As we considered in my last post, the amount of flexibility you need in your hips depends greatly on your activities. Individual anatomy, both structural (in the shape of your bones) and functional (in the way you’ve used your body over time) affects your abilities as well. Some yogis may have a lot of flexibility that they don’t need; others may have a lot of strength but not enough flexibility for their athletic pursuits; many in both camps have a mixture, being loose in some muscle groups and tight in others. In the face of these variations, we can agree on the importance of balance—we need balance between the muscles in the front and back and inner and outer lines of the hips. This balance keeps the pelvis properly situated and reduces both acute injuries and overuse issues.
With the goal of building balance around the hips and an awareness of the demands your sport puts on your body, you’ll need to practice a variety of poses that target the front, back, outer, and inner lines of the hips. As you do, you’ll probably find that your flexibility is challenged in one or two specific regions. Here are some examples of poses that fit into the categories; there are, of course, many more, including the dozens of variations on each of these poses. Include a pose or two from each category in your practice, and you’ll learn about your body and its patterns—a powerful experience.
Backbends that stretch the hip flexors: Dancer Pose (Natarajasana), Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana), Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), Bow and Upward-Facing Bow (Dhanurasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana)
Forward bends that stretch the hamstrings: Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana), Seated Forward Fold (Pascimottanasana), Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold (Upavista Konasana), Head of the Knee (Janu Sirsasana)
Poses to stretch the outer lines of the hips: Cow-Face Pose (Gomukhasana), Pigeon Pose (Eka Rajakapotanasana), Revolved Twist (Jathara Parivartasana) and its variations, Twisting Lunges
Poses to stretch the inner lines of the thighs: Cobbler Pose (Baddha Konasana), Star Pose (Tarragona), Lizard Lunge, Revolved Head of the Knee (Parivritta Janu Sirsasana), Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold (Upavista Konasana), Wide-Legged Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana)