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If your hips feel tight, you’re far from alone. Many of us have tight hip flexors due to sitting a lot and for other reasons. Tightness here can cause pain, limit your mobility, make you more prone to injury, and reduce your athletic performance.
The good news is that you can do something about it. Spend a little time daily stretching out the hips with strategic yoga poses and you’ll soon stretch and lengthen them.
First of all, what are your hip flexors? The hip flexors are muscles at the front of the hip. They allow you to move your leg up and toward your body. Every time you walk or run, you use these muscles to lift the legs up. The major muscles of the hip flexors are the iliacus and the psoas muscle, collectively known as the iliopsoas.
If you have to ask, consider yourself lucky. Many people feel their tight hip flexors throughout the day. This tightness across the front of the hips can feel uncomfortable or even painful and limit your mobility.
To test the flexibility of your hip flexors, find a sturdy surface you can lie down on. It should be tall enough that when on your back with your knees at the edge and lower legs hanging over, your feet don’t touch the ground.
Pull one leg up to your chest and hold it there. Let the other leg relax downward. If that relaxed leg doesn’t go down all the way to the surface, you have a tight hip flexor. You can test both sides.
Yoga is great for improving flexibility throughout your body. Here’s how to incorporate yoga into your routine to build flexibility and mobility.
You can do flexibility tests to determine how stiff and inflexible your hip flexors are, but if you sit for most of the day, it’s pretty much guaranteed. Tight hips have become epidemic with most people sitting long hours at a desk.
They also tighten up if you walk or run a lot or do any sport that requires you bring your knee up toward the chest. This motion strengthens but also shortens and tightens the hip flexor muscles. Running and cycling are particularly good at tightening these muscles.
Do you have to sit most of the day at work? Here’s how yoga can help combat a too much sitting.
Tight hip flexors are problematic because they cause hip pain and discomfort; they limit your ability to move your hips; and, they increase injury risk.
By stretching and lengthening these muscles, you’ll get relief, enjoy more flexibility and hip mobility, and improve your day-to-day functional movements. More mobile and flexible hips also help you perform better in sports or when working out.
The hips are the foundation of so many movements. By opening them up, you’ll feel the difference in nearly everything you do. These yoga poses will help.
This is a simple and easy hip opener yoga pose. It’s a gentle hip stretch that you can ease into or progress to make more challenging. It’s also a good starting point for anyone new to yoga.
Sit on a mat on the ground with a straight spine, head up and shoulders down and relaxed. Bend your knees to bring the soles of your feet together in front of you. You should feel a stretch immediately at the front of the hips and the inner thighs.
If you’re very tight, your knees will be up high. As you get more flexible, you can begin to lower your knees closer to the floor.
For a more intense stretch than butterfly offers, try reclined bound angle. Place your legs and feet in the same position as in butterfly pose but while lying on your back. You should feel more of a stretch in the hip flexors, especially if you have someone to gently press down on your knees.
Need a deeper stretch? Considering using a yoga block. Learn about the top benefits of using yoga props for both beginner and advanced students.
To do frog pose, start on your hands and knees. Lower down onto your forearms with your palms pressed into the floor in front of you and forearms parallel to each other. Move your knees outward with your hips and chest elevated above the floor. Press your hips downward to feel a stretch in the hip flexors.
Focus on each side of your hips at a time with this pose. In a lunge position with the right leg forward and bent at the knee, lower the left knee and gently place it on the floor. Your toes should be pointed backward with the tops of your feet on the mat.
Keeping your right knee over the foot to avoid hyperextending it, lean forward at the hips. Your trunk and spine should remain straight and upright. Lift your arms straight over your head. Do not bend forward. Lean into it as you feel a stretch across the front of the hips. Repeat on the other side with the left leg forward.
You can make low lunge a little more challenging by progressing to crescent pose. From a low lunge position, lift up onto the toes of the back foot. Continue to lean forward to get the stretch across your hips as you reach your arms up and back, arching the spine.
This is a little challenging, so you may need to work up to it or use some modifications. Camel pose gives you a good stretch across the hip flexors, quads, and abdomen while also opening up the chest and the front of the shoulders. Bow pose provides a similar stretch and challenge.
Start in a kneeling position with your knees about hip-width apart. Press the tops of your feet and shins into the mat. Place your hands on your hips and lift your chest. Rotate your elbows toward each other. Release your hands and reach them back toward your feet. Rest your hands on your heels and continue to lift and open your chest and shoulders. Your spine should be curved backwards. Allow your head to follow as you look up.
To modify this as you work up to full camel pose, place blocks by your feet. You can hold on to these instead of your heels for a less intense stretch.
More advanced yoga practitioners can get a good hip flexor stretch from dancer’s pose (natarajasana). Start in mountain pose, standing evenly on both feet. Gently bend the left knee and lift the left foot toward the left buttock.
Hold onto the outside of your left foot with your left hand, while the right foot remains straight and strong. Lift your right arm forward and up, in line with your ear. Repeat on the other side.
This pose provides a good stretch for the hip flexors while also building balance and strength in the legs, glutes, and core.
This is a nice, relaxing stretch to end with when working on hips. Lie on your back and pull your knees toward your chest. Hold on to the outside of each foot with the respective hand. Let your feet and knees fall out to either side of the body. Don’t force the stretch. Just let gravity do the work.
Learn More: 11 Best Restorative Yoga Poses and Why They Work
A regular yoga practice is good for the body and mind. Incorporate it into your routine to enjoy looser hips, overall greater flexibility, improved strength, and healthy stress relief.
Check out the ISSA Yoga & Wellness Academy’s Yoga Alliance approved 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training course if you are interested in taking your practice to the next level or if you are thinking of becoming an instructor. It’s great for both personal and professional development. Upon completion, you’re eligible to become a 200-hour RYT and begin teaching!