I’ve been a yoga teacher for many years and one of the most common complaints for students is tight hips. I totally understand the pain! My hips have always been the place in my body that gives me the most pushback when it comes to asana. I also understand though that our hips are all made quite differently. Some people have no issue putting their legs behind their head while others may not ever be able to get there. This is mainly because of how our legs are put into the joints.
But I digress, I’m not here to talk about how to make your hips more flexible so you can put your legs behind your head. I’m here to help you get your hips more flexible so you feel better in your day-to-day life; so you can run and play with your kids or go do activities on the weekends without worrying about the price you’ll pay afterward.
Want to flow now? Watch yoga video here.
Some of my favorite hip stretches include:
- pigeon pose
- sukhasana forward fold
- reclined pigeon
- figure four chair
- cow face pose
- half splits
- firelog pose
I’ll breakdown some of these poses for you so you can practice at home:
Sukhasana Forward Fold
I’m not really sure what the name of this one is but this is what I call it. It’s an easy seated pose, with legs crossed, where you tilt your pelvis forward while reaching your chest forward and draw the shoulders back. Tuck the chin slightly to lengthen the neck. Only go as far as you can without rounding the back. Hold on both sides for 5 or more breaths.
I love lizard pose because there are a lot of variations for all levels of student. It’s basically a deep, low lunge with your hands or forearms inside of the front foot. You can put your hands on blocks or lower your elbows onto them to go deeper, eventually maybe bringing your elbows onto the mat. The key with this pose, and any pose, is to not worry about where you think you “should” be going in the pose, but to go to where you feel comfortable. You want to feel sensation but never pain, strain or pulling so keep that in mind during this sequence. Repeat on other side and hold for 5 or more breaths.
Figure Four Chair
This pose is like a standing pigeon pose. One leg is in pigeon and one is in chair. Make sure to push the hips back and tilt the pelvis forward so you can keep a long spine. Reach the chest forward and draw the shoulders back toward each other. The standing knee is bent, like you’re sitting in a chair, and the foot of the lifted leg is crossed right above the opposite knee while you push the balancing knee down toward the ground for a stretch in the hip. Repeat on other side and hold for five or more breaths.
This pose is one where you REALLY need to listen to your body. Make sure not to push past any limits for sure! From downward dog or hands and knees, bring your right knee to the outside of your right wrist while the foot swings over to the left side of the mat. Keep the back leg extended long so it is parallel to the long edge of the mat. Keep your upper body lifted or come down onto your forearms for more intensity. Repeat on other side and hold for 5 or more breaths.
Malasana, or garland pose, is a deep yogic squat. This pose may not be suitable for you especially if you have cranky knees, tight calves or tight ankles so skip this one if necessary. Squat down while lifting your heels and bring your hands to the ground in between your knees. Have your knees pointing outward and your heels turned in. If it’s available to you, bring your heels to the ground but otherwise keep them lifted. Feel free to put a yoga bolster under your sitting bones here to make it more of a resting pose while still getting the benefits of opening the hips. Keep the spine long and the heart lifted. Hold for 5 or more breaths.
Cow Face Pose
This pose has always been an intense one for me but if you’ve done all the other poses mentioned above, and you could do them somewhat comfortably, this one should be fine. To get into the pose, come to seated. Cross the legs at the knees and have the right knee on the bottom first. Point that knee straight forward as you cross the left leg as far over the bottom leg as possible, working toward stacking the knees but being OK with that never happening. Sit up tall and bring your right arm up overhead, bend the elbow and start reaching your hand down your spine. Bring the left arm behind you, bend it, and start bringing the left hand UP the spine toward the right hand. If your hands don’t touch each other, feel free to use a yoga strap or a regular belt or tie you have laying around the house to pull the hands gently toward each other. Please use a bolster to sit on if both sitting bones don’t touch the ground firmly. Tilt the pelvis forward and lean forward if you need to feel more sensation. Hold on each side for 5 or more breaths.
If you’re not ready to put a flow together on your own or just want some guidance, join me in this short yoga flow for tight hips! Let me know in the comments how it made you feel and please share this pose if you think it can help others!