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The one thing that cyclists, runners, and desk-bound office workers have in common? Tight hips. If you’re experiencing tight hips post-workout or during your yoga practice, you’re not alone. Turns out, spending too much time sitting (at a desk, in your car, etc.), cycling, or running constricts the hip muscles, making them super tight and uncomfortable. Over time, that can lead to other aches and pains elsewhere in your body, which is why incorporating hip stretches into your yoga practice is critical.
Your body is one whole ecosystem. The psoas is the largest hip muscle. It wraps from your mid-back across the front of your pelvis to the top of your quad, which connects the top front of your pelvis, and so on. Tight hip flexors can sometimes make it harder for your pelvis or psoas to work correctly, which can cause your lower back to overcompensate, leading to a lower-back injury. Stretching the hips and hip flexors supports the psoas, and therefore the lower back.
The good news is yoga can help. Certain yoga hip stretches can decrease tightness, relieve aches, increase the overall mobility in your hips, and, if done often enough, elevate your yoga practice.
8 yoga-based hip stretches to try now
With your feet hip-distance apart, take a big step forward with your right foot. Bend into your front leg and lower the back knee down to the mat. Slowly move your hips slightly forward to feel a stretch in the hip flexor of your back leg. Hold for 15–30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
For this quintessential hip stretch, come into Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Extend your right leg high behind you. Then bring that leg forward through your arms toward your hands. Place your right knee on the floor just behind and slightly to the left of your right wrist, with your shin on a diagonal and your heel pointing toward your left frontal hipbone. Extend your left leg long behind you and rest the top of your foot on the mat. Keep your right foot flexed and slowly lean forward over this leg as far as is comfortable. Hold for 15–30 seconds. Then repeat on the other side.
Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)
Lizard is another stretch that’s ideal for tight hips. Come into a Low Lunge with your left leg forward. Bring your hands to the inside of your left foot, and slowly come down to your forearms. Press down into your left heel and breathe. Stay for several deep breaths before switching to your right side.
This gentle hip stretch is often used to rest between other poses. Kneel on the floor. Bring your big toes to touch behind you. Sit back onto your heels, and separate your knees about just a tad big wider than your hips. As you exhale, lay your upper body down between your thighs and stretch and rest your arms out long in front of you. Stay here anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes, breathing deeply.
For this hip stretch, come to Dadasana (Staff Pose) and widen the legs into a V-shape. Rotate your thighs out so that your knees point straight up toward the ceiling. Flex your feet to keep the legs activated as you slowly lean forward and walk your hands forward between your legs to whatever length is comfortable for you. Hold for one minute.
From a seated position, bend your knees and pull your heels toward your pelvis as close as you comfortably can, then drop your knees out to the sides and press the soles of your feet together. Stay in this stretch for 1–5 minutes.
Lie on your back with your knees bent at a hip-width distance. Bend your elbows and bring the hands overhead, placing your palms just above your shoulders on the mat, so that your fingertips point toward your feet. Press down into your feet and palms as you lift your torso off the floor and toward the ceiling. Breathe and hold here for three breaths. To come back down from this hip-opening stretch, tuck your chin into your chest and lower yourself slowly.
Lie on your back and bend your knees into your chest at a 90-degree angle. Grab your big toes with your peace fingers, open your knees to the sides of your torso and then bring them up toward your armpits. You can rock side-to-side here as you breathe and play for as long as you’d like.
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