip stabilization – reducing pain from a labral tear

I have bad hips. It’s hereditary. I found this out when I tried to be a runner two summers ago, not knowing it was a bad idea at the time. Suddenly, when I started trying to add distance to my already pitiful one mile (I always had to walk part of it), I started developing pain in my left hip joint. It got worse and stuck around, and my pain went undiagnosed for the next two years. After physical therapy, many chiropractor visits, a CT scan and 2 MRI’s, I was told I have congenitally weak hips, leading to a labral tear (torn cartilage) in the outer portion of that left one. More physical therapy and an anti-inflammatory diet (gluten-free!) have greatly reduced my discomfort, but the tear will never heal, and a surgeon told me not to bother with surgery; so it’s necessary to make sure I keep up strength in the muscles that support my hips. Not only to prevent future injuries, but to keep stability and cushion in the joint that is already damaged and often sore.

Now, I could just continue doing the physical therapy exercises my therapist gave me on handy little instructional printouts, but they are rather boring and I rarely remember to do them. I know myself, and if I don’t enjoy my exercise routine, I won’t keep up with it. Yoga, on the other hand, is a form of exercise I find myself always going back to. And really, it isn’t too hard to look at the exercises recommended for physical therapy and convert them into a yoga routine – all it takes is to make sure to target the same muscles.

Poor posture and some hereditary conditions cause certain muscles to shorten, while their opposing muscles become slack. The goal here is to reverse that process until you reach equilibrium. And in reality, yoga is about the most equilibrium-oriented form of exercise I can think of. Every routine I’ve ever done has been focused on lengthening and strengthening the body. In my case, it’s important to strengthen the adductors, abductors, glutes and core. And to lengthen the outer hip muscles, hip flexors, lower back and hamstrings. It’s also important to keep a good rotation in my hips, so I will include stretches for that, too.

STRENGTHENING YOGA POSES

dolphin plankPlank or Dolphin Plank Pose – strengthens the core, arms and legs. Even more effective if you alternate lifting one leg off the ground for a few seconds.
boat pose paripurna navasanaBoat Pose (Paripurna Navasana) – strengthens abdominals. Beginners, bend the knees so they are parallel to the floor and keep your back straight.
Bridge PoseBridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana) – strengthens the back and glutes. Place a block between the knees, tuck the abdominals in and squeeze the muscles of the buttocks to ensure proper form. Don’t over arch your back.
half moon ardha chandrasanaHalf Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) – strengthens legs and buttocks, improves balance. Instructions. There are easier variations on this pose that can be done as well. Try triangle pose or airplane pose instead.
staff pose DandasanaStaff Pose (Dandasana) – strengthens the back. Try sitting against a wall to ensure proper form.

LENGTHENING YOGA POSES

forward bend - uttanasanaStanding forward bend (Uttanasana) – stretches the hamstrings and hip sockets. I often do this pose at work while I’m waiting for the microwave. I feel like it puts my hip bones where they are supposed to be…they just settle into place when I do this pose.
bow pose DhanurasanaBow Pose (Dhanurasana) – stretches the front of the body, the groin and deep hip flexors while strengthening the back. Always follow a back bend with a forward bend for balance.
down dog adho mukha svanasansDownward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) – stretches hamstrings and upper back.
low lunge anjaneyasanaLow Lunge (Anjaneyasana) – stretches the hip flexors. Variations on this pose include balancing on the back toes and/or placing the fingertips on the ground on either side of the foot. Take care with lunges – if you go too deep, you can exacerbate your injury.

HIP ROTATION YOGA POSES

bound angle pose - baddha konasanaBound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) – stretches inner thigh and groin. Keep your back straight, even if that means your feet aren’t close to your body or you are sitting nearly upright. It’s okay to fold forward in this pose if you are limber enough.
Happy Baby - Ananda BalasanaHappy Baby (Ananda Balasana) – stretches groin and lower back. Feel free to rock back and forth a bit in this pose to really target those tight areas.
Pigeon PoseEye of the Needle – a great hip opener. Keep the foot flexed to protect your knee. I like to rock my hips back and forth a little in this pose, too.
fire log poseFire Log Pose (Agnistambhasana) – this is my favorite. It really gets into the piriformus and feels soooo good. Again, keep the feet flexed for happy knees. If sitting upright isn’t enough of a stretch, begin to fold forward.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are so many different combinations that can be used for increasing pelvic stability. I usually fast forward through yoga routines before doing them to make sure they include poses that target the correct areas (and also to see that they aren’t too advanced for me).

Now I can’t guarantee that these poses are right for anyone else’s labral tear, but they seem to help me. It all depends on location and severity of the tear. If something hurts or seems to result in more pain or inflammation, please stop. I use these labral tear pain management techniques to supplement my strength routine; check them out and see if they work for you, too.

The above images are from YogaJournal.com. I recommend visiting their site for detailed instructions on proper form for these poses. And try one of their free yoga videos while you are there!