Most conventional exercises do not focus on the hip because they’re aimed at developing muscles that you can see, like your shoulders, biceps, abs, or glutes. In the yogic tradition, the hips are considered to store negative feelings and pent-up emotions, especially ones related to control in our lives. Physically, when hip flexors and external hip rotators are tight, the next closest place of mobility will be affected, which is usually the lumbar spine. Opening up the hip muscles bring more balance and stability in your body and also helps you do advanced asanas. Start with these 7 hip-openers to feel the difference.
1. Reclined Bound Angle Pose
Lie down comfortably on your back, with your legs extended and your arms at your sides, palms face up toward the ceiling.
Bend your knees to bring the soles (bottoms) of your feet together to touch. The outer (pinky toe) edges of your feet should be resting on the mat. Let the legs fall open and allow gravity to support the weight of the legs.
Check in with your body. If your hips and groin are feeling tight, you can take your feet further away from your body; alternately, if you’re feeling more open, you can bring your feet closer toward your body to deepen the stretch.
Relax your shoulders away from your ears and allow your back body to sink more deeply into the mat. Stay in the pose anywhere from one to five minutes, depending on your level of comfort.
To come out of the pose, take the palms of the hands on the outer thighs to gently fold the legs together, and bring the soles of the feet flat down on the mat. Then, hug your knees into your chest and gently rock from side to side to release the low back.
2. Frog Pose
Start by lying down on your front. On an exhale, bend your knees, stretch your arms back, and hold the inside edge of each foot (so that your thumb faces up and your palm faces out) with the corresponding hand. Take two breaths here.
On an exhale, lift your head and torso away from the floor and look up. Pivot your hands on your feet so that your palms press into the top of each foot and your fingers point forward, towards your head.
Push your hands down to further close your knee joints and bring your toes and heels closer to the ground. Keep your elbow and wrist joints at 90 degrees.
Remain in the pose for 15 to 30 seconds. Do not hold your breath. On an exhale, release your palms from your feet, stretch your legs back and relax.
3. Thread-The-Needle Pose
Begin on your hands and knees. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat.
Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Center your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward. This is Table Pose.
On an exhalation, slide your right arm underneath your left arm with your palm facing up. Let your right shoulder come all the way down to the mat. Rest your right ear and cheek on the mat, then gaze toward your left.
Keep your left elbow lifting and your hips raised. Do not press your weight onto your head; instead, adjust your position so you do not strain your neck or shoulder.
Let your upper back broaden. Soften and relax your lower back. Allow all of the tension in your shoulders, arms, and neck to drain away.
Hold for up to one minute. To release, press through your left hand and gently slide your right hand out. Return to Table Pose. Then repeat the pose on the opposite side for the same length of time.
4. One-Legged Pigeon Pose
Begin in Downward-Facing Dog pose, or on your hands and knees in Table Pose. Bring your right knee between your hands, placing your right ankle near your left wrist. Extend your left leg behind you so your kneecap and the top of your foot rest on the floor.
Press through your fingertips as you lift your torso away from your thigh. Lengthen the front of your body. Release your tailbone back toward your heels. Work on squaring your hips and the front side of your torso to the front of your mat.
Draw down through your front-leg shin and balance your weight evenly between your right and left hips. Flex your front foot. Press down through the tops of all five toes of the back foot. Gaze downward softly.
Hold for up to one minute. To release the pose, tuck your back toes, lift your back knee off the mat, and then press yourself back into Downward-Facing Dog. Repeat for the same amount of time on the other side.
5. Low Lunge Pose
Start in Downward Facing Dog Pose. Exhale and take your right foot forwards. Bend lower to make the right knees align with the right foot.
The left lower leg including the left knee can be on the floor giving support. At this stage, you will feel a good stretch in the left thighs and groins.
Inhale slowly and raise your torso up. At the same time, raise both your hands up above the head. The palms can touch each other in the raised position. Tilt your head slightly backwards and look up.
Remain in this position for as long as you are comfortable. One can hold the breath in the final position or you can breathe slowly and normally.
To release the pose, exhale and bring down the hands to the floor and come back to Adho Mukha Svanasana or the downward facing dog pose. Repeat the same procedure with the left leg forwards.
6. Camel Pose
Kneel on the yoga mat and place your hands on the hips. Your knees should be in line with the shoulders and the sole of your feet should be facing the ceiling.
As you inhale, draw in your tail-bone towards the pubis as if being pulled from the navel. Simultaneously, arch your back and slide your palms over your feet till the arms are straight.
Do not strain or flex your neck but keep it in a neutral position. Stay in this posture for a couple of breaths.
Breathe out and slowly come back to the initial pose. Withdraw your hands and bring them back to your hips as you straighten up.
7. Reclining Hero Pose
Begin kneeling on the floor with your inner knees together and your thighs perpendicular to the floor. Open your feet slightly wider than your hips. Keep the tops of your feet flat on the floor and your big toes angled in toward each other. Press down evenly across the tops of both feet.
Exhaling, sit down between your feet. Rest your weight equally across both sit bones. Keep your feet directly in line with your shins. Do not let your feet either splay wide open or turn inward. This is Hero Pose (Virasana).
Once you feel comfortable in Virasana, place your hands on the floor behind you. Lean your weight into your hands, then lower your elbows and forearms to the floor.
If you are confident and comfortable with no pain, continue to lower yourself all the way to the floor. Allow your thigh bones to release deep into your hip sockets. Beginners may have the knees slightly apart (an inch or two); those with more flexibility should keep the thighs pressing together. Do not let your knees splay wider than your hips.
Rest your arms at your sides. Draw your inner groin up and into your pelvis. Lift your sternum, create length between your vertebrae, and broaden across your collarbones.
Tuck your chin slightly toward your chest, and softly gaze down the center line of your body. Hold the pose for up to one minute. As you gain flexibility, and the pose becomes restful, you can stay in it for 5-10 minutes.
To release the pose, press your weight into your forearms. Slowly come onto your hands, and gently press yourself back into Virasana. Cross your ankles and shins beneath your body, and then extend your legs straight out in front of you.