Whether you’re an avid runner or just someone who has a desk job, you could develop tight hips. This can create a series of issues including back pain and weak knees. You know you have tight hips if sitting cross-legged is not the most comfortable position for you.
These series of moves will help open up your hips and give them a better range of motion. Be sure to not force your hips into any pose. Instead, slowly guide yourself there and pause in a spot that feels the best for your body. The goal is not to look exactly like the picture, but to get the maximum benefit from the pose in the picture. Every person has a different range, so always be mindful of doing what works for you.
Start by lying on your back with the soles of your feet together and knees open wide. Connect with your breath and your heart with one hand on your belly, one hand on your chest.
2. Happy Baby
Use your hands to draw your knees into Happy Baby. Hold onto the thighs or feet and glue your sacrum down to the ground as you press the knees to the outside of the torso. Rock side to side, massaging the low back. Optional: straighten one leg and then the other.
3. Knees to Chest
Compress the hips by hugging your knees into your chest, still keeping the sacrum down on the ground. Wrap forearms around the shins, grab opposite elbows, and give your legs a good squeeze, sending your hips lots of love.
4. Baddha Konasana
Rock up and down the spine until you build enough momentum to come to a seated position. Keep the soles of the feet together and let the knees drop wide. Root down through the sit bones and inhale to lengthen the spine and then slowly tilt forward leading with the heart. Keeping length in the spine limits the stretch to your hips, so stop when your spine begins to round. Holding onto the feet, let your elbows assist the thighs closer to the ground.
5 & 6. Cat/Cow
Cross the legs to roll forward onto hands and knees, shoulders aligned over the wrists and hips over the knees. Inhale and tilt the tailbone to the sky. Let the belly drop to the ground and gather the shoulder blades together as you look up. Exhale and tuck the tailbone under, and press into the palms to create space between the shoulder blades as you round the spine towards the sky. Tuck the chin last. Move with the rhythm of your breath for five rounds.
7. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Tuck your toes under and slowly lift the knees off the ground, sending your tailbone to the sky. Keep both knees bent and try to rest your belly on the thighs. Maintaining the tilt of the pelvis, extend both legs to the best of your ability. Hold for 5 breaths.
On your next inhale, raise the right leg to the sky and stack the right hip over the left. Allow the knee to bend and draw circles with the knee, creating mobility in the hip joint. Try to maintain equal weight in the hands and shoulders as you relax the left heel to the ground.
After five breaths, exhale as you step the right foot between the hands and lower the back knee to the ground. Raise the chest so that you’re standing on the right foot and left knee; use a towel or fold the mat over to help with knee sensitivity. Take your hands to your hips and see if you can rotate the hip points up and back and the tailbone down and under. Breathe into the right hip flexor, relax the shoulders, and sink the hips with every exhale.
After five, breaths lower the hands to the inside of your front foot. Walk the foot to the outside of your mat so the pinky toe is at the very edge. Roll onto the outer edge of the front foot and keep the hands shoulder width apart. If you have more room to go, lower the elbows to the floor. Breathe into the hip and allow the knee to drop open.
Return the hands to the ground and slide your foot to the opposite side of the mat until it reaches your left wrist and slowly lower the knee down towards the right wrist, sinking the hips to the ground — or use a blanket or block if the hips won’t touch the ground. You control the intensity of this stretch with the angle of your front shin: The closer it is to the body the gentler it is, and the more parallel your shin is with the front of your mat the more intense it will be. Glance at the back leg to ensure it is extended straight back from the hip and rotated slightly inwards. Take 5 breaths with the torso upright, then gently walk the hands forward to your own degree, perhaps lowering onto the elbows or belly.
12. Ardha Matsyendrasana
Walk back onto the hands and lean heavily onto the right hip. Wrap the left leg around the front of your bent right knee and place the foot to the outside of the right thigh. Root down through the sit bones and place your left hand outside the left hip. Inhale as you extend the spine and the right arm towards the sky. Exhale as you hook the elbow to the outside of the right thigh and use the connection to help you twist to the left. Take five breaths to come to your deepest version of this pose. Take a counter twist afterwards by opening the chest to the right.
Cross the ankles and roll back onto hands and knees, then tuck the toes to come to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog). Repeat steps 7-11 on the left side.