Tight hips seem to be in a give-in in today’s world. Everything from running, to biking, to sitting in an office chair can lead to tightness, which can cause discomfort in everyday life. A great way to help alleviate this stiffness is to work on loosening your hips by working on stretching the intricate sets of muscles that keep you mobile. As do all yoga poses, the following five hip openers stem from the Five Foundational Yoga Poses (which are also great for opening your hips!) that I’ve gone over in this post, so make sure to pop over to that post for a bit of a refresher! Remember to check out my yoga tab for lots of yoga poses for stress, office workers, and runners!
Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Bound Angle pose is one of the most simple hip openers but also incredibly effective. It stretches the groin and inner thighs, allowing the whole pelvic girdle to begin warming up so the hips can start to release tension.
Start with your legs out in front of you in Staff pose. You want to make sure that you have a grounded foundation to support your back and maintain a steady upright posture. You can do this by either gently pulling the flesh away from your sits bones with your hands, or if you have a very tight lower body sitting on a folded blanket. Make sure that you are both comfortable and aware of the engagement of your body’s muscles in this pose. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor and slowly slide them back towards your body. As your feet get closer, keep your feet flexed as if you were standing on them and allow your knees to fall outward towards the floor. With the sides of your flexed feet on the floor, use your hands to gently pull your feet towards your body. Make sure not to force your joints in this pose, let your knees fall to where is comfortable, but low enough to the ground that you still feel a stretch. Keep you torso engaged, as this will help the stretch to feel deeper. You may stay here for a few minutes as a gentle warm up.
Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
Despite its ridiculous name, Cow Face pose is an incredible hip opener that is especially helpful with tight outer hips. In its full expression, with the arm bind included, it is also a great stretch for your shoulders, chest, and triceps.
Start in Staff pose. As with bound angle pose, find a comfortable seat either grounded on the floor or steady on a blanket. Bend your knees and with the soles of your feet on the floor draw them towards your body. Slide your left under your right knee heading for the outside of your right hip. Then stacking your knees on top of one another, cross your right leg over the left with your right foot reaching towards your left hip. It is perfectly okay if your feet don’t reach your hips and your knees don’t touch quite yet.
Ease yourself into the pose and stop when your body tells you too. If you intend on adding the arm bind, let your right arm fall to the ground beside you. Bend your elbow so that, with your palm facing the wall behind you, you hand comes to rest on your lower back. Rotate your forearm so that your hand begins to reach towards your shoulders. Then, stretch your left arm to the sky with your palm facing the wall behind you and bend your elbow so that your left hand reaches for your right. If you can get your hands to clasp, the same stretch is accomplished if you hold a strap between your hands bridging the gap. Switch sides.
Garland Pose (Malasana)
Garland pose is another rather intense pose that focuses on your thighs and inner hips. I tend to find myself hanging out in this pose even when watching television to let a bit of the day’s stress melt out of my legs. As an added bonus Malasana also works your abs and back, working on core strength.
Start standing in Tadasana (Mountain) with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Keeping your heels on the ground, or on a folded up blanket is your heels pop up, squat down towards the floor. Separate your thighs, and nestle your torso in between them. Find your balance then place your hands together palms side in and adjust your arms so that your elbows are pressing against your inner knees. Press into your knees with your elbows and resist with your thighs, and you might start to feel the back of your hips begin to open.
Frog Pose (Mandukasana)
Frog Pose is an intense hip opener- make sure that you are thoroughly warmed up before attempting to go deeply into this posture! This pose stretches your inner thighs, groin, and pretty much your entire hip girdle. I love coming into this pose after an intense workout to release tension in my lower body!
Start in Downward Dog with your feet wider than your hips, in a wider stance that you would normally take in down dog. Bring your knees down to the ground (or a blanket if you have sensitive knees) and then lower your arms so that you are resting on your forearms, palms face down. Flex your feet like you were standing on them and rotate them outward so that the knife-edges of your feet rest on the ground. This action helps to allow your inner knees come to touch the floor. Carefully slide your hips open to where it is comfortable and balance your weight evenly between your arms and legs. Make sure to come out of this pose the same way you came in, paying close attention to keeping your feet flexed, which protects your knees!
Lotus Pose (Padmasana)
The full expression of lotus pose is another very intense hip opener. Make sure that you are very warmed up and are careful of your knees! There are lots of modifications of Lotus, and I know that I use a different modification of the pose depending on how my body feels that day! This pose stimulates the pelvis, opens the hips, and is quite invigorating if you need a quick pick-me-up!
Start in Staff pose with a tall seat either on the floor or the edge of a folded blanket. Bend your right knee and bring it close to your body with the sole of your foot flat on the floor. Keeping your foot flexed as if you were standing on it, use your arms to pick up your bent leg, bring your ankle towards your body so it comes to near even with your knee, like you were cradling a baby. Give it a good hug to stretch your outer thigh, then repeat on the opposite leg. Once again, cradle your right leg and place your flexed foot on your left thigh. This is your first variation.
For your second, bend your left knee and pull your flexed ankle towards your body and slide it under your right knee so that your shins are stacked. Now here comes the tricky part: to get into the full expression of lotus, let your left ankle drift so that it is out from under your right knee and grab hold with your hands. Shift your body weight back towards your sit bones and lean back slightly. Very carefully slide your flexed left ankle over your right shin and let your left foot rest on your right thigh. Re-center your weight and lower yourself down into full lotus. Let your body guide you as to how deep it wants to go into lotus, this is a posture that you have to work for!
I love hip openers, and I feel that they are pretty much omnipresent in almost all asanas (poses) so if you are looking for more hip openers be sure to check out my Yoga Poses for Office Workers post (especially Eagle pose) and my Yoga Poses for Runners post (especially Pigeon pose!)
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