Ohh, our poor hips, how often their help and health go unnoticed.
Our beautiful hips; bearers of our bodies burden and the sanctuary for over 20 muscles - adductors, abductors, hip flexors in front, deep lateral rotators, and more. Our hips are the powerhouse of moving through life, walking, running, bending and of course, sitting. No to mention, the all-important procreation of our species, childbearing and birth.
In yoga, we learn that the hips are the home of our emotions and relationships. Does that mean if we have bad hips we're bad friends, lovers or parents? Well, no, maybe... But when we consider that in time of stress, in which our bodies automatically respond with the flight or fight response, our muscles tense. Particularly our hips, after all, they are about to either send you fleeing full-pelt or keep you still as a statue. On a psycho-spiritual level, we consider the hips as the home of our individuality and sexuality, which dually are responsible for our connectedness with others.
Whether we want to work on opening our hips for the benefit our or relationships - including your relationship with yourself - or to nurture and release an area the bares the burden our of bodies weight and activity then this simple sequence can be practiced on its own or worked into a longer practice.
Sart by warming up with a nice Surya Namaskar (sun salutation), do 3-5 rounds at your own pace to get the blood flowing. We suggest taking 3-5 breaths in all postures to really feel the stretch. Repeating the posture 2-3 times on each leg. Always remember to keep a balance of effort and ease in your practice.
1. Downward Dog Split Variation - Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana
Lift into Three-Legged Downward Facing Dog, ground your hands evenly, lift from your thigh, keeping your hips square. Draw your hips towards your supporting leg, you can bend the supporting knee slightly if the stretch is too deep. Try to keep the lifting leg straight, keeping an actively flexed foot. Begin to bend the lifted kneed over the supporting leg, if you are grounded through your hands and supporting leg you can let gravity help you stretch. We suggest taking 3-5 breaths in this posture to really feel the stretch, repeat 3 times on each leg. Always remember to keep a balance of effort and ease in your practice.
2. Runner’s Lunge - Ardha Hanumanasana
You can come into this pose from the previous, or add a Surya Namaskara in between, it's up to you on how long and challenging you'd like your sequence to be.
Come into a low lunge, keeping your leading knee at 90-degrees, don't let it slide over your toes. Keeping a nice straight back bring your hands down to either side of your feet, with the options of flat hands to the ground, lifted palms supported by just your fingers, or blocks under-hand, use the variation that keeps your back straight. You should feel a nice deep stretch in your extended leg's thigh and bent legs buttock. If the stretch is too much, simply bring your back knee to the ground.
3. Pigeon Pose - Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
Again, you can add and full Surya Namaskara here, or simply lift back into downward facing dog between postures. From downward facing dog, lift your knee to your chest, as you hinge forward over your arms place the leg down just behind the wrist, place the leg so that it is at a 45-degree angle from your body, though you can play with the angle depending on how the stretch feels. Remember to keep your hips square to the front. If this is already a nice deep stretch, stay here. Otherwise, extend the arms forward in front of the body, and relax down.
4. Bound Angle Pose - Baddha Konaasana
Start sitting comfortably, use a blanket or bolster to lift your hips, ultimately you want them to be in-line with your knees in the final pose. Stretching out your legs in front of you, bring your knees in towards you and fold them out like a book, placing the soles of your feet together. Draw the heels towards the pubis as much as comfortable. Keeping a straight back, hinge from your hips over your feet as much as possible.
5. Happy Baby Pose - Ananda Balasana
This is great relaxing pose to end the sequence, start by lying on your back. Bring your knees into your chest, lifting up your feet, grab on to your big toes and gently pull your legs down either side of your body. Make sure your shins are perpendicular to the floor and your feet are flexed. If you have trouble reaching your feet, use straps on both of them. This is a gentle pose, don't pull too hard.
Childs pose is another wonderful hip opening pose, you can add it anywhere along your sequence, or just pop it in the end. Don't be afraid to play around, finding your own variations and sequences.
Remember, the tighter our hips, the tighter our lower back is; if we let tension to amass in this region, then we risk the shortening of our psoas, making it harder to walk, sit, stand, and practice.
Happy, healthy hips to you all, remember you can always ask your teachers to more poses and variations.