​Hip Openers for Every Level

​Hip Openers for Every Level

Yoga attracts a wide variety of practitioners from all walks of life, perspectives, ages, preferences, and ideas. Knowing all of this, at the beginning of every class, I still choose to ask students if there is anything they would like to work on, through, or with. Inevitably, students request we work with the hips, open them, mobilize them, free them up somehow. It never fails. As one student requests hips, another looks over with a smile, grateful someone read their mind. It’s as though we are all collectively aware that there is tension stored here that is blocking our expression and/ or movement, and opening up the hips will alleviate us somehow.

Blue Leopard Renew

So what are some good ways to work with the hips? Here is a list of ideas to gradually access more range and ease in our hips!

Acknowledge that your hips are exactly the way they are thanks to biology and a large dose of social, physical, and emotional programming. Our body is highly malleable and adapts to the stresses imposed on it, hence our hips will reflect the types of work, stresses, activities, and hereditary circumstances we have accumulated. Thank your hips for being the way they are to support all of the life that you’ve been living.

WARM UP

Whether with a brisk walk or sun salutations, make sure the body is warm, the breath is calm, and you are present to the practice and sensations in the body.

CULTIVATE RECEPTIVITY 

The practice of opening up the hips is also a practice of deep internal listening and developing receptivity. Always adjust if any pain or discomfort arises. Do not stay in anything that feels painful or not right. The body knows first ...but only always.

THE FOUR QUADRANTS

Know what you mean when you say “I want to open the hips.” I think of the hips in four quadrants:

  1. The front of the hips: hip flexors (iliopsoas) and quads:
  2. The back of the hips: hamstrings and glutes
  3. The inside of the hips: adductors
  4. The outside of the hips: abductors, gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, TFL, IT band

Once you know what you mean when you say “I want to open my hips”, work the areas that need attention and use reciprocal inhibition in your favor. Reciprocal inhibition is the automatic response of one muscle to lengthen as its antagonist contracts.

caged blue leopard crop

ENGAGE ELSEWHERE

Engage the hamstrings + glutes (back of the leg) to lengthen the hip flexors (front of the leg) I.e. engage the quads to lengthen your hamstrings.

Understand what poses/ actions work best for your opening. 

Here are some poses and ideas for each quadrant:

The Front of the Hips

There are many different types of psoas and quad stretches one may find beneficial:

~ Standing stretches (Lunge, Lizard)

~ Seated stretches where one bends the knee and places the foot next to the hip (Tiryang Mukhaikapad) Paschimattansana- one could remain upright, fold forward, or lie back; krounchasana with a strap or no strap; parighasana)

~ Supine poses (supta virasana one or both legs at the same time; use a block or not)

Make sure to: 

~ Engage the glutes

~ Engage the hamstrings

~ Keep the tail rooted down to isolate the stretch 

~ Keep the low back neutral

~ Do not arch the low back

    caged crop top side view

    The back of the hips (hamstrings + glutes) = Think, forward folds:

There are many different types of forward folds that one may find beneficial. One could choose:

~ Standing forward folds (padangustasana/ padahastasana, down dog)

~ Seated forward folds (paschimottanasana)

~ Supine folds (supta padangustasana, happy baby)

Make sure to:

~ Engage the quads

~ Hug the navel back

~ Widen the thighs back

~ Lengthen the spine

The inner hips (adductors) = Think, knees apart:

There are many different types of wide-legged poses that one may find beneficial. One could choose:

~ Standing wide-legged forward folds (triangle, side angle, prasarita padottanasana)

~ Seated forward folds (Janu Sirsasana, Baddha Konasana, Upavishta Konasana, frog)

~ Supine wide-legged folds (supta konasana, happy baby with legs straighter)

Make sure to:

~ Keep your low back neutral

~ Hug the navel back

~ Widen the thighs back

blue leopard leggings pose

The outer hips (gluteus medius, IT Band, TFL) = think, cross-lateral movements:

There are many different types of the crossing of the legs that one may find beneficial. One could choose:

~ Standing poses (standing Figure 4; garudasana)

~ Seated poses (half-lotus, seated figure 4, pigeon, double pigeon, gomukhasana, matsyendrasana)

~ Supine twists

Make sure to:

 ~Keep the low back neutral

 ~Keep the breath steady

~ Lengthen the torso

Give it time- literally and figuratively. Good work takes time. Hips are no different. It took years for your hips to develop the patterns they have, it will take time to shift the patterns. Additionally, start timing your poses. Feel free, to begin with, 3 poses and breathe, observe, and calibrate for 30 seconds/ pose. Once you feel comfortable with stillness in those poses for 30 seconds, add time. Little by little, increase the amount of time you are in the pose. This is not only great for the physical musculature and alignment but also to calm the nervous system while accessing depth. Learn to regulate your nervous system while performing challenging actions. Remove your furniture.

It works! I know this may sound extreme, but what would happen if you didn’t always sit on a chair or couch? What if you sat on the floor? Or laid on your belly to send that email? Or stood up more often? You’d be surprised how quickly the hips open up when you start incorporating it into your everyday life.

Try one of these out and let me know how it works for you. I’m always happy to hear your insights and witness your progress! Here’s to happy and open hips.

With love and openness,

Marie Belle PR

If you enjoyed this blog, check out our other blogs like: " 3 Poses for a Quick Reset", "How to Master the Handstand,” "Four Poses to Improve Your Handstand,” and "Defeat Fear with Kali-Inspired Breathwork."

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