I’ve talked before about the importance of mobility and flexibility throughout the body. But today, we are going to talk about the importance of maintaining flexibility in your hips, and the best hip stretches you can do to counteract the damage of sitting.
In today’s world, most of us sit at a desk all day, and sitting for extended periods every single day will inevitably create tight hips and impair mobility.
Dangers of Tight Hips:
- Muscle Imbalances – The front of your hips, your hip flexors, are the muscles that will tighten and shorten while you are sitting for hours each day. While you are sitting, the back of your hips, your glutes and your hip extensors, are being overstretched. But just because they are being tightened and stretched respectively, doesn’t benefit either of them. They are also being weakened because of the lack of use of each muscle group.
- Back Pain – With overstretched glutes and hip extensors and tight hip flexors, your pelvis will start to be pulled out of place into a forward, unnatural tilt. This tilt and tight muscles will also start to pull at the muscles in the lower back, one of the most common complaints from those with severely tight hips.
- Poor Balance and Posture – Because the hip flexor is a major stabilizer of the pelvis, when the hip flexors are weak, it can impair your balance as well as cause poor posture.
Taking time each day to stretch out your hips can help counteract the hours you spend sitting at a desk. Not to mention, increasing mobility in your hips can also help increase your strength and power in your workouts.
Yoga tends be be one of the most popular ways for individuals to gain flexibility in their hips, due to the numerous hip-opening poses. These poses are some of the best hip openers you will see in many yoga classes.
Thread the Needle Pose
Lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Cross your RIGHT ankle over your LEFT knee as if making a figure “4”. Keeping your hips grounded and your lower back pressing into the mat, pull the LEFT knee in towards the chest, threading your RIGHT hand between your legs.
Clasp your hands underneath your LEFT knee to help pull the knee deeper into the stretch. Focus on keeping the RIGHT knee open to really stretch the hip. Breathe deeply and hold for at least 30 seconds on each side.
Happy Baby Pose
Lay on your back on your mat and pull your knees to your chest. Place your hands on the inside arches of your feet and open your knees wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back pressed into the mat as much as possible, press your feet into hands while pulling down on feet, creating resistance. Breathe deeply and hold for at least 30 seconds.
Sit tall on your mat with your knees bent, and hands by your side on the mat. Bring the soles of your feet together and allow the knees to open out to the side. Use your leg muscles to open the knees and bring them closer to the floor.
You should feel the stretch in the inner thighs. To deepen the hip stretch, you can pull the feet closer in towards you, or you can fold forward and walk your hands out in front of you. Hold the pose for 30 seconds.
This pose is pretty intense, so make sure you don’t suffer any injuries in your knees or ankles. To get into the pose, get on all fours, with hands under your shoulders and your knees on your mat, or even blankets for more padding.
Slowly and gently, widen your knees until you feel a comfortable stretch in your inner thighs. Be sure to keep your ankles in line with your knees, and your feet and calves grounded the entire time. If you’re able to, lower down to your forearms. Hold for at least 30 seconds.
Half Pigeon Pose
The best way to get into this position is to start in a runner’s lunge with your RIGHT foot forward and both hands on the mat on either side of your front foot. With most of the weight in your hands, slide your front foot over towards your LEFT hand, and lower the knee over to the RIGHT.
Place the outside of your RIGHT calf on the mat so that it is parallel to the front of your mat. Slowly lower your back knee and shin to the floor. Square your hips as much as possible to the front of the mat. For a more moderate stretch, keep your arms straight and hands flat on the floor.
To increase the stretch, you can lower down to your forearms, or even lower all the way down to lay over your front leg. You should feel the stretch on the outside of the RIGHT hip and in the glute. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. (If this pose feels too uncomfortable or hurts, stick with Thread the Needle.)
Double Pigeon Pose
Sit on your mat in a crossed-leg position with your LEFT leg crossed in front. Using your arms to help move to the pose, grab your LEFT ankle and gently pull the ankle to place it on top of the RIGHT knee. The shins should now be stacked with the LEFT leg on top.
If your hips are really tight, your right knee may be lifted up off the floor a bit, but as your hips open more, your knee will eventually lower. To intensify the pose, you can walk your hands forward slightly to get deeper into the stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.
Start in a runner’s lunge with your RIGHT foot forward and your hands on the mat on either side of your front foot. Lower your back knee and shin to the floor and carefully lift your chest and your arms up, resting your hands on your front thigh.
Be sure to keep the abdominals engaged and don’t allow the back to arch (it will take away from the stretch). To increase the stretch, reach the arms overhead, and very slightly lean forward, again making sure to not to arch the lower back. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Start in your runner’s lunge again, this time keeping the knee raised. Slowly bring the hands off the mat, first bringing them to the front thigh. Allow the hips to sink lower as you square your hips to the front of your mat.
Bring the arms up and overhead as you engage the abdominals. Focus on lengthening through the back leg and continue sinking and squaring off the hips to deepen the stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds on each side.
Adding one, some, or all of these yoga poses to your daily workout routine can help improve and maintain flexible and healthy hips. You’ll feel more mobile and may even notice yourself gaining strength in your hips and legs.
(Related: The Perfect Morning Stretching Routine)