Yoga students across the board love to… hate hip openers. Though they feel oh-so-good afterward, yoga poses that get deep into the hips are often uncomfortable to move into and even more challenging to hold. But despite this, hip openers are also some of the most powerful poses around. Learn more about the juicy benefits of hip openers below, as well as a few reviving and relieving postures you can start practicing right now.
Why Are Hip Openers So Good For Us?
Most of us spend the majority of our day sitting down, bound to a desk job. Among a myriad of other health problems, our sedentary lifestyles result in excessively tight hips. That’s because when we sit, we shorten our hips flexors and tighten our hip rotators. And tight hips can mean excess strain on the spine and limited mobility —side effects, we can all agree, no one wants.
Luckily, yoga poses that lengthen and stretch the hips lead not only to increased flexibility but also mental and emotional well-being. In yogic tradition, it is believed that we store a lot of negative emotions and feelings in our hips. By practicing hip openers, we allow these suppressed emotions to come to the surface. This in turn enables us to release fully that which no longer serves us. And that means more energy and space to grow and flourish into our best selves.
There are numerous yoga poses that work different areas of the hips. Get started with these five juicy hip openers, guaranteed to help you release and revive:
Though it might not look like it on the surface, there is a lot going on in Warrior II. This pose stretches and strengthens the legs, arms, ankles, shoulders, chest, and — of course — the hips. If your hips are excessively tight, make necessary adjustments to avoid any hip injuries as you eventually work to open them more. This might include bracing yourself against a chair or the wall for support.
Keep the front knee from “rolling” in by stepping the feet farther apart and pointing the toes out slightly. Additionally, imagine an outer rotation of the thighs to further stretch through the inner hips. Stay in Warrior II for as long as you can, knowing that you are working your hips while also cultivating… inner strength and courage!
Lunges allow you to dig deep into the inner hips, groin, and thighs, and are especially potent after a prolonged period of sitting or traveling. From a high lunge, sink the back leg down to the ground to come to the knee. Stay here, allowing your breath to help you sink into the hips. If you have no knee injuries, you can also consider lifting the back foot and grabbing onto it with your hands. This will deepen the intensity of the lunge. Hold the posture for 30 seconds, and then switch sides.
Always remember to protect your knees. Use blankets or roll your yoga mat up as needed to provide extra cushioning.
Perhaps the most famous hip opener, Pigeon Pose is a fantastic way to release anxiety and negative energy. The key is to move into the pose with awareness and then let go of any lingering tension, both physically and mentally.
To get the most out of Pigeon Pose, keep your hips square to the front of your mat. The back leg extends in line with the hip without sickling the ankle. Lengthen through the spine and chest, and then if you feel you can move deeper, begin to fold the torso over the bent front leg. Try to acknowledge the difference between being in pain and being uncomfortable. If it’s anxiety you’re feeling, then stay in the pose and allow that which does not serve you to come up to the surface and fully release.
Standing Figure 4 Pose
This pose is twice the fun because not only does it allow you to work on your hips, it also challenges your balance! Lift one leg high, and then take it across the oppose leg just above the knee. Sink back into your hips until you can feel the stretch deeply. Stay here, or begin to fold over the bent leg. One of the beautiful things about Standing Figure 4 Pose is that you can play around with it until you find the sweet spot that works for you and your body! This pose is also a great alternative to pigeon as you have more control over the amount of intensity on the hips.
The ultimate hip opener, Shoelace Pose should only be practiced if you are already warmed up. From a relaxed seated position, stack your left foot so that it lies just above your right knee. Your right foot will lie on the ground, just below your left knee. Inhale deeply, then begin to fold forward over your legs. Ideally your top knee will drop down to touch your bottom foot. Don’t worry if this doesn’t happen! Focus on feeling opening and stretching through the hips and eventually you will get there.
If you cannot move into Shoelace Pose without collapsing in the lower back, then sit up on a block to create more space.
Hip openers may not always be fun, but the total mind-body-spirit benefits of the postures are unavoidable. If you find yourself shying away from working on your hips, it is likely a sign that… you need it the most. So grab a yoga mat and take some time to release and revive!
What about you? Do you have your favourite way to work on hips? Share in the comments section below.