Easy: Our hips are one of the most sensitive parts of our bodies to get into during yoga class. I have yet to meet anyone over the age of 5 who has completely free and open hips. See, there are basic physical reasons our hips are tight: we walk places, we ride bikes, and many of us stay seated most of the day in offices or cars or subways. And we never stretch our hips. That’s not usually something that’s talked about in P.E. and, lets be real: if a masseuse or trainer asked me to get on my back so they could stretch my hips…well, I’d have a conflicted reaction of feeling slightly offended or making an inappropriate comment. I feel like most would just feel offended. So, our hips seem to only get the attention they deserve in a Ludacris song.
Another reason our hips are so tight is because of our body’s desire to hold on to the things in our past and store them away places: emotional traumas often find themselves as knots in our back, kinks in our neck, and blockages in our hips and other joints.
So I am going to teach you three different hip openers that you can practice at home; the last pose, will be the most advanced…but do NOT let that stop you from giving it a go. And please know…these are not going to feel good at first. But if you unclench your jaw, take a deep ujjayi breath, and relax into it…slowly it will feel good. And the more you practice them, the deeper you’ll be able to go and the more comfortable you’ll become in the postures. And, coincidentally, the more you’ll enjoy them. If you notice, which most will, that you start to become angry or sad while in the pose…stick with it. This is your ego trying to prevent you from releasing whatever it is your body is holding onto from your past.
Why would it do that? Because, your ego wants to protect you. Unfortunately, by doing that…it is highly resistant to change. So to let something go and free yourself from whatever is holding you back, is something scary to the ego and thus it will fight to keep it. It’s also a sign of release. If you don’t get angry or cry or laugh or whatever… that’s okay too! Every body is different and how it stores things or releases things is unique.
The first pose you are going to learn is called Happy Baby, which is one of the most visually perfectly nicknamed poses: imagine a baby on their back, they often grab their feet and rock around giggling. Well, time to hit the reset button, girl and get into your hips just like when you were a baby:
1. Lie down on your back
2. Hug your knees into your chest
3. Open your legs, bringing them to the outside of your ribs, towards your armpits.
4. Place the ankle over the knee, so your legs make an “L” shape
5. Flex your feet
6. Grip the outside of your feet with your hands
a. OR take your index and middle finger (peace fingers) and wrap them around your big toe.
7. Keeping your tailbone on the ground, allow gravity to pull your knees towards the floor beside you.
The next posture we are going to learn is a modified version of the last pose I will show you. However, I often prefer doing both in a class. This is definitely a gentler version and is called Reclining Pigeon. This pose also stretches the thighs and groin.
1. Lie down on your back
2. Bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet on the mat
3. Cross your RIGHT ankle and place it on your LEFT knee: creating a triangle between your legs
4. Place your RIGHT arm between your legs, and wrapping your left arm around your knee to grab your knee, interlace your fingers around your LEFT knee.
5. FLEX your RIGHT foot and keep it flexed (this is to protect your knee)
6. Take a deep breath in, and on your exhale, slowly bring your LEFT knee in towards your chest.
7. Hold for 10 breaths, seeing if on every exhale you can bring your knee closer to your chest, and keep your tailbone on the ground.
8. SWITCH SIDES
Finally: My personal FAVORITE pose, and a tricky one to do. But oh my god does it hit the spot! Pigeon Pose stretches the hip rotators AND the hip flexors.
The whaty what what?
The hip rotators are found in the area of your derriere and are an important joint to keep stable: as it affects knees, ankles, groin, and lumbar spine. The hip flexors are the long muscles that run along your pelvis and the front of your spine.
1. Get on all fours, with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over knees.
2. Slowly swing your RIGHT leg in, towards the front of your mat. So that your RIGHT knee is next to your RIGHT hand, and your LEFT ankle is next to your LEFT hand. (basically, you’re making a straight line with your shin from ankle to knee, in between your hands)
3. FLEX your RIGHT foot
4. Straighten your LEFT leg out behind you.
Here is a picture so far:
For most people, THIS is more than a challenging pose. You want to keep both of your hips facing forward, your front foot flexted, and your chest lifted. Really working your LEFT hip to be in a line with your RIGHT.
As you start to feel more comfortable, you may extend your arms down in front of you, first coming onto your forearms, and as that becomes more comfortable, you may eventually lay your chest down on the mat.
So let’s not run away or grimace at the thought of our hips, ladies. Don’t be ashamed to lay out your mat tonight, get on your back, and open those hips! It will make for a happier tomorrow. I promise.
Photos from Womansday.com