Best Yoga Stretches for Tight Hips
About 3 years ago, my current, life-saver-routine of yoga, stretching + foam rolling were pretty much non-existent. I would stretch here & there post workout but definitely not to the point that actually had any kind of benefit to my muscles and soft tissues. Most days, I’d work out hard and just run out the gym in a hurry. Yoga was something that I had tried only a handful of times and foam rolling my life away, as I do now, was something I never made time for.
Enter, debilitating pain in my glutes, quads & IT bands – particularly in my left leg – that literally had me limping around, tossing & turning in pain at night + what’s even worse, no working out. This had me scared to death given my family history x the fact that my dad had just undergone a double hip replacement just months prior to the onset of my pain. I went to see my dad’s amazing hip surgeon, Dr. Mauerhan and had all kinds of x-rays taken to see what the heck was going on with me.
Doctors orders? Take it easy, change up your workouts, more stretching, etc… WHAT?! Yep. Years of ridiculous sprints, squats, lunges & plyo’s combined with barely-there stretching had finally caught up with me.
So began my love affair with yoga. I went to Y2, took a few classes and then signed up for the yoga deal of my lifetime – $40 for 30 days of unlimited yoga. Let me tell you, I took FULL advantage of this. I was going to yoga 6 days a week and doubling on several of those days. My hips and legs had never felt so good. I still struggle with tight hips and legs on a weekly (if not daily) basis, but nothing even close to what I experienced a few years ago. These are some of my go-to hip openers to help keep my hips feeling open & loose, which in turn improves my performance but more importantly, prevents injury.
Pigeon is my personal favorite. Aside from coming into pigeon at the end of a yoga practice, I’ll sit in this stretch several times a week after I finish up a gym workout.
Back leg extends long behind you, toes untucked, work the shin as parallel to the top of your mat as possible. Effort to square hips, pressing back into the hip of the front leg and pointing the opposite hip point down towards the mat, feeling a stretch into the hip flexor. Stay here or for a deeper stretch, you can work your way down to the floor…
Coming down to forearms or working your chest down towards the floor will give a deeper, more intense stretch, working into the piriformis.
Another amazing hip opener. When pigeon just won’t do, double pigeon will get those hips talking to ya! You want to stack your shins as best as you can, keep your feet slightly flexed towards the shins. For many, this is plenty and you’ll stay seated with shins stacked.
If your able to, fold forward, working into the hips further. Hinging from the hips, try to maintain a long spine, reaching your chest forward. No pain/pressure in the knees.
Modified Pigeon Pose
If Double & Half Pigeon are both too much for you and/or you feel pain or pressure in the knees, you can always modify with these two hip stretches taken either seated or on your back.
Modified Pigeon Pose: Seated
Cross ankle over opposite knee and slide your booty towards your heel as close as you can. The closer you get your booty to your heel, the more you’ll feel a stretch in your hip. Again, keeping toes pulled toward your shin and actively push your knee outward to get a better stretch in the hip.
And lying on your back…
Pretty much the same set up as seated – cross ankle over knee, reach hands thru, grabbing the back of your thigh and gently pull in towards your chest until you feel a good stretch.
You can see here, I’m using my right arm/elbow to push my knee out to facilitate a better stretch in the hip.
Hope you’ve found this helpful! What stretches and techniques do you use to help keep your hips and legs feeling their best?