Two years ago, if you asked me about being tense, this was a feeling I would associate primarily with my shoulders. Doing some internet browsing on alignment in dance, I happened across some articles on hip tension, which suggested using a tennis ball, or some other sort of hard rubber ball to relieve tension in the muscles surrounding the pelvis (likely at this site or this site, but I don't quite remember). Since I was already using this technique to relieve shoulder tension (by lying on top of the tennis ball on tight spots) I figured I'd just move the ball down to my butt to check for hip tension. I did, and wow. Hip tension galore. I moved the ball around a bit, and discovered tender spot after tender spot. I removed the ball from my left side, where my hip suddenly felt much closer to the floor, and my leg longer. I tried the right. More tension. Hmm, I thought, perhaps I should be doing this more often. After a few weeks of rolling around on balls of various hardness, my pelvis felt completely realigned, like magic.
I remembered this feeling, and how magical it felt, when I finished up teaching the class as my dance teacher rushed to the hospital. Highland is a pretty athletic form of dance, and I could tell the other dancers were pretty sore, so I figured we'd finish with some ball work. We'd been working on alignment, so I had them work on finding tight spots in the muscles around the hip (the sides as well as the butt). We worked three spots on the right, and then I had them compare sides. "Woah, this feels totally different" one said. "Mom, we need to get squishy balls for our butts!" another cried. When they stood up, after just that little bit, I could tell in their first position alignment as well, which was pretty exciting.
Like ballet, Highland dancing requires turnout, or dancing with your knees as far to the side as possible, so it's hardly surprising that highland dancers have tight hip muscles. However, it's worth pointing out that my husband, who rarely engages in any sort of exercise, is also a pretty big fan of these ball hip releases (in my excitement at first discovering them, I made him do it too).
So, yes, this is a blog post urging you to try lying down with a tennis ball under your butt--you may be pleasantly surprised at the tension-relieving affects!