I had a teacher once tell me that the hips were the ‘junk drawer’ of the body. They store all sorts of emotions, trauma and anything you are unconsciously holding on to. That’s why if you fully surrender into a hip opener, all the built-up emotions can release. I hear stories of people in classes bursting out crying while in a deep hip pose. They were experiencing that release.
Even though I have never experienced that release, I have noticed during the day that I can be slightly more emotional than normal after a particularly hip-focussed class.
Below are five poses that will help your hips find that release: emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. It may not happen each time you practice, but you are helping to release that stored, pent-up anxiety and emotion. If you sit at a desk all day, this too helps unstick the hips. Trust me, I know the pains of sitting in a desk all day and I crave my hip openers after a long day at the office!
Happy Hips Practice
Warm up with about three to five Iyengar Sun Salutations to get those hips warm and ready for opening! It’s a good idea to set the mood with Iyengar, since this style has you holding poses longer to feel the full effect and release of poses. So grab your props and let’s get to work!
1. Frog Pose (Mandukāsana)
- Starting on all fours, walk your knees apart from one another as far as they will comfortably allow. There should be no straining, or torqueing, your knees or hips. Flex your feet strongly and bring the inside edges of your feet to touch the mat. The angle in both the knees and ankles should be no greater than 90 degrees.
- If this position is comfortable, lower down to your forearms. Keep the back of your neck long, with your gaze pointing down. Relax your belly and soften your heart, so your shoulder blades draw towards one another. Now, gently push your hips back and downwards.
- Hold here for 2-5 minutes.
Modifications: If you have sensitive knees, place blankets underneath. To make this more restorative, place a bolster and blankets underneath the torso.
2. Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhāsana)
- From Downward Facing Dog Pose, step your right foot forwards between your hands. Heel-toe your foot towards the edge of your mat, so that your foot is slightly wider than your shoulders. Let your hips grow heavy, so that they settle forwards and down.
- Begin to walk your hands forwards until you are able to come down on to your forearms. Extend your heart forward, lengthening the spine. Try to soften the heart and draw the shoulder blades together, taking the rounding out of your back. Keep your right knee hugging towards your midline to get into the inner hip and thigh area of your right leg.
- Hold here for 2-5 minutes before switching sides
Modifications: Use a block under the forearms or hands. If you have sensitive knees, place a blanket underneath.
3. Warrior 2 (Vīrabhadrāsana II)
- Start standing with your feet parallel and one leg-length apart. Rotate your left foot out 90 degrees and your right foot in slightly, so your left heel is lined up with the arch of the right foot. Bend your front knee, bringing your thigh parallel to the floor with your knee over your heel.
- Keep your torso directly over your neutral pelvis. Relax your lower back and keep your front ribs in. Keeping your inner elbows straight, reach actively with your arms to raise them parallel to the floor. Gaze over your front fingertips.
- Hold for 2-3 minutes before repeating on the opposite side.
4. Fire Log Pose (Agnistambhāsana)
- Sit on your mat with your knees bent in front of you, feet flat on the floor and palms pressing into the earth behind you. Lean back onto your hands, releasing your shoulders down your back. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, until you make a figure four shape with your legs. Keep your right foot flexed and draw your right knee away from you until you feel a stretch in your right hip.
- Wiggle or heel-toe your left foot towards the right. Walk your hands slightly forward, so that you have enough room to sit up straight and stack your legs. Line up the ankle or side of your right foot over your left knee, and your right knee over your left ankle, or side of the foot. Try to make your shins parallel to each other, with the right stacked directly over the left. Breathe here, or walk your hands forwards and fall over your legs.
- Hold for 1 minute or more, and then uncross your legs to come out of the pose. Repeat on the opposite side.
Modification: If this is uncomfortable for you, prop yourself up on either blankets, bolster, or blocks.
5. Wide-Angle Seated Forward Fold (Upavistha Konāsana)
- Begin seated, with your legs open wide in a V shape. Flex your feet so that your knees and toes point straight up. Keep your pelvis rooted to the floor. Inhale and lengthen your spine. Exhale, keep your spine long, and walk your hands sideways along your legs without rounding your back. Grab hold of your big toes and fold forward.
- Hold for 3-5 minutes
Modification: If this is uncomfortable for you, prop yourself up on either blankets, bolster, or blocks. Use a strap if you cannot reach your toes.
Relax Out Of It
Once you feel content with your practice, make sure you don’t skip Śavāsana! Did you feel a shift in your body after your practice? Did you have any emotions, feelings, or memories surface? Write them down in your journal or share them with us in the comments below! There are so many hip opening poses, which ones are your favorite?