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Pre-COVID, I toured and traveled for work for about two-and-a-half years straight, spending what felt like endless hours on planes, buses, and trains. All that sitting caused a physical strain on my low back and hips. I’m not globetrotting much now, but the work from home life still involves a lot of chair time. Fortunately, I discovered that yoga stretches for tight hips and a tense low back can help ease the ache from too much sitting.
The hips and low back are said to store our emotions, fears, and trauma, but often, we don’t give these areas space to recharge, strengthen, and then release. Refreshing these areas can be as simple as getting up to walk around a few times a day and adding a few gentle stretches to our routine.
A focused yoga practice offers its own brand of therapy for our hips and backs. When we work with this area of the body, connecting to the root and sacral energy centers, we energetically ground ourselves, increase our ability to feel safe, and open the potential to expressing ourselves more fully. The stretching, strengthening, and twisting yoga offers gives stagnant energy in the chakras the opportunity to move, a perfect antidote to too much time spend on our backsides!
I created this sequence to both release and strengthen your low back, hips and psoas. You can move through poses as a flow (go through poses 1-7, then repeat poses 3-7 on the opposite side before continuing on with Malasana (Garland Pose). You could also work with any of these poses individually. Try some or all of these moves today and make your hips happier!
A sequence for your hips and back
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
This pose relieves tension and stress and calms the nervous system. Start sitting on your knees. Connect your big toes together at the back of your mat. Bring your knees about as wide as your mat then melt your hips toward your heels. Hinging from your hip creases, release your heart and forehead down to the mat (or to a yoga prop). Elongate your arms. Inhale, filling up the backs of your shoulders with your breath. Exhale and imagine your hips melting even lower to lengthen and release your low back. Hold for 5 breaths.
Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
This asana energizes your body and relieves back pain. Come to Tabletop Pose. Tuck your toes and lift your hips, moving them up and back to create an inverted V shape with your body. Press the earth away with your hands while reaching your heels down for the ground. To release low back tension, lengthen your spine and send your tailbone to the sky. Let your head and neck relax to improve the blood flow. Hold for 5 breaths.
Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog Pose
This pose opens the front body of the hips and allows us to gently warm the hip joint. From Down Dog, breathe in and lift your right leg to hip height. Turn your waist to the right and stack your top leg on top of your left hip. Exhale and bend your right knee to open your right hip. Keep pressing the earth away equally with both hands. Encourage your shoulders to remain square and parallel to the mat. Option: draw hip circles with your lifted leg to further lubricate your hip join. Bring connection to the breath and movements you explore here for 5-10 breaths.
This pose strengthens and promotes hip flexibility. From Down Dog, step your right foot forward near or between your hands. Stack your right knee on top of your right ankle or slightly behind it. Lift your torso up, bringing your arms up as well to frame your face. Square your hips and allow them to sink lower. Root down through the heel of your right foot and the ball of your back left foot. As you inhale, focus your breath into expanding your heart space. Use your exhales to sink your hips lower. Hold for 5 breaths.
Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)
This pose strengthens your hips. From High Lunge, shift your torso toward your right thigh. Anchor your right hand to a block or the floor outside of your right pinky toe. Place your left hand on your left hip and press down into your right foot. Shift your torso forward and ahead of your right foot. Lift your back leg up to hip height. Open your left hip so that your pelvis faces the left wall. Flex through your floating leg.
Keep lifting your left leg as high as the standing hip joint. Reach your left arm up and send your energy to the heavens with your hand. Align you upper body with your back body. Keep engaging through your glutes and core. Hold for 3-5 breaths.
Ardha Chandra Chapasana (Sugarcane variation of Half Moon Pose)
Remain in Half Moon. Continue to strengthen and find freedom within the hip flexors and hamstrings by reaching back for the floating leg with you top hand. Press into the hand with the foot and tuck your hips slightly to stretch your left quad and psoas. You can keep the gaze down at the earth for balance, then, if comfortable, slowly turn your head up to sky. Open your heart and hips here. Invite space with each breath. Hold for 3 breaths.
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
From Sugarcane, release the floating knee, bend your standing leg, and ease your way down to sit behind your standing ankle. Inhale, and root both sitting bones to the earth and to lengthen through your spine. As you exhale, encourage the body to twist deeper. This pose is one of my favorite stretches for tight hips. It also relieves pressure in the lower back and can increase blood flow and aids in digestion. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Malasana (Garland Pose)
This pose opens the pelvis and strengthens the spine. Stand in a wide-legged Tasasana (Mountain pose). Turn your toes out about 30-45 degrees and bring your feet wider than your hips. Squat to sink your hips down toward the earth. Keep your heart lifted and press your palms together at the center of your chest. You can anchor your hips to a yoga block, a stack of blankets, or a yoga bolster if that helps you to feel more stable. Lift your gaze, relax your shoulders, and keep reaching the hips low. Breath slowly and deeply for 5 rounds of breath.
Reverse Tabletop Pose
This asana is a stress reliever that opens your hip flexors, stretches the psoas, and engages your leg muscles. Come to lie on your back, bend your knees, and place the soles of your feet on the mat, about hip-width apart and parallel. Press down into your heels as you raise your hips. Keep pressure out of the low back by relaxing your glutes. Brings your hands under your shoulders and press into earth to help you raise your hips higher in this pose. Hold for 5 breaths.
Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
This pose opens the hips and groin and releases the spine and sacrum. Draw your knees into your chest. Separate your knees and grab the outer edges of your feet. Guide your knees and guide them toward your armpits. Continue pulling as you flex and kick your feet skyward. Keep your tailbone heavy and elongate your spine. Find playfulness and ease in this pose. Hold for 5 breaths.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
This pose allows your body to rejuvenate and restore. Stretch your legs long about as wide as the mat. Allow your arms to fall to the sides of the body with your palms facing upward. Let your hips melt, heavy; feel your heart open and light. Allow your skin, muscle, and bones to rest and anchor. You can close your eyes and be at rest here. No need to control or manipulate your breath. Stay as long as needed. You are supported, you are safe, you are enough.
Charnette Batey is a queer, black yoga instructor whose teaching style prioritizes adaptability and inclusivity. Learn more at charnettebyoga.com