We love, love, love to stretch our hips in yoga. Pigeon Pose — oh yeah. Lizard — yep. Thread the Needle — mmmhmmm. But sometimes we focus on how good opening the outer hips feels to the exclusion of creating strength and stability in the support muscles. Similarly, we focus on the part of our hips that screams the loudest (outer hips) while neglecting another tight area that’s quieter (hip flexors).
On this episode, Jason maps out three ways to create balance in the complex network of the hips. After recording this episode, I realized that it’s a metaphor for life: We want to stay open and flexible. And this requires time and attention. But we also need to focus on stability, strength, and grounding. When we find the right subtle balance, we feel happier and more free.
* Note: We refer to a quad opener in the episode, which is sometimes called Twisted Monkey. Jason calls it Low Lunge Quad Stretch. I’ve put the illustration below the player so you can see it and incorporate it into your practice!
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Before jetting off on his most recent trip to Hong Kong, I sat with Jason to answer more listener-submitted questions. This time we just happened to get questions that all centered around the lower body. So, we talk about:
* How to best work with tight hamstrings?
* How to best recover when your hamstring has been overstretched?
* How to find stability and strengthen the low back, quadratus lomborum (QL), and sacrum after pregnancy?
* What’s up with hearing about yogis having hip replacements? How can you keep your hips safe in yoga?
WRITE A REVIEW If you like the podcast, please leave a review or rating on iTunes! I’m learning that it really does help others find it and it helps me to know which episodes resonate with you! You can also follow me on Twitter @yogalandpodcast.
First, a quick, shameless plug: I’ve just announced the dates and location for my 2017 Advanced Teacher Trainings. You can check here for more information and register at LoveStory Yoga. OK, now onto the regularly scheduled program.
These are, hands down, my favorite 15 poses for opening the hips.
Creating a balanced, effective hip-opening sequence is simple if you know how the hip muscles are laid out. When you don’t have for a map for their hips, you’re at a higher risk for overstretching your hamstrings and external rotators compared to your hip flexors and adductors. Teachers make this mistake in their sequencing regularly and, as a result, hamstring insertion injuries are one of the most prevalent injuries in modern yoga.
If you haven’t read them already, start with Yoga and Your Hips, Part I and Part II . The model of the “5 Muscular Compartments of Your Hips” in Parts I & II is the same approach that I take when I teach anatomy live and online. (And If you want to learn even more about yoga anatomy and yoga sequencing, you can join one of my ongoing e-courses.)
The sequence here contains my three of favorite postures for each compartment of your hip. I practice this sequence several times a week and I still love the feeling of space and mobility it gives me. I hope it helps you feel good in your body!
One quick thing before the sequence breakdown: If you’d like to be among the first to know about our new posts, sign up for our newsletter. As a thank you, we’ll send you a free arm balance guide, plus 5 sequences that are not on the blog!
Hip Compartment #1: Hip Flexors
Pose 1: Anjaneyasana
Keep your back thigh vertical here. Why? Because keeping your back thigh vertical and stacking your pelvis and spine directly over your thigh helps stretch your quadriceps and hip flexors.
Pose 2: Anjaneyasana
Lower your hips forward and down to isolate and stretch your hip flexors, especially your rectus femoris.
Pose 3: Anjaneyasana
Leaning into the side bend from Anjaneyasana helps stretch your obliques and quadratus lumborum along with your hip flexors.
Hip Compartment #2: Adductors
Pose 1: Malasana
Malasana provides a thorough, inner leg stretch while also flexing the knees and hips deeply.
Pose 2: Prasarita Padottanasana with bent knee
Bending one knee and pressing your forearm against your thigh allows you to create a deep, sustained stretch on the entire adductor group.
Pose 3: Bound Side Angle
The action of binding in this posture provides you with a shoulder opener in addition to the adductor stretch.
Hip Compartment #3: Hamstrings
Pose 1: Parsvottanasana
This foundational standing pose allows you to focus on stretching one set of hamstrings at a time. This may be more effective for students with tight hamstrings than stretching both sets of hamstrings at time like you do in Uttanasana.
Pose 2: Prasarita Padottanasana
In addition to stretching your hamstrings, this pose also stretches your adductors.
Pose 3: Standing Split / Warrior III Hybrid
While similar to Parsvottanasana, this one-legged standing posture provides a deep, isolated hamstring stretch.
Hip Compartment #4: External Rotators
Pose 1: Pigeon Pose
This bittersweet posture uses the weight of your entire body to stretch your external rotators.
Pose 2: Ankle-to-Knee
Placing one ankle on the opposite inner knee externally rotates your thighs even more deeply than Pigeon Pose.
Pose 3: Reclined Pigeon
Clasping your leg and reclining in Pigeon Pose stretches your glutes, external rotators, and abductors.
Hip Compartment #5: Abductors
Pose 1: Reclined Gomukhasana
Reclining in Gomukhasana allows your entire body to relax and settle, while providing you with a deep abductor stretch.
Pose 2: Gomukhasana
This classic seated posture provides efficient leverage for opening your abductors.
Pose 3: Gomukhasana with sidebend
Including a sidebend in this posture gives you a deep abductor stretch while also releasing tension in your obliques and quadratus lumborum.