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Yoga and Your Hips, Part III

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.

Jason Crandell Hip Sequence

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A Yoga Hack to Get You Through an Emotional Holiday

Upavistha Konasana Andrea Ferretti
The holidays are a mixed bag for most. They’re so often fraught with memory and expectation that it’s as though the frequency of our daily unconscious emotions get turned up to 11. We’re surrounded by messages that it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.” But if you’re nursing heartbreak or confused by your family dynamics or exhausted by your intense workplace, those messages can just amplify your loneliness and anxiety.

I have a little holiday “hack” I’ve used for years and it’s this: Do your yoga practice regularly throughout your holiday season with the idea of creating “good space” for yourself.

It was Richard Rosen who sparked this idea of creating good space through yoga practice. He introduced me to the translation of sukha as “good space” – su meaning good and kha meaning space.

Think of it this way: We have this yoga practice where we stretch, breathe, and move life force to the furthest corners of our body in order to create “good space” physically. You can take that physical space you’ve created and hold onto it. You can think of this space as an inner alter – a place within you that’s solid and sacred and totally at ease. I imagine my inner alter lives around my heart and expands with every conscious breath.

Your inner “good space” doesn’t get penetrated by petty conflicts, old grievances, by self-criticism or even by loneliness. It’s your “true Self,” if you will – it’s joyful, omniscient, and full of potential. When you create this space within yourself, you can remind yourself of it if you’re sad or when you’re faced with a difficult moment. Instead of snapping like a twig when your Uncle complains that there’s no cranberry sauce, you can access a part of you – even the teeniest, tiniest part – that’s still flexible and flowing like a big, willowy branch. You can breathe into it, feel it, and know that you can capably manage whatever you’re feeling or facing without losing your true Self.

Throughout the holiday season, revisit this good space often. On days when you can’t do a full asana practice or sit, revisit the space through your breath, or while you’re on the train, or while you’re doing the dishes. Because no matter what you’ve been through or where you’ve come from, you are alive right now and you’re allowed to feel happy, full, complete.

Here’s a sequence that Jason created to help you create your holiday “good space.” It mobilizes the hips and is perfect when you don’t have time for a full 60- or 90-minute practice. Stay for 5-10 breaths in each pose and do both sides before moving onto each pose in the sequence.

good-space-sequence

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Peak Pose Sequence: Build Your Vasisthasana (Side Plank)

Vasisthasana
In order to prepare your body for Vasisthasana, you need to open your hamstrings, adductors (inner leg muscles) and outer-hips. It’s also a good idea to awaken your core and learn how to work your shoulders safely in the posture.

Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to the peak pose sequence above:

Poses 1-2: Honestly, I love to start practice on my back—especially when I’m going to tackle demanding postures later on. Supta Padangusthasana is the perfect way to settle in, slow down, and open the hamstrings and adductors.

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Essential Sequence: Quick Hip Openers

This sequence focuses on stretching the muscles around the whole circumference of the hip joint. It’s great for relieving tension that can accumulate from long periods of sitting or standing and it’s also incredibly grounding. I like to do it after traveling or just at the end of a long, intense day. Spend 5-10 breaths in each pose (or longer if you’d like) and do both sides before moving to the next pose.

You’ll notice that the sequence ends with Lotus Pose. Lotus is a beautiful pose and one that many of us pine for. But I promise you that doing Lotus does not make you a better person or a better yogi and, if you force your way into the pose, you will feel physically terrible afterward. Surely this is not your goal after asana practice! My point is, if you are naturally very open or are familiar with the pose, feel free to finish with Lotus. If not, then it’s just as valuable to end in Ardha Padmasana (Half Lotus) or with your legs crossed in Sukhasana (Easy Pose) and your attention drawn inward. (And for more hip opening, here’s a full sequence that specifically focuses on building up to Lotus.)

quick hip opening yoga sequence

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{illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

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Essential Sequence: 30-Minute Whole Body Sequence

There are days when we want to work toward a peak pose, and there are other days when we’re not sure what to do with our bodies. On those days, I always find it’s most helpful to do an all-around balanced practice: One that stretches and strengthens all the different regions of the body, that works the front body, back, and side body, and that allows me to turn upside down, even if only for a 5-10 breaths.

Not only are these types of sequences physically balancing, they are often incredibly soothing to the nervous system. To encourage this effect, I invite you to spread your attention evenly throughout your whole body as you do each pose in the sequence below. Instead of focusing on the part of your body that feels the biggest sensation or stretch — which, by the way, can be a very valuable technique for focusing attention during asana practice — try to give all the different parts and pieces of the pose the same amount of attention. Let the shapes of the poses spark genuine curiosity in you — check in to what the back leg is doing in Warrior II or what the fingers are doing in Triangle Pose. By cultivating this type of attention, you’ll create a wonderful sense of soothing equanimity in your attention, in your nervous system, and in your poses.

Whole Body Yoga Sequence

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{illustrations by MCKIBILLO}

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