My hips feel so loose today,” ummm … said no one ever!
I went to a yoga class over the holidays. As is common practice, the teacher asked if there was anything we wanted to work on. The resounding chorus was an appeal for hip openers.
You have no doubt heard this request. Or maybe you have been the requester yourself.
So what’s up with this sudden wave of tight hips? It’s not that surprising when you consider our modern lifestyle. We spend a lot of time sitting – at desks, in the car, in front of the computer.
When you’re seated, the muscles of your hip flexors are contracted. This constant state of flexion may cause these muscles to shorten. This limits your ability to fully extend them. In other words, you lose flexibility and mobility in the hips. This in turn can lead to low back problems.
The hips are also home to the second (sacral) chakra. This energy center governs feeling and emotion, creativity and sexuality. We tend to hold a lot in our hips. I have heard them described as the “junk drawer for your feelings.”
Time to de-clutter!
Yoga poses that focus on stretching the muscles and connective tissue in the hips:
- Help ease low back discomfort
- Improve your gait
- Improve your posture
- Release negative emotions
- Support healing and transformation
Below is a short yin sequence that focuses on the hips and low back.
Go gently and listen to your body. You do not want to feel any pain. Hips can be very vulnerable. Paul Grilley says that the power of Yin yoga is in time, not effort. Go into the pose as best as you can and then wait patiently.
Yin Yoga for Hips and Low Back
(about 30 minutes)
Hold each pose for 3-5 minutes. I have highlighted the target area (where you should feel it) for each pose. This is far more important than how the posture looks. I have also suggested a mantra or affirmation that you can repeat to yourself. I find this helps with focus especially in longer held postures.
1. Diamond – Hold 5 minutes
Sit on the floor and bring the bottoms of your feet together. They should be about a foot or more out from your groin (like Butterfly pose your but feet are further out). Inhale and lengthen your spine, lifting the crown of your head towards the ceiling. Exhale and fold forward. In this version allow your spine to round. Support your forehead with a block or stack of blankets so your neck can relax completely.
Target area: low back and groin
Mantra: I am flexible
Photo: Diamond Pose with head supported
2. Shoelace (Cow Face legs)– Hold 3 minutes on each side
Begin by kneeling on all fours (table top position). Place one knee behind the other and sit back between your heels. Sit on a bolster or block if your hips are tight. Remain upright or fold forward. Repeat on the other side.
Target area: hip
Mantra: I am free
Video: How to do Shoelace Pose
3. Sleeping Swan– Hold 3 minutes on each side
Place your right knee behind your the right wrist. Gently stretch your left leg out behind you. Allow your hips to sink towards the mat. Start with your torso upright. Take a breath in, exhale and gently fold forward. Rest on your forearms. As you go deeper, you might eventually come to rest your forehead on the floor. For a more restorative version, place a bolster beneath your torso turning your head to one side.
Repeat on the other side starting with your left knee behind your left wrist.
Target area: hip and low back
Mantra: I am safe
4. Twisted Roots– Hold 3 minutes on each side
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on floor, knees bent. Let your knees gently fall to one side. You can place a pillow or blanket under your knees for support. Stretch your arms out to the side in a t-shape or bent at the elbows (cactus arms). If comfortable, turn your head in the opposite direction of you knees. Repeat on the other side.
Target area: spine
Mantra: Letting go
5. Pentacle – Hold 5 minutes (or more)
Pentacle is like Savasana but more spacious! Relax on your back. Stretch your legs and arms out wide in a star shape, palms up. Relax into your mat. A bolster under your knees may help if you have any discomfort in your low back.
Mantra: So hum (Sanskrit for “I am that”)
I hope you get a chance to try out this little yoga sequence. Let me know if it helps with those pesky tight hips!
Photo courtesy of Adam Baylor