Total Hip Replacement Recovery is Literally in Your Hands

How our hands can help us with hip replacement recovery.

While recovering from total hip replacement, we want tools at our disposal to support the best hip outcome, both in our yoga practice and out in the world. There are many kinds of props in yoga and many tools and gadgets to help us when off the mat, but one of the best supports is our hands!

Think of the kinds of subtle information that your hands can detect. They can distinguish (and read) the tiny dots on a page of braille. They can tease out whether a surface is level or not. They can chop an onion without cutting off a finger. Hands can process subtle changes in temperature and texture. Why are our hands able to do this?

What Makes Our Hands Such a Powerful Tool to Help Us Recover from Hip Replacement?

This is because the nerves of our hands are mapped to a large area in our brain’s primary motor cortex (the area responsible for planning and executing actions). This means that the brain receives, processes, and understands the detailed information our hands provide.

This has implications for our yoga practice and is a valuable tool for total hip replacement. The hands provide information that can help us be mindful of where our body is in space (proprioception) and whether we are aligned in our yoga poses. They can grip things to help us get up and down and to hold us upright.

For example, we can’t always “feel” the orientation of our pelvis in a standing pose. This is because the pelvis has a lower priority in our motor cortex. Using your hands to feel the positioning of the pelvis can help you calculate whether it is level with the ground, tilted forward or back, or twisted in relation to the rest of your body.

Total Hip Replacement Recovery: Hand Help in Mountain Pose

  1. For example, stand in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and place both hands on the back of your pelvis. Oir hands, gentle asana,and recovery from hip replacement.
  2. Then, tilt your pelvis into Half Forward Bend Pose (Ardha Uttanasana), and stop where you can hold the pose for a bit. 
  3. Feel with your hands how the pelvis stays level from left to right. 
  4. Hold it for a moment and take in the sensations you feel. Then, return to Mountain Pose.

Total Hip Replacement Recovery: Hand Help in Pyramid Pose

  1. Hand placement, yoga practice and total hip replacement recovery.Now, step one foot forward a little and the other foot back a little. 
  2. Begin tilting your pelvis forward toward Pyramid Pose (Parsvottanasana) and stopping where you can hold the pose for a bit. Feel again with your hands. Is your pelvis level? 
  3. Use your hands on the back of the pelvis to find level. Once level, could you take time to feel? As you take in the sensations of a level pelvis in this position, you are mapping new neural pathways to find that position more easily the next time. Your hands have helped you find your pose.

Hands provide energy and stability.

Hasta Bandha provides grounding and strength.

3 Using our hands to help us recover from hip replacement surgery.

The hands provide stability for inversions …

4 Gentle variations of yoga posrs like Downward Facing Dog and surgery recovery.


… and energize standing poses. 

5 Utkatasana Practice and hip replacement

Hands help us feel safe while balancing …

6 Gentle version of Half Moon Pose or Ardha Chandrasana with props for a safe practice.

… with sometimes only the suggestion of touch required.

7 Balance, Tadasana, yoga props and safe yoga practice while recovering from hip replacement.

You can use your hands to soothe.

5 Savasana for deep rest and healing.

When you feel pain, try finding a comfortable position in your lounge chair or bed. Place your hands over the area of pain, close your eyes, and spend some time breathing and feeling the sensation of pain. Keep your hands resting on that spot. Observe the warmth and weight of your hands. As you inhale and exhale, feel your hands move with the rise and fall of your body. This kind of gentle touch and focus of the mind promotes healing and helps manage stress.

The Homunculus (The Little Man)—What He Tells Us About Our Body 

Scientists in the late 19th and early 20th century found that when they stimulated the brain with electrical impulses they noticed how different parts of the body would twitch. They created a map of the locations in the brain that corresponded to those body parts and then created a visual map of their location and relative size.

Homunculus, the body and the brain.

How to Use Your Hands to Assist Your Yoga Practice

  • Use your hands to help train body parts. Sometimes, our toes don’t want to move how we want them to, such as spreading them wide. Use your hands to position your toes.
  • Use your hands to watch your breath. Place them on your belly, then on your chest. This can raise your awareness of how you are breathing.
  • Use your hands to locate where you are in space. Feel your rib cage as you twist to clarify if you are actually moving your thoracic spine vs. compensating with your shoulder or hip joints.
  • Place your hands on specific muscles and feel them contract or release as you move in poses. This can help you understand if you are recruiting the muscles you want to use to support your joints.
  • Do you have specific ways you use your hands in practice? Let us know in the comments.
Reprinted with permission from
Elizabeth Freeman

Elizabeth Freeman (500 E-RYT, YACEP), founder of Yoga for Hip Replacement, has practiced yoga since 1985 and has been a yoga teacher since 1997. She specializes in yoga for people with movement challenges. Her students include those with a range of chronic issues, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as those recovering from hip, knee, and shoulder surgeries.

Motivated by her own experience with two hip replacements, she founded Yoga for Hip Replacement as a resource for people preparing for and recovering from hip surgery. She aims to offer safe and accessible yoga practices that support the best hip outcome.

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