One day after class, one of my students asked me why so many people tend to suffer from tight hips. I thought about it for a moment and replied: “Life”. That’s the short and somewhat flippant answer, but the truth is that so many everyday activities (or lack thereof) can have an enormous effect on the health of our hips.
Why We Develop tight hips
If you run or cycle or participate in a sport, chances are you use your hips to take part in these activities as the muscles around the hips which are used to drive the legs get tight due to constant contraction. If you work at a desk or sit for extended periods of time, the muscles around hips may also tend to shorten due to underuse.
In addition to the physical reasons for tight hips, there are also theories that suggest there is a connection between stress and emotions and the hips. This means in our modern lives where we are almost always in a heightened state of stress, this stress can manifest itself physically in our bodies in the form of tight hips.
The poses below will help alleviate tightness in your hips. Hold each of these poses for 10 deep, slow breaths if you can, but remember to take your time building up to this length! Ultimately, listen to your body and never stay in a pose that feels painful.
1. Runners Lunge (Sanskrit: Anjaneyasana)
BENEFITS: Stretches the hip flexors
- From downward dog raise right leg up and step it between your hands
- Lower the back knee down to the floor
- Interlace your hands at the middle of the front thigh and as you inhale move your hips forward and down, as you exhale lift the hips up and back
- MODIFICATIONS: You can pad up the back knee with a cushion or blanket to make yourself more comfortable
2. Pigeon Pose (Sanskrit: Kapotasana)
BENEFITS: Stretches the external rotators, hip extensors and hip flexors
- From runners lunge (described above), bring your hands to the floor
- Move the right foot towards your left hand and lower the right knee down to the floor so your shin is parallel to the front of your mat
- Walk the left leg as far back as feels comfortable. You can stay in an upright position with hands under shoulders but if it feels comfortable you can walk your hands forwards and fold from the hips
- MODIFICATIONS: Place a rolled up blanket, cushion or block under the front hip if you find this pose challenging
3. Head-to-Knee Pose (Sanskrit: Janusirsana)
BENEFITS: Stretches the hamstrings (hip extensors) and piriformis (external rotator)
- From a seated position on the floor extend both legs out and place the right ankle on the left thigh
- Flex both feet, stretch the arms overhead as you inhale and fold forward as you exhale
- MODIFICATION: Place a blanket on the extended knee and ensure you don’t round the back
4. Bound Angle Pose (Sanskrit: Baddha Konasana)
BENEFITS: Stretches the adductors
- Sit with the soles of your feet together and knees apart.
- If you can breathe comfortably and there is no discomfort in the knees you can fold forward
- MODIFICATIONS: An alternative to folding forward is to lean back, moving to a reclined position or to place blocks or rolled up blankets under the thighs. You can even place your legs up a wall in this position
5. Frog Pose (Sanskrit: Bhekasana)
BENEFITS: Stretches the adductors
- Start on all fours with hands under shoulders and hips over knees
- Bring the big toes together and walk the knees as far apart as comfortable
- Move hands and hips forward under the hips are lined up with the knees
- MODIFICATIONS: The inner knees can be padded up with blankets and a bolster placed under the chest
Join Rishin’s Yoga for Open Hips class every Wednesday, where you’ll work through poses to open the hips which can ease lower back pain and help with postural alignment.
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