2001 Ado Mukha Vrksasana Padmasana: Lotus Handstand

When did I first feel the real pain? A big part of my yoga practice were my “dessert” poses. After I had warmed up with dozens of poses that you might find in most yoga asana books, I would finish my practice with contortions that you’d easily see as standard fare in a carnival act. Legs behind the head, shoulders and arms circling the body like intertwined jump ropes, knotting my legs into lotus pose while in the middle of a handstand, splits of every variation.

*2002 Eka Pada Yoganidrasana: One Legged Yogic Sleep Pose

Aha, those splits. Those lateral splits. Every damn day I would do lateral splits like a gymnast, sliding my legs apart from one another until at a certain predictable angle the inside of my left hip would audibly POP. There it was, every single day, that familiar pop. That pop caused no pain, but it was not a normal sound. Sure it was “normal” for me, but since it caused no pain, I literally let it slide (well not really slide), I let that joint distract and readjust to the overloaded pressures I enforced day after day, month after month, year after year.

*2002 Samakonasana; Lateral Splits

Once I’d reach 180˚ I would roll through like a gymnast or a Solid Gold dancer.

When did I first feel the real pain? I binged on dessert poses every day…much like I used to binge on food when I was bulimic in my late teens. That hip “pop” was an indicator that I was damaging my hip. I was sliding the femoral head way out of range. It was during that time that I probably began a deformation process that led me where I am today. But my need to stretch and do my routine was my crutch of safety. It dulled my anxiety and acted as a bridge between my eating disorder and owning and sensing my body again. The demons I ran from inside my head told me to fold, breathe, lengthen, pause, breathe, twist, bend over, lighten up, breathe and rest.

When did I first feel the real pain? I remember a beautiful rug in my father’s living room. It was a giant red circle with yellow and white flowers stitched into its matrix. It looked like a mandala and was a perfect space for me to practice every morning whenever I visited him. I remember one day, at age 15 or 16, I was doing my yoga there, and he came in and sat down on a chair near me and watched. He stared at me un-blinking while self-consciousness filled me. Why was he staring? I tried to ignore him and used my practice to wall him away and slither further into myself.

He finally spoke, “we really need to talk about your obsessive compulsive need to stretch.

When did I first feel the real pain? I had an on again off again nagging pain that began 7 years ago on the outside of my left hip. My tensor fascia latae muscle would spasm  during sleep and it would feel sticky after I sat for long periods of time. Cars and planes were the worst. But a visit to my Physical Therapist, Sean Hampton helped me clear up the imbalance of my glute strength on that left hip, and I was able to “manage” those spastic spells over the next several years with a daily regime joint stabilizing strength work and rolling.

I had a hunch that I might have a labral tear when I started to feel the head of my femur shifting with no borders when I loaded that hip in certain ranges (flexion coupled with adduction.) The golf ball shape of the femur would grind against the acetabulum and make the sound of a giant emery board. None of this shifting was painful, but I knew it was NOT normal.

*2008 Baddha Parivrtta Trikonasana: Bound Twisted Triangle Variation

While I also knew there were issues in that hip, I refrained from having any imaging done until I had as many children as my husband and I could make at our advanced ages. I was 40 when we tragically lost our first child during my 20th week of pregnancy, so I was not keen on having a diagnosis that might emotionally encumber my fertility and my resolve. My determination to be a mother was stronger than any hip spasms. I was clear that the most important thing in my life was to make life and nurse my children for as long as they wanted.

Photo by Jon Kroll, this pic was taken 6 weeks before surgery.

Now, two children later, at the age of 45, it is me who was in need of the nurse. And the doctor. And I needed to relieve myself of this distressed bone. It has served me beautifully, but it was no longer a model of health, and it was time for a remodel.

If you missed part 1 of this article, go here… and you can follow my hip pain and surgery journey on social by using #TheRollRemodel.

*By the way… I have retired every one of these poses from my practice. 

Liked this article? Read Tuning Down on Three Legs

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Hester

I’m questioning whether I over stretch after reading this article. I am learning the importance of listening to your body. I always had this “no pain no gain” mantra,” but after becoming more aware about the anatomy of the body, this mantra can really do harm. What would you do differently after being more intune with your body? Is there anything you could’ve done to prevent the hip replacement? Could you still do the poses but incorporate strength exercises? I find it very difficult to remove certain poses from my yoga practice.

Dianne Shuford

Dearest Jill:

Thank you for taking the time and energy to write about your hip replacement. Important information for us all.
One of the many things that attracted me to your DVDs and led me to fly to Kripalu to train with you, is the way you broke down asanas to enable one to reap the benefits of a pose without the risks.
So very glad you have another little one.

Warm Regards,
Dianne Shuford

Mallory

I always joke with my friends that I am going to need hip replacement first of the group. It is a joke but deep down there is a truth that I know I have to be careful about. This article spoke to me because I have the same “pop” (or I believe I have the same pop) as Jill describes and to me it is normal. But after reading this article, I realize its actually not normal and could be hurting my overall hip health. In my yoga practice I need to constantly watch myself and make sure that I… Read more »

Rudie Jimenez

I am always so humbled to read your story Jill. Grateful for your movement protocols, and for being so open about your journey. Thank you for this reminder.

Mike

Another excellent reminder to really listen to our bodies, as well as appreciate the work and service our bodies do for us in this life.

Margo

Hi… I am a 40 something yoga teacher and Oct 2017 I had a total hip replacement surgery. I would love to here more about how your personal practise and teaching practice is unfolding now that you are also one year into recovery.

Tim

Great articles. I have osteoarthritis in both hips and cam lesion. I am on my way to hip replacements in the near future. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Michael

Right hip degeneration left hip is not there yet . Over all moderate pain. Can you help me?

Clare Kelley

Thanks for sharing your story. I’d be curious to hear why you retired the postures that you felt led to your hip surgery, but you still use the photos and some of those poses as fundamental poses in the YTU training.

Katharina

Thank you Jill, I read both parts of your article on hip surgery and I am deeply touched by it. It seems to me as if the hip is such a “deep” and delicate place to have surgery done to. Just thinking about all of the muscles and all of the fascia that touch there and will have to find a new balance and interconnectedness after surgery. Many of the “sounds” your hip has made in the beginning remind me of myself and my own right hip. I fear a similar diagnose to the one you received… But your article… Read more »

Elaine

I love that you called those poses “dessert poses”. Everyone knows what desserts are and the inevitable, “Do I need to have this? Should I have it anyway?” internal struggle that comes along with them. Contextualizing them in such a way is so empowering – it helps make informed and better decisions when picking movements to teach. Thank you!

Amber Bilak

Thank you for sharing your experience and using it to help others! Because of your example (and other fearless leaders in the community) I feel empowered to say NO to poses that my body will not accommodate, and to try to create an environment for my students to do the same.

Dawn Williams

Thank you Jill for your honesty to the world about the relationship of over stretching to anxiety. I think we all have something we over do in life to calm the angst of daily life, be it drugs, alcohol, shopping, too much exercising etc. Congratulations on your beautiful children!

Rea

I like the phrase `binged on dessert poses every day`. I think it is very true, we get so attached to food, shopping, dessert poses, you name it…. We need more honest conversations in the yoga community around dessert poses, hurting ourselves, injuries, injury management.. not only in therapeutic yoga, in all yoga, it is one yoga. Thank you for sharing your own personal story.

Holly

Thank you Jill for your courage to share some of your inner challenges with the world. Out of your pain has bloomed a wonderful and insight that can be shared with millions of people to practice balance. I really appreciate your common sense wisdom to address the neglected areas of our bodies related to yoga and also the importance of the mental physical spiritual connection.

Audrey Snowdon

Thank you Jill for your candour. I am doing your Yoga Tune Up training now and it is helpful to understand your story.

Taylor

The honesty and vulnerability of this whole story is quite beautiful, but beautiful in its pain also. The fact that Jill can admit to her “obsessive compulsion to stretch” is massive in her own personal realization and in the yoga world. I think every “world” has its prejudices. But being able to tackle it head on and understand the dangers of yoga when your life is so composed of the positive aspects and benefits is very making yourself very vulnerable, but strong all at once .

Lexy Cann

At a recent YTU training, the phrase, “Just because you can, should you?” was offered regularly. That question is only appealing to the compulsively self-aware?! But really, it does present a new type of challenge– how to balance self care with the adventure of discovering new physical abilities. And, how to gracefully and gratefully let go of poses that only serve your ego or your audience. This is an exciting adventure in itself…!

Donna Layton

Oh Jill! We all have students who do this very thing! The demons of insecurity are so damaging! There are so many of us that need to adhere to all of this info! Thanks for sharing!

Haley Bevers

Great share! I am always listening to my body as well when there are abnormal sounds and pops when I know that something is just not right!

Peg

I feel your pain, Jill, literally. Thanks to YTU and the therapy balls, I’ve managed to hold off my own hip replacement (coming sometime in the spring of 2018) for several years. (My bad hip is likely the result of a bicycle crash some years ago.) I wish you all the best, and will be following your progress.

Barbara

Thank you Jill for being so open about your hip and surgery. When I teach and practice yoga I always remind myself and my students to listen to our bodies and be mindful… but we all have let our egos take over at one point or another. Awareness is the key, so we can recognize that and take a step back.

Emma

Hi Jill, I am sorry to learn about the loss of your baby and can only imagine how devastated both you and your husband were. When you go through such a tragic event, its hard to even focus on moving forwards let alone focusing on something as seemingly inconsequential as a dodgy hip. Best wishes to you and your family and to a speedy recovery.

Ekaterina

“Obsessive compulsive need to stretch” – that’s a brilliant line, my precise diagnosis:D Thank God I’m not uber flexible (blessed are rigid folks:). Thank you for sharing your story Jill, coz other then that we see fit and sexy yoga instructors, oblivious of what’s cooking behind the scenes.

Becky

Thank you for sharing Jill. Your fathers comment about ”….obsessive compulsive need to stretch.” really highlights something serious going on in the yoga practice and really hits the nail on the head for me. Yoga really can become just another addiction or escape, I can see how easily this could happen too, especially when yoga is marketed as ‘stretch and all your problems will go away’. Your post is just another truthful reminder of what I would like to contribute to yoga having just completed my L1 YTU.

Lauri Bunting

Hi Jill, I just want to say thanks for sharing your story. I am almost 56 and scheduled for bilateral hip replacements in April. I am a former ashtangi, bulimic, runner, skier and teach yoga in Sun Valley, Idaho. I was diagnosed with severe arthritis four years ago, and like you was shocked at the diagnosis and news that I would need full replacements in 3-5 year. Without going too deeply into my story, I just want to say, thanks, I relate, and best of luck moving forward! I would love to hear what prosthesis your surgeon used. I have… Read more »

Dominika

Dear Jill, I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost a baby girl 2 years ago, born at 26 weeks. Now I have a beautiful 3 month old son, my rainbow baby, and I am so happy – and in so much pain from lifting and breastfeeding him in most awkward positions. I have a few of your DVDs – have you thought of making one for mamas? It’s hard to own our bodies while taking care of our babies.

Dominika

Dear Jill, I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost a baby girl 2 years ago, born at 26 weeks. Now I have a beautiful 3 month old son, my rainbow baby, and I am so happy – and in so much pain from lifting and breastfeeding him in most awkward positions. I have a few of your DVDs – have you thought of doing one for mamas? It’s hard to own our bodies while taking care of our babies.

Donna

Jill, I want to offer my condolences to you and your husband on the loss of your first child. As a mother I understand that you put some things off for your children and that is pretty much how your whole parenting life goes and it is so rewarding so I can understand your choice to wait until you were done having children. I am learning so much from you sharing your story with us and I an so grateful. I have been a yoga teacher for only a year and tend to teach my students more movement than traditional… Read more »

Ashley Burger

Besides for this being written very well I think it is extremely informative. Sometimes the pain does not accompany the harm the body is going through. As a dancer I believe we do have a higher pain tolerance anyways, but we do overstretch many of our tendons and ligaments. This practice has led to me hopefully repatterning these tendencies.

Cherri Z.

Hi Jill:

Based on what you said on your blog, I am new to yoga and still pretty tight. Should I be worried about the pops that I experience? They too don’t hurt but makes me curious.

Ben Blazke

Hi Jill – during the YTU L1 training we were asked to create a 5 minute sequence for a snapping left hip. Would you answer this question differently today? How would your 5 minute sequence look like?