Open Your Hips with These 5 Yoga Poses

Cobbler's Pose - Baddha Konasana

Young Woman Doing Yoga Exercise
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Yoga classes often end with a series of seated hip stretches. Take some time to focus on this area at the end of your practice to take advantage of the heat that you've built with standing postures. The muscles around the hips tend to be an area of tightness where tension is stored. Working with warmed muscles allows you to go deeper and release more. Seated poses act as your cool down, transitioning you to final relaxation.

The poses in this series are often called hip openers, but that's a bit of a misnomer. The following 5 poses stretch the inner and outer thighs, the hamstrings, the piriformis, and the group of muscles called the hip flexors. All of these muscles get tight when you spend a lot of time sitting in chairs. Stretching them can help relieve and prevent back pain and sciatica.

In all the forward bends, make sure you are moving from your pelvis. Imagine the pelvis as a bowl of water. When you forward bend, the water tips out of the front of the bowl.

If the area around your hips is tight, it's helpful to have a blanket and yoga blocks handy. If you don't have these props, you can use household items instead.

Let's Get Started

1. Start this sequence seated in cobbler's pose - baddha konasana.

2. Sit up on a blanket or block if that is more comfortable. You can also place blocks under your knees for support if they are very far from the floor.

3. Sit in an upright position for around five breaths. Then hinge at your hips to come into a forward bend if possible. Stay in the forward bend for an equal number of breaths. 

Knee to Ankle Pose - Agnistambhasana

Seated Hip Openers Series: Knee to Ankle Pose
Knee to Ankle - Agnistambhasana. Ann Pizer

1. From baddha konasana, cross your right ankle to your left knee to bring yourself into knee to ankle pose with the right leg on top. The right knee is directly over the left ankle.

2. Make sure to keep the shins parallel to the front of the mat and your ankles flexed. You can slide a blanket under your right knee if there is a large space between the knee and the ankle.

3. Take a five full deep breaths. If the pose feels pretty intense, stay where you are. If you want a little more, come into a forward bend over your legs for five breaths.

4. Straighten your legs into staff pose - dandasana and shake out the legs.

5. Repeat the pose with the left leg on top.

Cow Face Pose - Gomukhasana

Cow Face Pose - Gomukhasana. Barry Stone

1. Slide your right knee on top of your left knee for cow face pose. Your feet will be on the outside of your thighs. You can come forward onto hands and knees to help you get into the correct position. 

2. Since we are focusing on the hips here, the arm position is yogi's choice. You can take the traditional arm position, take a prayer position ay your heart or bring your hands to the floor. 

3. Take five breaths in an upright position. Then come into a forward bend for five breaths if possible.

4. Repeat the pose with the left leg on top.

Head to Knee Pose - Janu Sirsasana

Seated Hip Stretches: Janu Sirsasana
Janu Sirsasana. Ann Pizer

1. Return to cobbler's pose.

2. Keeping the left leg tucked into the groin, extend your the right leg straight out in front of you.

3. Flex your right foot strongly. Inhale your spine long and forward bend over your right leg to come into janu sirsasana

4. If you can reach your right foot, hold it with your hands. If you can't just hold onto your shin.

5. Lengthen your spine on your inhale and deepen your forward bend on your exhale for five breaths.

6. Come back through cobbler's pose and then extend the left leg to do janu sirsasana on the other side.

Seated Wide Legged Straddle - Upavistha Konasana

Seated Hip Openers: Upavistha Konasana
Upavistha Konasana. Ann Pizer

1. Separate your legs out into a wide position.

2. Flex both feet and engage both the legs down strongly, coming into upavistha konasana.

3. Forward bend to the center, extending the spine on your inhales and deepening the pose on your exhales.

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