There are so many reasons to do hip-opening poses: Supple hips can ease back pain, give you a more agile gait, and even improve circulation in your legs. But there's a more subtle benefit to hip openers, too: We hold stress and negative emotions—such as fear, guilt, and sadness—in our pelvis, says San Francisco vinyasa teacher Stephanie Snyder. For this reason alone, Snyder believes it's particularly important to do poses that move prana (life force) through that area. "You know your junk drawer at home?" she asks. "The pelvis is like the body's junk drawer. Whenever you don't know what to do with a feeling or experience, you put it there."
Snyder designed the following sequence to move your ball-and-socket hip joint through its full range of motion. When you do it regularly, you may see improvement in the rest of your practice, since the pelvis is the foundation of alignment in many poses. Here are some things to remember as you do the sequence. Take your time with opening your hips, because hip ligaments are strong. "Don't push yourself," Snyder advises. "Be receptive to the breath moving into the pose." If you have a knee injury, modify the seated poses (5 and 6) by straightening your bottom leg, and practice poses 7 and 9 on your back. At the same time, don't avoid difficulty. People often dread hip openers because they are such a challenge. "Don't look away from tight places," Snyder says. "Be present without judgment. You can really make this a delicious practice."
Warm up: To build heat and lubricate your joints, do a few rounds of Sun Salutations.
Watch: Practice along with this Home Practice sequence hereyogajournal.com/livemag.
Release: Bring your knees to the floor, sit on your heels, and place your forehead on the floor in Balasana (Child's Pose). Your arms can be by your sides or outstretched. Relax your belly and jaw. Rest here for 5 to 10 breaths, then savor Savasana (Corpse Pose) for at least 5 minutes.
Watch: Practice along with this Home Practice sequence here.