One of the most requested anatomical yoga posts here on MHH is all about hip flexors! From runners to climbers and every athlete in between, hip flexors help athletes move in many ways- picking up your knees to bending at the waist. Opening the hip creases allows for more fluid movement as well as greater hip mobility.
Some of the poses below are advanced, so make sure you warm up before adding them into your practice.
I teach from the 5 Foundational Yoga Poses: Click here for explanations!
Start in Downward Facing Dog. Exhale and bring your right foot to your nose, then extend and place the foot between your hands, making sure your knee is stacked over your ankle and makes a 90-degree angle with the floor. Drop your left knee to the mat (you can fold the mat over underneath your knee if you’d like extra padding.)
Inhale and sweep your arms and torso to the sky, extending tall through the fingers. Make a point to draw your whole body towards your midline, steadying yourself. If you feel comfortable you can sink lower into your lunge making sure that your knee remains at 90 degrees and your ribs remain pulled into your torso- no rib tips sticking out! Take 5 breaths here then place your hands on your mat, step back into plank, push up to Downward Dog and repeat on the opposite side.
Want to add an extra stretch to your low lunge? Try catching your back extended leg.
Great for stretching out those hip creases, strengthening the core, and working on balance dancer does it all!
Start in Tadasana. Shift your weight onto the left foot and find your ground. Bend your left knee and start to lift the heel of your left foot towards your left buttocks. Keeping your torso upright, grab onto the outside of left foot with your left hand. Press your foot into your hand, extend your right arm out in front of your body for balance and as you feel ready, lift the left thigh so that it is parallel with the floor, foot comes high. Breathe here and repeat on the opposite side.
Want more of a challenge? As you reach your left hand back flip the palm towards the sky and grab hold of the inside of the left foot. As you press into the pose, rotate the shoulder so that your elbow bends and points at the ceiling. Hold and repeat on the opposite side.
There are a few stages to Wheel Pose that as you work up the strength and flexibility in your core, back, arms, and legs, you can work up to! Start by working into bridge pose. Start in Staff pose and lower your torso to the ground so that you are supine with your arms beside you.
Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor so that your feet are stacked underneath your knees. Pressing your feet, legs, and arms energetically to the floor, begin to lift your buttocks off of the floor. Continue to lift until your buttocks and thighs are just about parallel to the floor, so that your body forms a straight line. Lift your arms so that the extend out beyond the crown of your head and then bend your elbows, palms come down to the earth with the fingers facing down towards your shoulders. Press your palms into the earth and using arm strength press up until you are resting on the crown of your head.
If this feels accessible, take a deep inhale and extend your arms to straighten them, sending your chest up towards the ceiling and lifting your head off of the ground. Press your shoulder blades into your back and lift your hip creases up towards the sky. As you are ready to come down lower in the same steps that you came up into the pose with.
Camel pose is quite advanced, so make sure that you are fully warmed up (especially your back, groin, and shoulders) before attempting this back extension! One of my favorite things about Camel is that there are so many different variations that build on from one variation to the next! As you shine your heart forward and let you throat open, Camel provides a stress and anxiety release!
Start kneeling on your mat, knees just about hip distance apart, with your thighs perpendicular to the floor, and your feet either flat on the floor (I prefer this, but it is personal preference) or with your toes tucked under. Press your shins, knees, and feet energetically into the floor, creating a stable base that you can pull up and away from. Reach from the crown of your head upward, elongating your spine and breathing length into your torso. Start to shine your heart forward, drawing your shoulders back, letting your collarbones broaden, and opening your chest towards the sky. Let your hands hang here, or place them on your lower back and notice how you have already begun your back extension and are in an expression of Camel pose!
Make sure to listen to your body, each variation of this pose is equally as beneficial for stress relief! If you feel comfortable and stable in this position, you may deepen your back extension. To deepen the back ‘bend’ here we want to extend the upper back without compressing your lower back. Focus on creating the apex of your ‘bend’ in upper back, instead of bending from the waist. A great way of doing this is to place your hands on your lower back, fingers facing upward and extend outward, over your fingers. Make sure to pay attention to your neck, keeping it engaged and long. As your extension grows deeper, reach your hands towards your heels, making contact if possible. Also, pay attention to your ribs, making sure that they aren’t poking out and that they are engaged and streamlined with your torso!
Breathe here, and allow your body to soften while still maintaining strength. When you are ready to come out of the pose, inhale, release your hands from your feet, and rise back to your starting position.
Do you have tight hip flexors? What poses do you do that help? Let me know in the comments below!
And, I’m taking requests! What body part would you like to work on?