Tight hips seem to be a common problem for almost everybody — from runners to cyclists, from deskbound bloggers to dancers. Give this area a little extra love with this sequence of eight hip-opening stretches to increase your flexibility, reduce discomfort, and prevent injury. Try the series in the order listed here, or pick your favorites to incorporate into your workout routine.
This calming hip opener also stretches your lower back.
- Begin lying flat on your back. Bend both knees, and hold the outside edges of your flexed feet with your hands. Keep your arms on the outsides of your legs.
- Gently use your upper-body strength to equally press both knees to the floor below your armpits. Try not to tense your shoulders or chest, but keep everything relaxed.
- Stay here for five deep breaths.
Extended Wide Squat
This relaxing stretch targets both hips at once while opening up your lower back.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Bend your knees, and lower your hips down toward the ground. If your heels don’t touch the ground, roll up a towel or the back of your mat, and place it under your heels for support.
- Bring your palms together at your heart center, and firmly press your elbows against the inside of your knees. This will help to open your hips even further.
- After five breaths, release the hands to the floor and walk them away from your feet to increase the stretch in the hips and lower back. Hold for another five breaths.
The hip flexors, the muscles at the front of the hip, can become extremely tight just from sitting. This intense stretch targets that area as well as the outer hips.
- Come into a lunge position with your right knee forward. Lower your left knee to the floor, and rest your hands on the ground under your shoulders.
- Slowly lower your right knee to the right so you’re resting on the outside of your right flexed foot. Keep your arms straight, pressing your chest forward to increase the stretch.
- Hold like this for five breaths, and then repeat on the left side.
To stretch your hips, hamstrings, and inner thighs, do a Wide-Legged Split.
- From Wide Squat, place your hands on the floor in front of you and inch your feet apart, making sure to keep your heels wider than your toes. Keep the soles of your feet flat on the ground at all times to protect your knees.
- As your hips get lower, you can prop yourself up with your forearms, and then move down to your shoulders (as shown). If your shoulders are on the ground, turn your head to the side, and rest your cheek on the ground so you don’t bruise your chin.
- Stay here for five deep breaths, then walk your feet back together. If this pose is a bit more stretch than you can muster, try the seated straddle stretch.
Stretch both hips at the same time with Butterfly pose.
- Sit on the ground, bend both knees, and bring your feet together. Using your hands, open your feet up like a book. Use your leg muscles to press your knees down toward the floor.
- Lengthen your spine, drawing your belly button inward. Relax your shoulders, and gaze either in front of you or toward your feet. Stay here for five breaths, and then slowly fold forward, drawing your torso toward your legs. Remember to try to keep your spine straight.
- Rest your hands on your feet, pressing your knees down with your arms, or if you want more of a stretch, extend your arms out in front of you. Stay here for another five breaths.
Head to Knee
A popular stretch for runners, Head to Knee targets the hips and hamstrings while giving the back a nice stretch too.
- Sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee, and pull the sole of your foot against your left inner thigh.
- Sitting with a tall spine, reach both hands to your left foot, and stack your torso on top of your left thigh. If you can’t reach your hands to your foot, rest your hands on your shin or knee. Try not to round your back.
- Stay here for at least five breaths, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Then do the other side.
A basic yoga pose, Pigeon is one of the most effective hip openers because you can focus on one hip at a time.
- Sit with your right knee bent and your left leg extended behind you. Pull the right heel in toward your left hip, or if your hips are more open, inch your right foot away from you. Make sure your left hip is always pointing down toward the mat. If it begins to open up toward the ceiling, draw your right foot back in toward your body.
- Stay here with your hands resting on your right thigh or your hips, or walk your hands out in front of you, allowing your torso to rest over your right knee. Hold here, breathing into any areas of tightness and tension for at least five breaths.
- Repeat this pose with the left knee bent.
Double Pigeon offers a very intense stretch for your deep glutes.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left knee, and place your knee, shin, and foot on the floor so they’re parallel with your pelvis. Bend your right knee, and place it on top so your knees, shins, and ankles are stacked. You’ll know you’re doing it right when you gaze down and see that your legs make a little triangle.
- You may find your top knee to be high up toward the ceiling. It’s OK, it just means that your hips are tight, so just stay where you are and breathe.
- To make this pose more intense, place your hands in front of your shins and walk them out as far as you can, folding your chest toward your legs.
- Stay here for five breaths, slowly release, and then switch legs so your left knee is on top.