8 Hip-Opening Yoga Poses
"Yoga adds years to our life and life to our years." - Alan Finger
Anytime I ask my yoga students what they want to focus on for the day, it is nearly always hip openers. Therefore, I am sharing some eight hip-opening yoga poses you can easily do at home.
Experiencing tight hips is one of the many symptoms of the desk-bound lifestyle that most of us lead. Quite frankly, we just sit way too much. This causes tightness in the hip flexors and rotators. This also causes the gluteal muscles to weaken. In other words, it causes some serious damage! These symptoms can cause negative impacts in how we walk, the ability to maintain proper posture, and can cause spinal issues. Yuck!
Hip tightness can express itself through lower back pain or muscle stiffness, especially in the hamstrings and inner thighs. In fact, tightness in the deeper hip muscles (glutes, piriformis, gemelli, etc.) can cause issues with the pelvis being able to tilt properly and is sometimes the main culprit for the inability to tight your toes, not always the hamstrings themselves.
There is good news! Stretching out your hips does not have to be hard. I actually practice the majority of my hip stretches in bed. The poses below are great stretches to add to your day.
Bound Angle Pose
Start from seated position with your legs out straight in front of you. Bend into the knees and bring the souls of the feet together, allowing the knees to fall out to each side. Pull the heels as close to the pelvis as comfortable, keeping the hands wrapped around the ankles and lift your chest forwards. Hold here for a couple breaths. Then walk the fingers forwards and allow the head to drop, rounding into the back.
Benefits: strengthens and stretched the inner thighs, groin, and hips. It's also great for menstrual cramps.
Seated Wide Legged Forward Fold
Start seated with both legs stretched out straight in front of you. Spread the legs out away from each other as far as comfortable for you, pulling back the flesh of the buttock so you are sitting directly on the tailbone. Place the hands out in from of the pelvis and lift through the chest as you lean forward, keeping a straight back. Remain here for a couple breaths, then fold forward completely, allowing the head to drop forward and the back to round. Hands can continue to walk forward or reach out for the ankles.
Benefits: Stretches the inner thighs, groin, hamstrings. It also promotes a healthy pelvis.
From downward facing dog, step the right foot up in between the hands, making sure that the knee is stacked right over the foot. Step the left foot slightly out to the side and angle the foot at a 45 degree angle towards the front of the mat. Center your hips forward by pressing your left hip towards the front of the mat and your right hip back. Reach the hands over head, keeping the shoulders drawn back and the belly pulled in.
Benefits: Strengthens pretty much the entire body while stretching the hips, chest, and lungs. It is also a great pose for energizing the body and finding focus.
Standing Wide Legged Forward Fold
From standing, turn to face the long edge of your yoga mat and step or hop your feet wide and parallel, about 3 feet apart. Turn the toes inward and the heels out. Place the hands on the hips and start to hinge forward from the waist, keeping the back as straight as possible. When you have gone as far as you can with a straight back, release the head down and allow the back to round, bringing the hands to the floor or the ankles. Hold here for 5-10 breaths. To come back up, bring the hands back to the hips and rise with a flat back.
Benefits: Stretches and strengthens the hamstrings, calves, hips, low back, and spine.
From downward facing dog, step the right foot up in between the hands, making sure that the knee is stacked right over the foot. Lower the left knee onto the ground and slide the left foot back until you have a comfortable stretch in the hip and groin, keeping the right knee stacked over the ankle. Walk the right foot out to the edge of the mat, bringing both hands to the inside of the right foot. Stay here if it is enough of a stretch or lower down to one or both elbows, using yoga blocks if you have them. Try to relax into this deep stretch and keep your breath strong.
Benefits: Strengthens the inner thigh muscles on the front leg and opens the hips, hamstrings, groins and hip flexors. It is a great prep pose before the deeper pigeon pose below.
Resting Pigeon Pose
Starting in downward facing dog, pull the right knee up in between the hands, resting it own on the inside of the right foot. Gently lower the body onto the ground, reaching through the left toes. Press your fingertips into the ground and lift up through the torso, opening the chest. Try to balance the weight evenly between your right and left hip. Gradually, lower the chest towards the ground and allow the top of the forehead to rest on your hands or forearms.
Benefits: Stretches the hip rotators and hip flexors. It also stretches into some deeper muscles, such as the psaos, deeper parts of the glute, and groin. It is a great relief for sciatic pain.
Lying on your back, bend the knees and place the feet on the floor, close to the tailbone and about hip distance apart. Lift your right foot off the ground and place the outside of the ankle on top of the left thigh, opening the right knee out and away from the chest. For beginners, stay here and press your right hand into the right knee to increase the stretch. For a deeper stretch, reach the right hand between the inside of the legs and the left hand around the outside of the left leg. Bring the hands together behind the left thigh or on top of the left shin and pull both knees towards the chest, continuing to press the right knee away from the body.
Benefits: Stretches the hamstrings and the quads, while opening into the hips. This pose is another good one for relieving sciatic and low back pain.
Happy Baby Pose
Start lying on the back. Bend your knees into your chest and separate the feet and knees wide, holding on to the outer edges of the feet. Open your knees slightly wider than your torso, then bring them up toward your armpits. Rock side to side on the back, actively pulling the knees wide and towards the floor.
Benefits: Opens the hips, inner thighs, and groin. Stretches the hamstrings. Releases the lower back and massages the spin. Plus, it makes you smile 🙂
Questions? Comment below and let's get the conversation going! What are your favorite hip-opening poses? What other yoga tips are you looking for?
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