Anyone can benefit from having flexible hips. Hip flexibility is crucial not just for yoga and athletic performance but also for your daily life.
You may ask why. Below, I’ll explain the importance of hip flexibility and the seven ways you can bring and improve your hips’ range of motion.
The Importance of Hip Flexibility
The mobility of your hips influences a simple movement, such as moving your foot forward as you walk. When simple actions are affected because of a restriction in the range of motion of your hips, symptoms such as pain can manifest.
The hip joint is made out of the bones, femur, and pelvis. These bones are controlled by 15 powerful muscles. As you can see now, when the movements of these bones are restricted, the muscles that attach to them will be affected and vice versa. It’s like a domino effect of body pain and, worse, injury. It can manifest as low back pain, knee pain, ankle pain, and hip pain.
5 Flexible Hip Benefits
Source: Wikimedia Commons
It’s established that hip flexibility is essential. But what do you get out of flexible hips? Here’s what you will get.
No More or Less Pain
Out of 10 people, right will be experiencing some form of back pain in their lives. The most common cause of it is tight hips. That is because we sit for a prolonged period, which contracts and shortens the hip flexors. When this happens, you usually compensate by rounding your back, causing pain.
When you increase the flexibility of your hips, you also strengthen the muscles that attach to them. This flexibility and strength help keep your body in proper alignment when you’re sitting down or standing up. You may also find it easier to do some movements, such as yoga asanas. That is because when your posture is excellent, and you are in proper alignment, the energy is evenly distributed on all parts of the body. You will feel lighter.
Physical pain is one of the leading causes of stress. Stretching to improve flexibility can relieve physical tension and discomfort. So in a way, it can help relieve stress.
Lower Risk of Injury
Having flexible hips lowers the risk of injury. That is because your body can handle more physical stress. It also helps in strengthening your muscles, which on its own reduces the risk of injury.
Better Physical Performance
Whether you’re a CrossFit athlete, a weightlifter, a soccer player, or a yogi, your physical performance will improve if you have flexible hips. That’s why you see athletes practicing yoga asanas and stretching before they start.
Yoga Poses to Make Hips Flexible
Now that you know the benefits of flexible hips, here are the poses you can practice to achieve that.
Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana)
Butterfly pose or Baddha Konasana in Sanskrit is a beginner yoga asana. It will improve the external rotation of the hips. Here’s how you can do it:
- Sit down and bend your knees. Keep the spine tall and erect.
- Bring the soles of the feet together. Then, pull your heels towards the pelvis and open your knees as wide as you can.
- Option to fold forward if available. If not, you can continue sitting tall.
- Stay in the pose for a few rounds of breath.
Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Happy Baby Pose or Ananda Balasana is a deep hip opener. It works on improving the external rotation of your hips. It also stretches the low back, which helps in relieving low back pain. Here’s how to do it:
- Lay down on your back and bring the knees to your chest.
- Open the knees wide and bring your arms inside the knees. Reach for the outside of your feet. If you can’t, grab your shins or ankles.
- Try to bring the knees close to your armpits. If you can’t, stay where you are.
- Maintain this position for five or more rounds of breath.
Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Low Lunge or Anjaneyasana is a classic stretch to open up the hip flexors. Here’s how you can do it:
- Come to a tabletop position by bringing hands and knees on the ground, preferably with a mat.
- Step the right foot forward. Keeping the knee on top of the ankle.
- Stay in this pose for five or more rounds of breath. Repeat on the left side.
Goddess Pose (Utkata Konasana)
Goddess Pose or Utkata Konasana improves the external rotation of the hips while strengthening the hip abductors. It’s an excellent pose for increasing the strength of your inner thighs. To do this pose:
- Stand with your legs as wide as possible. Keep the toes pointing out to the side at about a 45-degree angle. Doing this will externally rotate the hips.
- Engage your core and your legs.
- Slowly bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Make sure your knees are on top of your ankles and pointing where your toes are pointing.
- Extend your arms overhead and bend your elbows. The elbows should be parallel to the shoulders and the wrists.
- Stay in this pose for a few rounds of breath.
Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Pigeon Pose or Eka Pada Rajakapotasana is a great hip-opener. It improves the external rotation on one hip while stretching the hip flexor of the other. If it is your first time to do this pose, or you are limited in the range of motion, grab a yoga block or a thick rolled towel. Here’s how to do this pose:
- Start in a tabletop position. You may also start in Downward facing dog.
- Extend the right leg to the back and take an inhale.
- As you exhale, bring the right knee behind your right wrist. Move your right foot in front of your left knee or parallel to the right knee.
- Slowly bring the hips down on the floor and extend the left leg. Keep your hips square. If you can’t, bring a rolled towel or block under the right buttocks.
- Keep engaging your core and your buttocks and your spine tall.
- Stay in this position for three to five rounds of breath and repeat on the other side.
Tips and Precautions
Having flexible hips can reduce your risk of injury. But if you practice hip exercises improperly, they can cause harm. So, it would help if you took the following precaution:
- Consult your doctor first if you have a hip injury or replacement before practicing any hip-opening yoga poses or exercises.
- If your back rounds when practicing hip-opening forward fold poses, bend the knees.
- If you feel any pain, come out of the pose immediately.
- Always take your time to do exercises for the hips, especially if you have pain or injury.
- Avoid going extreme. Don’t go to your entire range of motion. Always practice caution even if you know you still can go deeper in the poses, especially if you have an injury.
- Always engage the muscles, unless it is a yin yoga practice.
Having flexible hips can help you in your day-to-day activities. So, keep stretching your hips regularly. But also make sure to strengthen the muscles around the hips so you can support your flexibility with strength.