Tight hips are one of the most common conditions in the Western Culture. This is due in large part to the fact that we sit in chairs for long periods of time, and because we generally do not sit in hip opening positions like a squat very often, if ever.
Tight hips can lead to a whole host of issues like lower back pain, misalignments in the spine, and can even lead to injury. The hip joints are actually very unique joints, known as ball and socket joints. This allows for a much greater range of motion than say the elbow joint or the knee joint.
That is why you need to open the front, back and sides of your hips to really get a good stretch. Here are my five favorite hip opening postures. I recommend that you warm up a little, and then hold each stretch for 30 seconds to a minute.
1. Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Low lunge is one of the best postures you can do to open the front of your hips. This posture effectively reverses the normal position of the hips when you are sitting in a chair, which is exactly what most of us need, especially if you work in an office environment.
Begin in a normal lunge position, and then slowly lower your back knee to the ground. From here, you can push your hips forward to the degree that feels good for you.
Breathe and hang out, then practice on the other side.
2. Half King Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
I can understand if you have a love/hate relationship with this posture. It can be very intense, and it can actually be dangerous for the knee if you do not have great alignment.
The best advice I can offer for this one is to start in Downward Facing Dog, and step one leg through to a lunge. Then, draw the front foot to the opposite long side of your mat, and place the outside of the foot on the mat, slowly lowering the rest of the leg down with your knee bent.
Then bring your heel in close to your opposite hip joint. Make sure to keep tension in the front foot, as this will protect your knee. Play around with moving your shin farther from your hips, but just be sure you are always keeping your foot tense.
3. Frog Pose (Bhekasana)
This is a great posture to help open up the inner groin/hip region. My favorite way to enter this posture is to start on hands and knees. Then slowly draw your knees away from one another, keeping your shins in line with your knees (rather than allowing your feet to draw in towards one another) as you lower your hips down towards the floor.
Keep your hips in line with your knees, rather than allowing them to move back towards your feet. Continue to move your knees farther away from one another.
Rest on your forearms, or all the way down on the mat if you can get there. Go slow with this one and allow your body to open in its own time.
4. Garland Pose (Malasana)
This is the king position for opening your hips and lower back. Start with your feet hip distance apart, or even slightly wider. Allow your feet to turn out 30 degrees or so if you are new to squatting.
Lower your body down, as though you were going to sit on a very small stool. You can extend your arms straight in front of you if you find it difficult to balance.
As you practice this posture, work to move your feet so that they are pointing straight out in front of you.
You can also play with bringing the feet in closer to one another as you progress. This pose has a million and a half benefits and will change your life if you practice it often!
5. Bound Angle Pose (Bhaddha Konasana)
This is a great posture to practice while you sit and watch TV or even while reading a book. Sit tall on your mat, then draw your knees up, placing your feet flat on the floor about 12 inches from your bottom.
Bring your feet together, as you allow your knees to drop to the side. Connect the soles of your feet. Inhale as you lengthen your spine once more. Then slowly move your heels in towards your groin, opening the inner hips.
You can also lean your chest forward towards your feet if you like, just be sure to maintain length in your spine.
Having supple, open hips will not only help you to avoid hip and back pain as you age, it can also help you to avoid hurting yourself in everyday life. Having a nice range of motion means that you will be so much less likely to really injure yourself if you fall, which is so important!
By Ali Washington