Yoga Poses for Hip Opening
Hip Stretches Exercises to Warm Up with Sun Salutations
Copyright © 2012-2014 Janis Goad. All Rights Reserved.
Incorporating yoga poses for hip opening into your exercise routine will help keep flexibility in your hips as you age, and will improve performance and reduce injuries in athletes who train hard in sports like running, cycling, gymnastics, golf, tennis, soccer, and basketball.
To warm up before your workout, include a series of three to six pairs of Sun Salutations to stretch every major muscle group, especially the muscles of the thighs, the buttocks and the hips. It is important to perform Sun Salutations with the rhythm of the breath, to avoid holding the breath, and to synchronize the physical movement with the breath. If you feel sick or dizzy at any time, stop and take three deep inhales, then continue the routine.
Anjaneyasana from the Sun Salutation Sequence
Do the first pair slowly, really leaning into the stretch of each position on the exhalation, when the lungs are empty and there is internal space in the abdomen to allow the body to move deeper into the stretch. If you are stiff to start, don't push: as you continue the series the body and breath generate heat and the stiffness melts. The beauty and power of yoga come from not pushing the body aggressively, but allowing the breath to open the body. Steady, persistent practice with these yoga poses for hip opening two to five times a week will transform your body and your capacity to move forward toward your fitness goals.
How to Do Sun Salutations Hip Stretches Exercises
Are Your Hips Tight?
Do you have tight hips from running, cycling, or sitting long hours at a desk every day?
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Wide Legged Forward Folds
Wide legged forward folds stretch the adductor muscles inside the thighs, the hamstrings in the back of the thighs, and the gluteals in the buttocks.
Keep pressing both feet into the floor as if spreading the mat beneath your feet, keep the knees soft and not locked, and keep lifting the tailbone. If you are very stiff to begin, bend your knees so you feel the stretch in the thighs and buttocks, and not in the back and the knees. Use your abdominal muscles to lift your ribs away from your hips, and keep pressing your shoulders away from your ears. Breathe fully and hold the pose for three to ten breaths.
Windmill, or Wide Legged Forward Fold with Twist
For a deeper variation, bring the palm or elbow to the floor between your feet, and twist away from the supporting hand, swinging the other arm out and over your head. Picture lining up the humerus bones in your upper arms in a 180 degree line out of both shoulders. Keep pressing your bottom arm down, as you actively lift your upper arm to spread your shoulder blades across your back. Lengthen your spine. Each time you exhale, twist deeper into the space left by emptying lungs. Hold for three to ten breaths.
Wied Legged forward Fold Side Stretch
This yoga pose for hip opening incorporates a deep side stretch as it increases the stretch between the thighs, in the hamstrings, across the buttocks, and through the lower back. From standing forward fold, keep the hips level as you walk your hands to the outside of your thigh, your ankle, or the floor inside or outside your foot, according to your degree of flexibility.
Recognize that you don't have to be flexible to benefit from these yoga poses to open the hips: on the contrary, if you are stiff, and especially if you are muscular from strength training and your muscles are tight, you will benefit from regular practice of these poses. Hold them, and breathe, and if the stretch is too intense to bear, soften your knees, bring your feet closer together, move to an easier variation, and build the number of breaths you hold it for day by day.
Don't give up! you will see results.
Hip Stretches Exercises Standing: Lunge or Anjaneyasana
This variation of lunge, or anjaneyasana, brings a deep stretch to the quadriceps, iliopsoas and sartorius muscles at the front of the back leg, and the gluteals at the back of the front hip. Each time you exhale, sink the hips forward and down. Keep pressing the top of the back foot down to deepen the stretch through the back ankle, and to help with balance. If raising the hands into the backbend is too intense to start, try keeping the hands on the floor either side of the front foot, or resting the hands on the front knee.
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Warrior II or Virabhadrasana II
Warrior II, or Virabhadrasana II, is one of the most dramatic of the classical yoga poses. Correct alignment is crucial in this position to avoid damaging the joint at the knee. Keep the front knee above the heel so the front shin is vertical, or close to it. Keep pressing the front knee open toward the back of body, so the weight is distributed evenly over all four corners of the front foot to keep the front ankle from pronating. Each time you exhale, press the front knee back and sink the hips. Use the abdominal muscles to lift the ribs away from the hips, and keep pressing actively through both arms. Picture spreading the shoulder blades across your back. Relax your shoulders away from your ears. Relax your face. Press the top of your head toward the ceiling to lengthen the back of your neck. Unclench your teeth. Breathe five to ten full, slow breaths.
Tight Hips and Lower Back Pain
Do you have tight hips, short hamstrings, weak abdominals, and back pain?
Tight Hips and Sitting
How many hours a day on the average do you spend sitting--including working at a desk or computer, driving a vehicle, or sitting on the couch?
Hip Stretches Exercises Seated and Kneeling: Pigeon
Pigeon yoga pose is a deep hip opener. From a kneeling position, slide the right knee and shin forward and straighten the left leg directly behind you. Pay attention to keep the hip bones level, without sinking sideways onto the bent leg hip. If this stretch is too intense for you at first, try bringing a block or bolster or rolled towel under the bent leg hip to lift it and level the hips. Adjust your position with support so you feel the stretch in the outside of the bent leg hip and in the front of the back hip. It is important that there be no pain in the front knee--if you feel pain in the knee, you are weakening the joint at the knee, which can cause damage to the knee, so take an easier variation of the posture. Flexing the bent leg foot back toward the knee will help protect the knee.
To deepen the stretch as your hips open, slide the back leg further back to deepen the splits, and slide the front shin further forward toward a 90 degree angle with the back leg. You will feel the stretch deepen. Find the point where you feel stretch, but can still relax into the position and breathe fully.
For deeper variations, try Balancing Pigeon, as shown below, or the Balancing Pigeon with both hands clasped around your bent leg ankle or instep. Press the hand into the foot and the foot into the hand, keep pressing the back leg hip down to level the hip bones, and keep reaching forward and up through the heart to deepen the back bend and the stretch through the front of the thigh.
Keep the hands either side of the front knee with the torso vertical if that is far enough for you. If you can go deeper, walk the hands forward and bring your elboes under your shoulders, or rest fist on fist or hand on hand under your forehead, or stretch your arms fully along the floor in front of you. Find your variation, hold it and breathe fully for three to ten deep breaths.
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Seated half Twist or Matsyendrasana
To come into seated half twist from Pigeon, keep your front (left) leg bent and swing your back leg around to bring your foot to the outside of the opposite knee, as shown. Bring your left arm to the floor behind you. Reach up through the heel of your right hand, and bring the right elbow to the outside of the left thigh. Use your abdominal muscles to lift the ribs away from the hips, and twist back from the root of the spine. Keep pressing the top (right) hip into the floor to keep the hip bones level, and feel how this deepens the stretch in the outside of the right hip.
Hold for five to ten full breaths, twisting deeper into the space left by emptying lungs each time you exhale. Repeat on the opposite side.
For a deeper variation, clasp your hands as shown, or learn still deeper variations at a yoga studio near you from a teacher who can watch you and correct your alignment to avoid injury. .
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Seated Wide Legged Forward Fold
From a seated position, open both legs as wide as your body allows, and as you exhale reach forward through your heart to fold forward between your legs as shown. Picture lengthening forward through your heart more than pushing to get low toward the ground. Keep the knees soft, and flex the feet back toward the face. As you exhale, relax deeper into wherever you feel the stretch. You will feel this in the inside of the thighs and in the hamstrings, and possibly through the lower back if you are tight. At the beginning, you may benefit from sitting on a rolled towel or block to lift the hips above the heels, so you can feel the pelvis tilting forward and your spine can become straighter.
A simpler variation of this pose is Cobbler pose (not shown), which gives a gentler stretch to the hips as your flexibility develops to allow the more challenging positions. For Cobbler, or Butterfly, bring the soles of the feet together a comfortable distance in front of the hips, relax both knees open to the sides, and relax the torso forward over the feet. Breathe and relax.
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Gomukhasana
Gomukhasana is a deep stretch for both hips, especially stretching the outside of the hips, including the IT band and the Sartorius muscles. Start from a kneeling position, with the thighs crossed, then slowly lower the hips back toward the heels. At first it may be necessary to sit on a block or bolster between your feet, so you can feel some stretch in the target areas on the outsides of the hips, but you are not having pain in the knees. Only go as far into the pose as your body allows, and repeat the pose over weeks or months to gradually work deeper into the stretch.
Deeper variations relax the torso forward along the thighs, gradually walking the hands forward from either side of the knees. Eventually, once the hip stretch becomes comfortable, try clasping the hands behind the back in Eagle Arms. as shown, to incorporate a stretch through the shoulders.
Hold for three to ten breaths, breathing fully.
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Gomukhasana
Hip Stretches Exercises for the Thighs and Lower Back: Camel
For Camel, or Ustrasana quadriceps stretch, kneel with the toes together and the knees two fist widths apart. bring the hands to the floor behind you, fingers pointing back. As you exhale, press the hips forward and up, until you feel the stretch in the quadriceps muscles in the fronts of your thighs. Stay here and breathe if it is enough for you. If you can go deeper, start to walk your hands closer to your feet. Eventually, you may be able to bring your hands to your heels, as shown, and press your hips forward and up until your thighs are vertical. Keep lifting your heart, feeling a deep stretch through the front of your body, stretching your abdominal muscles, stretching and toning all the glands. If your neck is strong, relax your head back. Hold and breath.
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Camel or Ustrasana
Hip Stretches Exercises Lying on the Back
These hip opening yoga poses while lying on the back are simpler variations that will help people who may be stiff and inflexible at first and not yet ready for deeper variations.
For Window, or Happy Baby posture (not illustrated), lie on your back with your knees bent toward your chest and wider than your hips, and the soles of your feet parallel to the ceiling. Reach between your legs and bring each hand to each calf, ankle or instep, whatever you can reach. As you exhale, gently pull your knees toward the floor either side of your ribs. Keep pressing your tailbone down toward the floor, and feel how this deepens the stretch at the inside of the hips and in the lower back. Breathe fully, and hold the position for five to ten breaths.
For Extended Hand to Toe posture, lie on your back, press your lower back into the floor, and as you inhale lift your right leg above your hip. Bend the leg at the knee if you are stiff, or use a strap or belt around your raised foot instep as an assist. Clasp both hands around your calf, ankle or instep, or if your flexibility allows, reach your right hand up and hook your index and third fingers around the right big toe as your open your left arm open to the side in one line with your shoulder. Each time you exhale, gently pull your right leg toward the chest and feel the stretch in the hamstrings at the back of the right thigh and in the quadriceps at the front of the left thigh.
Hold for five to ten breaths, then as you exhale open your raised leg open to the side. Keep pressing your tailbone down. Work to keep your hips level, so you are not rolling to the side. this will deepen the stretch through the inside of the right hip.
Repeat the sequence with the other leg.
This same posture can be done standing, as it is illustrated, which develops strength and balance as it also opens the hips. When you are learning the standing variation, practice close to a wall if it helps you, and keep one or two fingers lightly on the wall as you are learning to hold the balance.
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Hand to toe Posture
Yoga Poses for Hip Opening: Wide Legged Fold on the Wall
This variation stretches the adductor muscles at the inside of the thighs, and the hamstrings. To come into legs up the wall, sit down with your hip touching the wall, then swing your feet up the wall and relax on your back. If your hamstrings are short and your hips are tight, you may need to start with your hips a comfortable distance away from the wall, and work toward approaching the wall as your body allows a deeper stretch.
As you exhale, relax your legs as wide apart as feels right for you. You may use support such as bolsters, blocks, rolled blankets or pillows under each thigh if this helps you. Once you find a position you can relax in, hold it and breathe. Keep flexing your feet back toward your knees and feel how this deepens the stretch. Hold for ten slow breaths or longer.
Final Relaxation is Key to Consolidating the Benefits of the Yoga Poses for Hip Opening
Always take five to twelve minutes of conscious relaxation at the end of your practice to relax in Svasana and breathe. This allows you to fully integrate the physical and energetic benefits of the postures, which echo on all levels of being, and not only in your body.
Enjoy this Final Guided Relaxation often, and share it widely with friends and family. It is one of the simplest and most powerful tools to manage stress and promote self-healing and wellness.
Manage Stress with Final Guided Relaxation
Regular practice of some or all of these yoga poses for hip opening will lubricate the joints of your hips, and stretch all the major muscles of the hips. Modify them as required with bent knees, yoga blocks or rolled towels to lift the hips as suggested, or do simpler variations lying of the back.
It is important to practice all yoga poses with awareness of the breath, for it is the breath that really allows the body to release resistance held in tight muscles and stiff joints, and open with gentle, persistent practice.
If you feel pain in any posture, come out. Learn an easier variation from a qualified yoga teacher at a studio near you. Yoga is not a competition or race. It is an opportunity to develop self-understanding and awareness by training us to be fully present and accepting in our bodies as they are today, without harming them through an aggressive practice.