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June 05, 2023 17 min read

When you sit for long periods of time, your hip muscles can become short and weak, which increases tension in your hip complex. Yoga is an effective way to release tension and build balance in your body. With over 5,000 years of refinement, yoga has numerous benefits and its all-encompassing nature has made it a popular transformative practice.

In yoga, the term “hip opener” is commonly associated with the front or sides of the hip as they are usually the most constricted areas. However, the hip complex is made up of four muscle groups – the hip flexors (iliopsoas), the external rotators, the glutes, and the adductors. The iliopsoas group comprises the psoas muscle and the iliacus. The most frequently occurring tight hip groups are the iliopsoas and external hip rotators.

Hip Anatomy

Whenever these hip flexors and rotators become tight, the closest mobile area will be affected, which is usually the lumbar spine. This may cause an increase in the arch of the lower back, which leads to a reduction in back extensors and an increased risk of potential disc issues or compression in the lumbar spine.

Tight Hips are a Common Ailment

Many adults frequently suffer from tight hips, which are as common as lower back pain and knee pain. A study conducted in 2017 and published in The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons revealed that hip joint injuries contribute to roughly 6% of all sports injuries and are becoming increasingly prevalent with each passing year.

If you're curious about whether you have tight hips, there's a straightforward test you can do. First, stand up and take a look at your feet. If your toes are pointing outward instead of straight ahead, it's likely that your hip muscles are strained and could benefit from some stretching.

It's important to keep in mind that easing into hip-opening yoga poses is crucial. It takes time and consistent practice to progress and find relief from any pain. So, try to aim for doing 10 minutes of yoga poses for tight hips every day rather than doing an hour of intense stretching once a week.

Remember to listen to your body and modify the pose as necessary. If you have any existing hip or knee injuries, it's advisable to consult a qualified yoga instructor or healthcare professional before attempting these poses.

In this article, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions for 10 yoga poses for stretching tight hips.

1. Half Pigeon Pose (Ardha Kapotasana)

The Half Pigeon Pose, also known as Ardha Kapotasana, is a popular yoga pose that targets the hips and glutes. It helps to open up the hips by rotating the glutes and hip flexors on one side of the body at a time. It can be a challenging pose, especially if you are not very flexible, so it is recommended to use a yoga block or bolster under the glute to make it easier.

Here are the steps to perform the Half Pigeon Pose:

1. Start in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the mat. Align your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

2. Slide your right knee forward, placing it behind your right wrist. Your right foot should be near your left wrist.

3. Extend your left leg straight back, keeping your toes pointed and the top of your foot resting on the mat. Make sure your left hip is facing down toward the mat.

4. Slowly lower your upper body down, coming into a forward fold over your right leg. You can use your hands to support your upper body or rest your forearms on the mat.

5. Find a comfortable position for your upper body, ensuring that you're not straining or feeling excessive discomfort. You may choose to rest your forehead on your hands or on a block or bolster for support.

6. As you settle into the pose, breathe deeply and relax your body. Allow any tension to be released and focus on deepening the stretch in your right hip and glute area.

7. Hold the pose for about 1 to 3 minutes, or longer if comfortable. If you experience any pain or discomfort, back off slightly and modify the pose as needed.

8. To release the pose, slowly press through your hands or forearms and lift your upper body. Carefully slide your right knee back, returning to the tabletop position.

9. Take a few moments to rest in a neutral tabletop position, and then repeat the pose on the other side by sliding your left knee forward.

2. Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

The Cow Face Pose, also known as Gomukhasana, is a seated yoga pose that stretches not only the hips, and thighs but also the shoulders and chest.

Here are the steps to perform the Cow Face Pose:

1. Begin in a seated position on your mat with your legs extended in front of you.

2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Slide your left foot under your right knee and bring it to the outside of your right hip. Your left knee should be pointing forward.

3. Cross your right leg over your left, stacking your right knee directly on top of your left knee. Your right foot should be next to your left hip.

4. Sit evenly on your sitting bones, ensuring that your pelvis is in a neutral position. If you feel any discomfort in your knees, you can place a folded blanket or bolster under your sitting bones for support.

5. Extend your right arm straight up towards the ceiling, and then bend your elbow, bringing your right hand to the middle of your upper back.

6. Reach your left arm out to the side, parallel to the floor, and then bend your left elbow, bringing your left hand behind your back. Try to reach your right hand with your left hand, clasping your fingers together if possible. If your hands cannot touch, you can use a strap or towel to bridge the gap between your hands.

7. Keep your spine long and tall, and gently draw your shoulder blades toward each other. Engage your core to maintain stability and support your posture.

8. Take deep breaths and find a comfortable stretch in your shoulders, chest, and hips. You can gently lean forward or backward to intensify the stretch if desired, but be mindful not to strain or force your body.

9. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, breathing deeply and relaxing into the stretch. Maintain steady and relaxed breathing throughout the pose.

10. To release the pose, slowly release your hands and straighten your legs. Shake out your legs and arms, and then repeat the pose on the opposite side, crossing your legs in the opposite configuration.

3. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

The Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, also known as Ardha Matsyendrasana, is a seated twist that stretches the spine, shoulders, and hips.

Here are the steps to perform the Half Lord of the Fishes Pose:

1. Begin by sitting on your mat with your legs extended in front of you.

2. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Slide your left foot under your right leg and place it on the outside of your right hip. Your left knee should be pointing forward.

3. Cross your right leg over your left, placing your right foot on the floor next to your left knee. Your right knee should be pointing up toward the ceiling.

4. Inhale and lengthen your spine, sitting up tall.

5. Exhale and twist your torso to the right, placing your left elbow on the outside of your right knee. Your right hand can be placed on the floor behind your back for support.

6. Press your left elbow against your right knee to deepen the twist, using the leverage to gently rotate your upper body further to the right. Keep your chest lifted, and your shoulders relaxed away from your ears.

7. If it feels comfortable, you can reach your right arm behind your back and attempt to hold on to your left thigh or clasp your hands together.

8. Maintain a steady and relaxed breath as you hold the pose, allowing your body to gently deepen into the twist with each exhale.

9. Keep your hips grounded and avoid excessive strain or tension in your neck and shoulders. If you experience any discomfort, modify the pose by using a block or bolster to support your hand or sit on a folded blanket for added height.

10. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or as long as it feels comfortable. Remember to breathe deeply and evenly.

11. To release the pose, gently unwind the twist, returning your torso to face forward. Extend your legs and shake them out before repeating the pose on the opposite side.

4. Crescent Low Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)

The Crescent Low Lunge Pose, also known as Anjaneyasana, is a standing yoga pose that stretches the hip flexors, strengthens the legs, and opens the chest.

Here are the steps to perform the Crescent Low Lunge Pose:

1. Start by standing at the top of your mat in a downward-facing dog pose (Adho Mukha Shanahan), with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.

2. Step your right foot back, extend it behind you, and lower your front knee to the mat. Keep your toes tucked under or untucked, depending on your comfort level.

3. As you lower your knee, ensure that your left knee is directly above your left heel, creating a 90-degree angle with your front leg. Your front foot should be planted firmly on the mat.

4. Shift your weight forward onto your front foot as you lengthen your spine and engage your core.

5. On an inhale, reach your arms overhead, stretching them up toward the ceiling. Keep your shoulders relaxed and away from your ears.

6. As you exhale, relax your shoulders down and back, and then gently lean your upper body back, creating a slight back bend. Lift your chest and gaze forward.

7. Engage your back leg by pressing the top of your right foot firmly into the mat, feeling a stretch in your right hip flexor and quadriceps.

8. If you feel stable and comfortable, you can deepen the stretch by reaching your fingertips higher, lengthening through your spine, and leaning further into the back bend. However, be mindful not to strain or overextend your body.

9. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or as long as it feels comfortable. Breathe deeply and evenly, allowing the stretch to deepen with each breath.

10. To release the pose, exhale and lower your arms down to your sides. Lift your back knee off the mat, step your right foot forward, and return to a standing position at the top of your mat.

11. Take a moment to rest and then repeat the pose on the opposite side, stepping your left foot back.

5. Yogi Squat/Garland Pose (Malasana)

The Yogi Squat, also known as Garland Pose or Malasana, is a deep squatting pose that opens the hips and stretches the lower body.

Here are the steps to perform the Yogi Squat/Garland Pose:

1. Begin by standing at the top of your mat with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Allow your toes to turn outwards at a comfortable angle.

2. Inhale deeply as you engage your core muscles and lengthen your spine.

3. Exhale and bend your knees, slowly lowering your hips down towards the floor. Aim to bring your hips lower than your knees, sinking into a deep squat.

4. As you lower into the squat, bring your palms together at your heart center, pressing your elbows against the inner sides of your knees. Use your elbows to gently open your knees wider, creating space for your torso to fit between your legs.

5. Maintain an upright posture with your chest lifted and your shoulder blades drawn down your back. Lengthen through your spine, keeping your neck aligned with your spine and your gaze forward.

6. Press firmly through your feet, distributing your weight evenly between your heels and the balls of your feet.

7. Take deep breaths and relax into the pose, allowing your hips to open and the stretch to deepen. You may feel a stretch in your hips, groin, inner thighs, and lower back.

8. If you find it challenging to maintain balance or keep your heels on the ground, you can place a folded blanket or bolster under your heels for support.

9. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or as long as it feels comfortable. Breathe deeply and relax any tension in your body.

10. To release the pose, bring your hands to the floor in front of you and slowly straighten your legs, coming back to a standing position.

6. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

The Happy Baby Pose, also known as Ananda Balasana, is a gentle yoga pose that opens the hips and stretches the lower back.

Here are the steps to perform the Happy Baby Pose:

1. Begin by lying on your back on a yoga mat or comfortable surface.

2. Bend your knees and draw them in toward your chest.

3. Take hold of the outer edges of your feet with your hands. You can either grab the big toes or the ankles, depending on your flexibility.

4. Open your knees wider than your torso, allowing them to come toward your armpits. Your shins should be perpendicular to the floor.

5. Flex your feet, pressing your heels up toward the ceiling. Your ankles should be directly above your knees.

6. Maintain a relaxed and neutral spine. You can choose to keep your head and shoulders on the mat or gently lift your head, bringing your chin toward your chest.

7. Find a comfortable position for your arms. You can either keep them straight, gently pressing the knees down, or you can loop your hands around the outside of your feet, using your arms to pull your knees closer to the ground.

8. Relax your shoulders down toward the mat and breathe deeply. Allow your body to relax and sink into the pose.

9. If you feel any discomfort in your lower back, you can gently rock from side to side, massaging the muscles and releasing tension.

10. Hold the pose for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, or as long as it feels comfortable. Focus on your breath and allow your body to soften and open with each exhalation.

11. To release the pose, gently release your feet and bring your knees back toward your chest. You can give yourself a gentle hug, rocking from side to side to release any remaining tension.

Remember to approach the pose with gentleness and listen to your body. Modify the pose as needed by using a strap or towel around your feet if reaching them is challenging.

7. Reclined Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

The Reclined Bound Angle Pose, also known as Supta Baddha Konasana, is a relaxing and restorative yoga pose that opens the hips and stretches the inner thighs.

Here are the steps to perform the Reclined Bound Angle Pose:

1. Begin by lying on your back on a yoga mat or comfortable surface.

2. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall open to the sides. Your feet should be a comfortable distance away from your pelvis, creating a diamond shape with your legs.

3. Adjust your feet and legs closer or further away from your pelvis to find a comfortable position for your hips and knees. The closer your feet are to your pelvis, the deeper the stretch in your hips and inner thighs.

4. Place your arms alongside your body, palms facing up. Relax your shoulders and allow your arms to rest comfortably.

5. Adjust your head and neck to find a comfortable position. You can keep your head and neck neutral or use a small pillow or folded blanket for support.

6. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths. Allow your body to relax and sink into the pose.

7. If you want to deepen the stretch, you can place a bolster, folded blankets, or yoga blocks under your knees for support. This can help to alleviate any strain or discomfort in your hips or knees.

8. Stay in the pose for about 1 to 5 minutes, or longer if desired. Use this time to focus on your breath, allowing your body to surrender and release any tension.

9. When you're ready to come out of the pose, gently bring your knees together, hugging them into your chest. Roll onto one side and use your hands to press yourself up to a seated position.

10. Take a moment to rest in a comfortable seated position, allowing your body to readjust and integrate the benefits of the pose.

8. Frog Pose (Mandukasana or Bhekasana)

The Frog Pose, also known as Mandukasana or Bhekasana, is a deep hip-opening pose that stretches the inner thighs and groin.

Here are the steps to perform the Frog Pose:

1. Start by coming onto your hands and knees in a tabletop position on your yoga mat, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.

2. Slowly widen your knees apart, bringing them as wide as comfortable, creating a wide-legged stance. Your thighs should be parallel to each other, and your feet should be in line with your knees.

3. Gradually turn your toes outward so that the inner edges of your feet are in contact with the mat. Your feet should be flexed, and your ankles should be aligned with your knees.

4. From this position, begin to lower your forearms to the mat, bringing your elbows directly under your shoulders. Keep your palms pressing into the mat.

5. Take a moment to find stability and balance. Your hips should be in line with your knees and your shoulders should be stacked above your elbows.

6. Start to actively engage your core muscles, drawing your navel towards your spine. This will help protect your lower back and support the pose.

7. As you settle into the pose, gently begin to release your tailbone down towards the mat, allowing your hips to open and sink lower.

8. You can choose to stay on your forearms or, if it feels comfortable, you can lower your chest down towards the mat, resting your forehead or chin on the mat.

9. Relax and deepen your breath, allowing the stretch to gradually release tension in your hips and groin.

10. Hold the pose for about 1 to 3 minutes, or as long as it feels comfortable. If you experience any discomfort or strain, you can ease off the stretch and modify the pose.

11. To come out of the pose, press firmly into your palms or forearms, and slowly lift your torso back up. Bring your knees together, coming back to a tabletop position.

12. Take a moment to rest in a neutral tabletop position, and then you can transition into a Child's Pose or any other pose that feels good for you.

Remember to listen to your body and practice within your comfortable range of motion.

9. Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana)

The Lizard Pose, also known as Utthan Pristhasana, is a deep hip-opening pose that stretches the hip flexors, hamstrings, and groin muscles.

Here are the steps to perform the Lizard Pose:

1. Begin in a high plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your legs extended behind you.

2. Step your right foot forward between your hands, placing it closer to the right edge of your mat. Keep your right knee directly above your right ankle.

3. Lower your left knee to the ground, bringing it back until you feel a comfortable stretch in your left hip flexor. You can place a folded blanket or yoga mat under your left knee for extra support if needed.

4. Once your left knee is on the ground, gently lower your forearms down to the mat. You can place your forearms on blocks or use your hands for support (like you're performing a plank) if reaching the floor is challenging.

5. Walk your right foot out towards the right edge of your mat, allowing your right knee to open wider. Keep your toes pointing slightly outward.

6. Sink your hips down towards the ground, feeling a stretch in your right hip flexor and groin. Keep your back leg active by pressing the top of your left foot into the mat.

7. Maintain a neutral spine and avoid collapsing or rounding your back. Lengthen through your spine and engage your core muscles to support your posture.

8. You can stay in this variation of the pose or, if you feel comfortable, you can explore deeper stretches by bringing your forearms or hands to the inside of your right foot.

9. Breathe deeply and relax into the pose, allowing the stretch to gradually release any tension in your hips and groin.

10. Hold the pose for about 1 to 2 minutes, or as long as it feels comfortable. Remember to breathe deeply and evenly throughout the pose.

11. To come out of the pose, press into your hands or forearms and slowly lift your torso back up. Step your right foot back to meet your left knee, returning to a high plank position.

12. Repeat the pose on the opposite side, stepping your left foot forward and following the same steps.

10. Dancer Pose (Natarajasana)

The Dancer Pose, also known as Natarajasana, is a graceful and challenging standing balance pose. It is widely regarded as one of the most effective standing postures for opening up the hips. It is often considered the highlight of any hip opening sequence, as it requires a great deal of balance, focus, leg strength, and hip mobility. Additionally, it involves a large back bend that helps to integrate the pose even further. that improves balance, flexibility, and strength.

Here are the steps to perform the Dancer Pose:

1. Begin by standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) at the top of your mat. Take a moment to ground yourself and find stability in your posture.

2. Shift your weight onto your right foot and lift your left foot off the ground. Bend your left knee and reach back with your left hand to grab the inside of your left foot or ankle.

3. As you hold your left foot or ankle, find a focal point in front of you to help with balance.

4. Extend your right arm forward, parallel to the ground, to counterbalance the backward movement of your left leg. Keep your right palm facing down.

5. Begin to tilt your torso forward, hinging at the hips, while simultaneously extending your left leg backward. As you do this, maintain engagement in your core and lengthen through your spine.

6. Focus on maintaining a strong and stable standing leg, pressing firmly into your right foot. Your right knee should be slightly bent to avoid locking it.

7. Lift your left leg higher behind you, simultaneously extending your left arm back. Aim to create a straight line from your fingertips to your toes.

8. Engage your left glute and thigh muscles to support the extension of your leg. Feel the stretch and opening in your hip flexors, quadriceps, and shoulders.

9. If you feel balanced and stable, you can experiment with gently arching your upper back, allowing your chest to lift and your gaze to lift toward the ceiling. However, be mindful not to strain or compromise your balance.

10. Hold the pose for several breaths, finding your point of balance and enjoying the stretch. Keep your breathing steady and relaxed.

11. To release the pose, slowly lower your left leg back to the ground and bring your hands back to your sides.

12. Take a moment to rest and ground yourself before repeating the pose on the other side, shifting your weight onto your left foot and lifting your right foot.

Conclusion

Practicing yoga regularly can help ease tight hips and release tension in the hips and low back. These 10 best yoga poses are great hip stretches and a good place to start for anyone looking to increase their flexibility and reduce hip pain.

Some people prefer to attend yoga classes where a yoga teacher can help them perfect the different poses.

Remember to focus on your breath, and take breaks if you need to. With enough practice, you can increase your range of motion and create a more balanced body and contribute to good overall health and wellness.

Performing these poses in a yoga class or simply doing them at home while you're watching TV is a great way to loosen your hips and improve your mobility, which translates directly to improving other athletic endeavors including weight training, running, cycling, and much more. They make great recovery tools on rest days and can go a long way to improving your quality of life.

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