Updated: Jan 16, 2022
If you’re reading this blog you probably have tight hips and are interested in learning how to integrate more hip opener poses into your yoga practice.
We’ll be exploring some of the reasons behind tight hips, why you’ll find so much focus on hip opener stretches and exercises in yoga, and a short practice you can do to open your hips and relieve tension while sitting at your desk.
If you’re looking to jump straight into a yoga hip opener practice, you can practice along with Irene’s YouTube video that covers five simple yoga poses using an office chair. This practice is suitable for all levels, including beginners.
What are some of the reasons we might experience tight hips?
Whether you have a desk job and need to spend a lot of time sitting behind your computer for work, or if you’re active and enjoy walking, cycling or running it’s likely that you’ve experienced tight hips at some point during your life.
The hips are a complex joint that link your upper and lower body. There are many different muscle groups involved in determining the overall mobility of our hips.
When you’re sitting for long periods of time muscles like your hip flexors can get tight after being contracted to support your position. While the repetitive movements of walking, cycling and running can affect not only your hip flexors but also your IT band, glutes, hamstrings, psoas and adductors.
The degree of tightness and restriction in your hips play a role in how often you’re thinking about having tight hips.
If you’ve got a lot of tension in your hips it might be something you’re aware of on a daily basis.
Often the day after a long cycle I can feel tightness in my hips doing everyday activities like walking up the stairs or tying my shoelaces. Luckily this tightness usually goes away by itself after one or two days.
While if there is less hip tightness that you only notice when making movements that require a wide range of movement in the hip. This could be the case if you’re doing some postures that are commonly found in a yoga practice like sitting crossed legged (Sukhasana) or coming into a deep squat (Malasana).
Why do yoga sequences have so many hip openers? And what are the benefits of yoga hip openers?
If you look back historically to the origin of yoga in India there was a large focus on the importance of being able to sit still and meditate for long periods of time. Traditionally a physical yoga practice was designed to help yoga practitioners to be able to sit crossed legged for meditation.
This is one of the reasons why there are so many hip opener postures in yoga. The idea was to use these yoga poses to help create more mobility in the hip joint and allow the practitioner to feel more stable and comfortable when sitting crossed legged.
If you’ve tried at all sitting without moving and meditating for longer than 15 minutes crossed legged on the floor you’ll understand how much easier it can be to do when you’re not in pain.
Life was of course quite different in ancient India to how it is for us today. And one of the notable changes in relation to hip mobility is the fact that most of us spend little time crossed legged, squatting or in other deep hip opener poses.
It was very common historically for yoga practitioners to have a lifestyle that included large parts of their days sitting crossed legged or squatting. While now we’ve replaced this with sitting in chairs. Something that might be more comfortable and practical, but something that also results in us having less opportunity to work on opening our hips.
It’s therefore not surprising that iconic yoga postures like Lotus pose (Padmasana) feel out of reach for many of us.
There are many more benefits to yoga hip openers than simply being able to do advanced hip opener postures and sit for hours in meditation.
Hip openers can also help to balance some of the other activities in our daily lives. Allowing us to be able to work a desk job and go for long walks, run or cycles without feeling imbalanced or in pain.
Learn more about the benefits of chair yoga for office workers.
Which hip opener yoga poses and stretches can I use to reduce the tightness in my hips?
There are many different yoga hip opener poses that you could practice. But which should you do to support releasing tightness and improving mobility in your hips?
If you notice a lot of restriction in one particular area, say your outer hip, you could focus to do one or two outer hip openers each day to see if that helps.
But better still would be to do a variety of hip openers that create balance and movement in the entire hip joint.
The below hip openers YouTube video guides you through a series of yoga poses focused on the outer hip, hip flexors, hamstrings, IT band and inner thighs (adductors). Allow your body to relax into the poses, focusing on releasing tightness with every exhale.
Home practice tip: Try this vinyasa hip opener flow
This vinyasa hip opener flow includes a sequence of yoga postures focused on creating space in the hips.
Child Pose | Balasana
Child Pose is a great posture to start a hip opening yoga flow sequence. It allows you to gently ease into your hips before you’ve warmed your body up.
You can bring your focus towards your breathing and establish a slow and steady breath to help guide the rest of your yoga practice. Stay here as long as you like.
Low Lunge Pose | Anjaneyasana
The Low Lunge Pose allows you to gently work on stretching your hip flexor at the front of your hips. See if you can keep your upper body long and belly firm as you drop the weight of your back hip forward.
It might feel nice as a warm up to move in and out of the posture several times on each side before holding the posture for around 5 – 10 breaths.
Try to use the pace of your breath to guide the pace of your movement in and out of the postures.
Warrior 2 Pose | Virabhadrasana 2
The Warrior 2 Pose is a great standing posture to begin with in your vinyasa hip opener flow. You can work here on building heat and strength in your quadriceps by bending your front knee deeply and actively drawing your back leg back.
Focus on actively opening your hips. When your right leg is forward, actively spin your right hip and knee out to the right side. While at the same time spinning your left hip out to the left side. After a few breaths, change sides. Keeping your breath steady throughout.
Reverse Warrior | Viparita Virabhadrasana
Reverse Warrior is a great posture to combine with Warrior 2 when opening the hips. Focus on lengthening your front hip flexor. Dropping your front hip down and lifting your back hip up.
Focus on lengthening the spine and top arm upwards on each inhale and sinking down through your hips with every exhale. After holding the posture a few times you could move a few times back and forth between Warrior 2 and Reverse Warrior.
Triangle Pose | Trikonasana
The Triangle Pose is a great posture to focus on the positioning of your hips. Allow as best as you can both legs to be straight, as you reach your torso forward. You can work on stacking your hips here and lengthening from your hips all the way through your spine.
Keep using each inhale to lengthen through your spine and every exhale to soften and ground.
Reverse Triangle Pose | Viparita Trikonasana
Transitioning from Triangle Pose to Reverse Triangle Pose can help you understand the different positions required in your hips. When you come into Reverse Triangle from the Triangle Pose you want to try and send both of your hips a little forward towards the front of your mat.
This can feel a little strange at first since you’re moving your hips forward while your torso leans a little back. If this feels a little confusing don’t worry too much about it! Just do your best to notice the positioning of your hips in the posture.
Cow Face Pose | Gomukhasana
Cow Face Pose is our first seated hip opener in this sequence that really targets the outer hip and IT band. If the full posture doesn’t feel comfortable you can keep one leg outstretched and cross the top leg over. Another option could be to elevate the hips by sitting on a cushion or block.
Once you’re comfortable in the pose you can reach the arms out in front and experiment with leaning your weight a little forward. Keep pressing your hands down and allowing the back of the hips to stay connected with the ground as you lean forward. Staying here anywhere from 5 – 20 breaths.
Pigeon Pose | Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
The Pigeon Pose is a deep hip opener posture that works on the outer hip of the front leg and hip flexor of the back leg. In case the full pose doesn’t feel comfortable, feel free to bend the back leg or place the hips on a cushion or blanket.
If you are comfortable in the full pose do your best to square your hips, thinking front hip back and back hip forward. Allow your body to be heavy in your Pigeon Pose and breath slowly through your nose. Keep allowing the hips to drop down with every exhale.
Reclined Butterfly Pose | Supta Baddha Konasana
The Reclined Butterfly Pose is a great way to finish a hip opening sequence. You can lie down on your back and allow both knees to drop out to the sides. If you feel tension in your knees or hips try bringing the heels further away from your hips, or place a support under your knees.
You can stay in the posture as long as you like, working on passively opening your hips. You can also work with your breath, breathing down towards your hips with exhale and allowing them to sink down.
Good luck and happy practicing!
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