In all my years of teaching, I can easily say that hip-openers are my number one request from students. Today’s flow is designed to gently open the hips while also releasing tension and pain in the low back. Follow today’s PDF while focusing on the idea of balancing between pushing and letting go, always finding the “edge” of the pose. The edge of the pose is when you feel you’ve taken it as deep as you can, but avoid pain. Grab today’s PDF here.
“Yoga is the dance between control and surrender – between pushing and letting go – and when to push and when to let go becomes part of the creative process, part of the open-ended exploration of your being.” – Yoga Journal
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.
Cobbler’s or 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.
Lord of the Fishes Pose
Seated with both legs directly in front of you, bend into the right knee and place the right heel as close to the sitting bone as possible. Optional: Cross the right foot over to the outside of the left leg only if the entire tailbone remains on the floor. Extending the spine by lifting through the crown of the head, begin twisting over to the right side, bringing the right fingertips behind you. Bringing the left elbow to the outside of the right knee will allow you to press deeper into the twist. Optional: Look back over your right shoulder. The spine should stay tall throughout the twist, not allowing the chest to “dump” forward. Repeat on the other side.
Half-Hero Pose, with Forward Fold
Half Hero: Start seated with both legs straight in front of you (staff pose). Bring one foot to the outside of the hip, allowing the top of the foot to rest on the floor and the knee on the floor. Forward Fold: Fold forward over the straight leg, trying to keep the belly button towards the center of that leg. Bring your hands to your foot or your calf to help gently pull yourself forward. Allow the head and the shoulder to relax into the posture.
Stand at the front of the mat with the feet about hip distance apart. Spread the toes wide and press all four corners of the feet into the mat. Activate the legs, tuck the pelvis slightly under, and pull the bellybutton in towards the spine. Arms should be by your sides, palms facing forwards, allowing the shoulder blades to pull down and back, expanding the chest. The top of the head presses up towards the ceiling as the feet press into the floor, lengthening the spine.
Standing Forward Fold with Shoulder Stretch
Start standing in tadasana, stepping the feet slightly wider than hip distance. Bring the hands behind the back and clasp the fingers together. On an exhale, hinge forward at the waist as you lift the hands towards the ceiling, continuing to bring the hands forward as much as it feels good. You can also keep a slight bend in the knee. Allow the head to relax and become heavy.
Downward Facing Dog
From hand and knees, place the knees directly underneath the hips and the feet hip distance apart. Hands should reach out in front of the shoulder with the fingers spread wide and the palms fully pressing into the floor. Lifting the knees off of the floor, reach the tailbone up towards the ceiling and straighten into the legs. Press the heels towards the floor and look up at the belly button, relaxing the tops of the shoulders.
From standing, step or jump your left foot back, about 3.5 to 4 feet apart. Reach both arms out to the side, actively reaching through the fingers with the palms facing downward. Turn the right foot towards the front of the mat and angle the left foot at ninety degrees. Bending into your right leg, try and get the thigh to be parallel with the ground and the knee directly stacked on top of the ankle. The left leg will remain straight and strong. Continuing to reach through the fingertips, pull the shoulder blades back and lift into the chest, gazing at your right fingertips. The torso should be stacked directly above the hips, not reaching forwards or backwards.
Extended Side Angle Pose
From standing, step or jump your left foot back, about 3.5 to 4 feet apart. Reach both arms out to the side, actively reaching through the fingers. Turn the right foot towards the front of the mat and angle the left foot at ninety degrees. Bending into your right leg, try and get the thigh to be parallel with the ground and the knee directly stacked on top of the ankle. The left leg will remain straight and strong. Bringing the right elbow onto the right knee, continue to reach the left arm overhead. Option is to bring the right fingertips on to the ground for more intensity.
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 hand 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.
Start laying on your belly with the feet stretched back behind with the tops of the feet pressed into the mat. Bring the palms underneath the shoulders, fingers spread wide, and the elbows are pulled in. On an inhale, press into the palms as you lift the chest off the ground and pull the shoulder blades back together. The elbows should stay tucked into the sides as the chest opens and the head remains neutral, not allowing the chin to reach upwards.
From hands and knees, place the hands directly underneath the shoulders, pressing into the palms, and lifting into the tops of the shoulders. Tuck the toes and step each foot back, bringing your body into one straight line. Tuck the pelvis, pull the bellybutton up towards the spine, and press the thighs together. Aim to make one long line with the body, not allowing the tailbone to lift or the hips to drop too low.
Pigeon Pose or Resting Pigeon
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. For resting pigeon, relax the upper body down, allowing the forehead to rest on the forearms or hands.
Reclined Knee to Chest
One-Legged Support Bridge Pose
Lying on your back, bend the knees and place the feet on the floor, close to the tailbone and about hip distance apart. Place the hands palms down on both sides of the hips. On an exhale, lift the hips and the buttock up towards the ceiling. Try to keep the thighs parallel to the floor and roll the shoulder blades underneath. Bring the hands to the low back with the elbows rested on the floor to give extra support. Lift one leg off the floor at a time. This pose is great to prepare you for shoulder stand in the future.
Don’t skip this one! This may not seem like it, but it is the most difficult yoga pose that you can accomplish. Laying flat on your back, bring the arms to your side with the palms up, allowing the shoulders to roll back. Allow the toes to fall out to the side and tuck the chin in slightly to make sure the back of the neck is straight. Relax the body as much as you can and rest here for 3-5 minutes.
Enjoy this yoga flow to open tight hips and relieve low back pain. Keep this routine nearby you by printing out this one page PDF.
Questions about the routine or other ways relieve stress? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going! I am happy to help in any way I can.