Hip flexibility is something that is so important but yet so overlooked in our daily lives. Our daily routine can create a lot of tension in our hip joints without us even realising it – sitting at our computers for long hours, being on our feet the entire day, and even doing certain sports without suitable and sufficient warm-up and cooldown can all lead to a very stiff hip. Our hips are also major joints in our body, and it is said that we tend to hold a lot of negative thoughts and emotions in our hips.
This is why sometimes hip openers are not exactly our favourite asanas in our yoga practice. When we have to stay in a pigeon pose for a prolonged period of time in class, we can experience frustration, anger, or even sadness. And that is perfectly normal, simply because of what our hips naturally tends to do.
Today’s yoga guide is a very yin style of practice – yin yoga refers to a very restorative and meditative style of yoga as opposed to be flowing and dynamic style of yoga that we find in vinyasa yoga, bikram yoga, ashtanga yoga, and etc. I personally really love yin yoga because it provides a great balance to my usual vinyasa and bikram practice, and helps me to focus on improving my flexibility all over my body.
So, here are some things that you can try for today’s yoga guide:
- Try to hold on to each pose, on each side, for 3 to 5 minutes. Have a timer with you if you need that to keep track of time, play some music, and get your surroundings comfortable and conducive for a meditative practice.
- If you find your mind wandering off or if you are getting distracted, always go back to your breath. Try counting your breath, such that your exhalation is twice as long as your inhalation.
- A yin practice is not about going to the maximum of an asana. It is about going to where feels comfortable for you, even if that may not be your maximum, and then let gravity do its job. Yin yoga is a very passive style of yoga. So let your body ease itself into the pose, and if it hurts, back off, use a block, a towel, or a pillow to prop yourself up.
Here are the 10 yoga asanas that you can incorporate into your daily practice for more flexible hip joints!
1. Fire Log Pose
Stack your shins on top of one another, making sure that your shins are parallel to the side of the mat and your feet is stacked directly on top or under your knee. Flex both your feet so that you protect your knees. On an inhalation, straighten your spine, and on an exhalation, hinge from your hips and slowly walk your fingers towards the front. Try not to round your back so much by shifting your gaze slightly forward. You should feel a slight pinching sensation on your right hip if your right shin and stacked on top of your left, and vice versa.
Stay in a comfortable position, and if you need to rest your head, use a yoga block or a thick book to prop up your forehead. Keep breathing! Once you are done, alternate sides.
Option 2: You can opt to come into cow face arms to give that added stretch to your shoulders. Then slowly hinge from your hips and lean forward.
2. Bound angle pose
Placing your feet together, you can either sit your hips closer to your feet for a deeper stretch, or move them further apart for a gentler stretch. Similar to the fire log pose, try not to round your back and as you exhale, slowly hinge from your hips and lower yourself to wherever’s comfortable for you.
Option 1: You can use your elbow to gently push your knees towards the mat while holding on to your feet.
Option 2: You can slowly walk your fingers forward, hinge from your hips, and very slowly lower yourself towards the ground.
Modifications: If your hips are really tight, and sitting in bound angle is very intense for your hips. You do not have to lean forward. Instead, grab 2 pillows or bolsters and place them underneath your knees for support, and just stay there!
3. Low lunge
As you come into low lunge, make sure that your front foot is directly below your front knee, and as you exhale, sit your hips down and shift your pelvis towards the front to deepen the hip stretch. You can either opt to tent your fingers towards the side (left), or you can raise your arms up towards the sky (right). Continue to sit your hips down, hug your legs towards the mid-line, and keep breathing. Once you are done, alternate sides.
4. Pigeon pose
In pigeon pose, make sure that your front shin is around 45 degrees away from the mat. If your hips are pretty flexible, you can always move your front shin parallel to the top of the mat in order to deepen the stretch. Ensure that your weight is equally distributed between your front thigh and your back thigh. You should not be tilting your weight to one side. A great way to check is to make sure that your back thigh is facing the mat rather than turn outwards towards the side.
Option 1: You can either tent your fingers to your sides, or walk your fingers towards the front, coming into resting pigeon.
Option 2: If you feel pretty good in your pigeon pose, bend your back leg and catch your foot with your elbow, coming into a mermaid pose (right). Remember to continuously distribute your weight equally between your thighs, and open your chest towards the front of the mat for the added side stretch and deepen your hip opening.
Modification: If your hips are really tight and pigeon pose is uncomfortable for you, use a pillow, bolster, or yoga block underneath your groin to prop yourself up, providing greater support for your hips to open gently in its own time. Keep breathing!
5. Lizard pose
To come into lizard pose, ensure that your palms are flat on the mat, shoulder-width apart, and walk your front foot beside your pinky finger. Similar to the low lunge, open up your chest, try not to round your back too much, and shift your hips gently towards the front. Continue to hug your front knee as close to your elbow as possible, deepening the stretch in your front hip.
Option 1: You can stay on your palms, or if this is really uncomfortable for you, use a yoga block or two thick books to prop your palms and provide greater support.
Option 2: If the first option feels comfortable for you, you can opt to come down to your forearms, and continue to ensure that your weight is equally distributed to the centre. Do not lean your weight away from your front foot. Shift the weight towards the centre.
Option 3: Only if option 2 feels comfortable for you, shift your left forearm parallel to the front of the mat (if you are stretching your right hip), open up your chest and reach your right hand towards your back foot, coming into a twisted lizard. Continue to sink your hips towards the ground, opening up your right hip even more, and keep breathing. The twisted lizard not only deepens your hip opening, it also helps to stretch out your quads and work your forearm strength.
6. Frog pose
Coming into all fours into a table-top position, slowly walk your knees apart from one another. Continue to make sure that your hips are still in line with your knees, and flex your feet so that you protect your knees as well. Your shins should slightly apart from each other. Once you’ve found a comfortable spot, you can either rest on your forearms (left), or come down onto your chest (right), whichever’s more comfortable for you. Keep breathing, and allow the gravity to pull yourself towards the ground.
7. Straddle splits
With your feet as far apart from each other as possible, slowly shift your hips towards the front a little, so that your weight is nicely distributed on your sitting bones. Remember to continue pointing your toes towards the sky so as to protect your knees. You can either stay here (left), or slowly hinge from your hips and walk your fingers towards the front. Similar to the other asanas, try not to round your back too much, and take your time to deepen yourself into the stretch. Keep breathing!
Modifications: If your hamstrings are really tight, you can always keep a bend in your knees so you don’t strain your hamstrings.
8. Hindi squat
With your feet around mat width apart, sink your hips in between your feet, coming into hindi squat. With your hands in prayer pose, make use of your elbows to gently push your knees away from each other. Make sure that your back is not rounded (right), and try to open your chest towards the front as much as possible. Keep your heels down, and stay in this pose for ~5 minutes, allowing the gravity to gently pull your butt towards the mat.
Modifications: If hindi squat is painful for you, or if you have any knee or ankle injuries, sit on a big towel or a yoga block to provide more support to your knees and ankles.
9. Happy baby pose
Laying down on your mat, come into happy baby pose by grabbing the outside edges of your feet, and gently pull on your feet such that your knees are reaching towards the ground. Make sure that your back is flat on the ground as well by tucking in your chin, and try to reach your lower back and tailbone towards the mat.
Option 1: You can opt to stay in happy baby pose (left), and try to gently pull your knees towards the mat on every exhalation.
Option 2: Grabbing on to your heels from the inside, slowly straighten your legs and pull your feet slowly towards the mat, deepening the hip opening, and adding a hamstring stretch into the pose. Continue to reach your lower back and tailbone towards the mat.
10. Lotus pose
To end off the hip opening sequence, come into a half lotus pose (left), by placing your right foot towards the left inner thigh. Make sure that your right knee is still touching the mat, and flex your right foot. Feel free to stay here if this feels comfortable for you.
To come into a full lotus (right), place your left shin on top of the right shin, and ensure that your left foot is on the right inner thigh. Try to reach both knees towards the mat, and continue to flex your ankles in order to protect them. Keep breathing and once you are done, alternate sides.
As usual, feel free to comment below if you found this sequence useful in terms of opening up your hips! These asanas have been regular poses that I have been doing for yin yoga for the past month, and it has really helped to open up my hips, allowing me to enter into deeper asanas such as splits, and other arm balances such as grasshopper pose and koundiyasana.
Have a great week and I look forward to hearing from you guys! Namaste <3