Fitness Articles

Stretch Your Way to Healthier Hips With These 6 Yoga Poses

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Hips don’t lie, and when they’re inflamed, stiff or sore, you’ll know about it. Chronic hip pain can derail even the best of fitness intentions, making it difficult to not only stick to your workouts, but to even climb a flight of stairs. The most common culprit is arthritis, although hip pain can also be caused by fractures, tendinitis, bursitis, hernias or even gynecological issues in women.
 
While it’s always best to see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan, yoga can also be effective as a gentle, natural way to help alleviate hip pain at home. Yoga instructor Irena Miller shares some of her favorite poses to help open up tight, sore hips so you can get on the path to pain-free mobility.

Hero’s Pose


Why It Works:
 
This pose opens the front of the hips, releases tight thighs, opens up the ankles and releases tight back muscles.
 
How It’s Done:
 
Props can make this pose more accessible and fun. Have a blanket and yoga block nearby. If you don't have a block, a pillow or thick book can work.
 
Begin from a kneeling position. Keep your knees beneath your hips and place your feet a little wider than hip width, with your feet pointing directly behind you. Imagine a line going straight back from the center of your heel to your second toe. Place your hands at the top of your calves and press them back toward your feet as you slowly lower your bottom toward the floor. Settle your bottom snugly between your heels and place your hands on your thighs. Scoop your tailbone and sit tall. Take five breaths.
 
If this bothers the tops of your feet and ankles, place a blanket beneath the top of your foot and ankle. If your bottom does not come down to the floor or you feel too much stretch in your knees and thighs, place the block beneath your bottom.
 
If you are doing well and your bottom is on the floor, place your hands behind you and slowly lean back. Over time, you can lower to your elbows and eventually rest all the way down on the floor. This is a backbend, so your lower back should not touch the floor. As you extend your arms alongside your ears, move the sides of your ribs toward the floor and lengthen from your tailbone out toward your knees.


Image courtesy of Irena Miller
 

Eye of Needle


Why It Works:
 
This pose is effective for opening up tight outer hips.
 
How It’s Done:

Lying on your back with your legs bent, place your right ankle over your left thigh. Draw both legs toward your chest and hold on behind your left leg. Spread your toes and reach out through the balls of your feet. Press your left leg into your hands as you draw your legs in toward your chest. Take five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.


Image courtesy of Irena Miller
 

Fire Log Pose


Why It Works:
 
The fire log pose opens tight outer hips, and also stretches the piriformis and groin muscles.
 
How It’s Done:
 
Come to a seated position and stretch both legs forward. Turn your right leg out, bend it and place your right ankle just above your left knee. Spread your right toes and actively extend through the inner edge of your foot.  
 
Take a breath, and if your knees and hips feel okay, lean to your left a little, bend your left leg and bring your foot beneath your right knee. (To modify: If your right knee is much higher than your hip and you are experiencing major discomfort, keep your left leg stretched straight. You can also modify by drawing your left foot closer to your right hip, rather than keeping it beneath your right knee.)
 
Press your hands into the floor behind you to help you lengthen from your belly out through the crown of your head, and continue to spread the toes on both feet. You can stay in this position or bring your hands to your feet. Gently press your hands into the soles of your feet to help hug the thighs toward each other. Actively lengthen from your hips out to your knees. On an exhale, slowly fold forward.
 
Take five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.


Image courtesy of Irena Miller
 

Cow Face Pose


Why It Works:
 
This pose stretches the outer hips, thighs and ankles.
 
How It’s Done:

Begin from a seated position with both legs extended straight in front of you. Turn your right leg out slightly and cross it over your left thigh. Your knees should be somewhat stacked and the outer edge of your right foot should be resting on the floor.
 
If that feels okay, turn your left leg out slightly. Lean to the left and fold your left leg under the right. (To modify: You can always keep the bottom leg extended and only fold the top leg.)
 
Take five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.


Image courtesy of Irena Miller
 

Half Twist Pose


Why It Works:
 
The half twist pose increases flexibility in the hips, while also boosting energy, aiding digestion and relaxing tight shoulders.
 
How It’s Done:
 
Start seated and bend your left leg, lining the knee up so it points directly forward with your left foot next to your right hip. Cross your right leg over your left thigh and plant the four corners of your foot directly on the floor.
 
Plant your right hand behind your hip and press the fingers into the floor. Lengthen from your lower belly to the crown of your head and stretch your left arm to the sky. On an exhale, twist from the left ribs and bring your left elbow across your outer thigh. Your left fingertips should be pointing to the sky. Actively press your left arm and right leg against each other to help you deepen into the twist.
 
As you press your right fingers into the floor, bend your right arm an inch and broaden your upper back. Turn to look over your right shoulder.
 
(To modify: If your back is rounding, add some height by sitting on a thick folded blanket or a yoga block. You can also plant your foot in front of your shin, rather than across your thigh. You can also use your opposite hand across your outer thigh, rather than your elbow.)
 
Take five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.
 

Image courtesy of Irena Miller


Bound Angle


Why It Works:
 
This pose opens the inner thighs, groin and knees.
 
How It’s Done:
 
Starting in a seated position, bend both legs and bring the soles of your feet together. Press the fingers into the floor behind you and lengthen from your lower belly to the crown of your head.
 
As you press the four corners of your feet together, momentarily press the pinky toe side of your foot down toward the mat and lift your heels a ¼ of an inch off the floor. This will rotate your inner thighs toward the floor, which will broaden and open your hips. Slowly lower your heels back down to the floor.
 
Next, press your fingers down into the floor behind your hips, tighten your lower belly, open the inner edges of your feet and lengthen from your hips out to your knees.
 
(To modify: If your back is rounding and your knees are higher than your hips, fold a blanket until it is two or three inches high and sit on the edge of it.)
 
Take five to 10 breaths.
 

Image courtesy of Irena Miller

Again, if your hip pain is severe or persisting, it’s always best to see a doctor for an official diagnosis and treatment -- but in the meantime, targeted yoga poses can help to soothe stiffness and soreness.

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About The Author

Melissa Rudy Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.