Hip Opener Bliss: Yoga Poses for Greater Flexibility
June 7, 2023
Ah, hip openers! If you’ve ever been to a yoga class inviting requests for poses, you already know that hip opener asanas and stretches are among the most frequently made requests. There are many reasons for the popularity of these yoga poses: they can help you relax and improve your overall flexibility.
Perhaps more importantly, mobilizing your hips can have a positive effect on every single aspect of your day. From getting out of bed in the morning to walking up a set of stairs, or relaxing on your couch, tight hips make every movement harder. Here’s why so many of us are struggling with our hip flexors and how yoga can help.
Why We Develop Tight Hips
Having tight hip muscles and tendons is more common than you think, and there are both physical and emotional reasons for that.
On the physical side, many of us spend a large part of our day with our hips flexed. We drive our cars to work, spend hours sitting in front of a computer, and finish the day watching an episode of something on the couch. These activities may not seem all that similar at first glance. But take a look at your hips during any of them, and you’ll realize that they are in almost exactly the same position.
Exercises like running or cycling get you moving. However, your hip position remains effectively the same for the duration. Emotionally speaking, we tend to carry a lot of stress and tension in our hips. Just as you may feel your neck and shoulders grow tense when things get tough, your hips also pick up on the emotion and start tightening.
Over time, tightness in your hips can become uncomfortable and even limit your range of motion.
Yoga Stretches To Help Open Your Hip Joints
Luckily, yoga offers a wide range of hip opener poses from gentle stretches to intense postures that help counteract the effects of being sedentary or overexercising. Here are some of the Uptown Yoga team’s favorite hip openers to try:
- Gentle – Happy Baby Pose
- Gentle – Low Lunge
- Moderate – Yoga Squat
- Moderate – Bridge Pose
- Moderate – Reclining Pigeon Pose
As with all asanas, there are variations available to help make poses more or less challenging. Start with easy stretches and increase the intensity as your hips start opening up.
1. Happy Baby Pose
Take a look at how babies and young children move. They grab their feet with ease and seem to be able to move their hips in all directions. Happy baby pose helps you recover some of that ease.
Start with your back on the mat and grad the soles of your feet from the outside, pulling your knees toward you. For some, this is already an intense stretch. Try moving from side to side and massaging your lower back to invite movement into your hips. Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds.
2. Low Lunge
Low lunges are a great pose if you want to gradually build the intensity of your stretch. Begin with your right leg forward, keeping your knee aligned with your ankle. Extend your left leg straight back with your toes stretched behind you and your knee on the floor.
Lift your torso and lean forward to intensify the stretch. For an even deeper stretch, raise your arms overhead. Hold for 30 seconds before changing sides.
3. Yoga Squat
If your hips are really tight, this pose may require a few attempts. Be gentle with yourself and allow your hips to become gradually more flexible.
Start from a standing position and turn your toes out at approximately 45 degrees. With your hands in a prayer position, lower your buttocks and bring your elbows to the inside of your knees. Visualize your spine extending. Try moving from side to side to encourage your hips to open further. Hold for 30 seconds before slowly rising.
4. Bridge Pose
Bridge poses are backbends, but they also deliver an amazing stretch to the front of your hips and quads. Consider this pose after an intense workout or if you’ve been sitting all day. It has the power to make tightness and discomfort disappear within a few breaths.
Start by lying on your mat with your knees bent. Press into the floor and lift your hips off the ground as far as you can. Check in with your shoulders and make sure they’re not rounded. Instead, try rolling onto their outer edges. Hold for several breaths, then gently lower your back vertebrae by vertebrae.
5. Reclining Pigeon Pose
This pose combines a hip opener movement with a stretch of your lower back. It also benefits your glutes and external rotators.
Start by lying on your mat with your knees bent. Lift your left ankle over your right knee, pushing your left knee toward the bottom of the mat. To make the stretch more intense, cross your hands behind your right leg and pull it toward your chest. Hold for 30 seconds before changing legs.
How to Integrate Hip Opener Poses into Your Practice
The list above is by no means exhaustive. It’s simply meant to give you a little inspiration to start integrating hip-friendly asanas into your daily yoga practice. If you’re new to yoga, don’t be afraid to experiment with gentle stretches. Let your body guide you – you’ll know which poses help you feel better and which may be too intense right now. Practice these stretches a few times every week, and you’ll soon feel the difference every time you move. There is no hard and fast rule about how often to practice hip opener poses, but the more consistent you are, the sooner you will feel the benefit.
Need More Inspiration?
If you’re not sure how to integrate hip openers into your daily practice, join our team of instructors for a class at Uptown Yoga, and don’t hesitate to ask for hip opener stretches. We promise that everyone in the class will benefit from your request!
Alternatively, talk to us about arranging a few private yoga classes to help you target your hips or other areas specifically. We’re always happy to help you move more freely and feel better physically and emotionally.