Proceed with Caution
Move gradually into every hip stretch, listening to your body, because you can strain adjacent joints if you move too aggressively. The hip is a strong joint, and when it has moved as far as it can, continued pushing can pull the next joints above (the low-back and sacroiliac joints) and the next ones below (the knee and ankle) into directions that aren't beneficial. This can happen in any stretch, including classical poses like Padmasana (Lotus Pose). And uncomfortable pressure or pain in the front of the hip when you pull the thigh up and across your torso doesn't indicate a productive stretch; it means there's compression on the tendons, ligaments, and other soft tissues that cross the front of the hip. Put a rolled hand towel in your groin—between the femur and lower abdomen—to open up the space, or move on to a different variation.
Practice your hip stretches two to three times each week; be sure to stay for a minute or two to breathe and relax into each one. Not only will the buttock muscles let go and lengthen but you'll also have a chance to release any tendencies to keep a hard grip on your life.
Julie Gudmestad is a physical therapist and Iyengar Yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon. She regrets that she cannot respond to requests for personal health advice.!--page-->