One of the most requested areas of focus in yoga classes is the hips. Notorious for being a window to our emotions, our hips can also inform us whether we have been sitting too long or cycling too hard in spin class. There is a wide range of movement in the hip; and this sequence will help open that ball-and-socket joint up from all directions, with the goal of moving stored energy upward and outward. End with Savasana to soak up all the benefits of this deep hip work.
Benefits: This low lunge pose stretches the hip flexors—the muscle group found deep beneath the hip crease that allows us to lift our legs and bend at the waist.
Step by Step: From Standing Forward Bend, step the left foot back and lower the left knee down to the floor. Bend the right (front) knee to a 90-degree angle, aligning the knee over the ankle. Inhale to reach the arms overhead with the fingertips extending upward. Slowly shift your gaze upward and remain here for five breaths. Slowly return back to Standing Forward Bend and repeat with the left leg forward.
Benefits: This pose has another name that I personally love: Fiery Angle pose. And yes, this posture can feel extremely fiery, since it gets into the inner hips and groin, a common area of fierce tension for many people.
Step by Step: Start by standing in Mountain pose at the top of your mat. Step your right foot back about 3-4 feet, and turn your torso to the right. Turn both left and right toes outward, so you’re in a wide-legged stance with your feet pointing out. Bend into the knees and drop your hips down to knee-height. Extend your arms to shoulder-height and bend at the elbows, turning your fingers up toward the ceiling. Make sure your knees and elbows are bent at 90-degree angles. Stay here for 10 breaths, breathing deeply. Then slowly straighten your legs and step back to standing at the top of your mat.
Benefits: Gomukhasana is an intense stretch that targets the external hip, along with the ankle and knee joints. This deep hip stretch has a few stages, so there are modifications for different levels. Ease your way into the pose to find the variation that’s best for you.
Step by Step: Start in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you. Cross your right leg over your left, stacking the knees on top of each other. This is stage one. Slowly fold forward here and feel out your stretch. If you don’t feel much sensation, bend the left knee underneath you. Then restack the knees so they are lined up (one on top of the other), the right foot is outside the left hip, and vice versa. Slowly fold forward here, walking your fingertips out in front of you. Ease into the stretch using your breath, and once you hit your edge, stay for five to 10 breaths. Gently walk your hands back toward your hips until your spine is straight. Unwind the legs and switch sides.
Sanskrit: Supta Baddha Konasana
Benefits: This restorative yoga pose stretches the inner thighs and groin. When first starting this pose, you can place blocks underneath the thighs to lessen the stretch and avoid strain.
Step by Step: Start seated in Baddha Konasana pose with the soles of your feet together and knees apart, making a diamond shape with your lower body. Slowly lower your back down onto the mat. Extend your arms along the sides of your body and turn the palms to face up. Stay here for up to a minute, slowly breathing deeply in and out through your nose.
Benefits: This reclining pose opens the hips and stretches the top of the thighs. It’s a great way to prepare your body for deeper hip openers or to make your hips comfortable before moving into Savasana.
Step by Step: Start lying down on your back. Draw your right knee into your chest and bend the knee to a 90 degree angle, so the sole of your right foot faces up toward the ceiling. Reach your right hand toward the right foot, gripping from the outside of the foot, and allow your knee to drop down toward the floor. Don’t pull the leg down but instead, use your breath to open up the hip joint and relax your body down onto the mat. Stay here for 10 breaths; gently release the right leg and switch sides.