Here are 7 poses that you can do directly after your workout to release tension in tight hips. In yoga we often flow between postures—synchronising breath and movement (vinyasa) but we can also hold postures for several breaths, when our goal is to release tension and relax the central nervous system. If you stay in each of these poses for 10 breaths, this sequence should take around 15 minutes. It’s perfect to do straight after a workout.
WHY DO HIPS GET TIGHT?
The hips are comprised of (at least) 17 muscles that allow you to run, jump and generate force in multiple different directions. Here are some that you may be familiar with. The gluteus maximus (buttocks) and piriformis externally rotate and abduct the hip; the gluteus medius, tensor fasciae latae, groin and adductors internally rotate and adduct the hip; the hip flexors and groin flex the hip; and the glutes and hamstrings extend the hip.
When we exercise or hold the same position for a long period of time, these muscles tighten up, either to generate force or maintain stability. Over time, this can lead to recurring pain and even injury—typically in the lower back, hips and knees. The simple solution is to make sure that you stretch these muscles out after every workout to maintain full range of motion and reduce your risk of injury or time away from your sport.
7 POSES TO LOOSEN UP TIGHT HIPS
Hold each of these poses for 5-10 breaths (on both sides where necessary) directly after your workout. You’ll need a strap or a belt and you might like a couple of blocks and a bolster, though these are optional.
Here are a couple of ways to get the most out of the sequence. Firstly, focus on your breath throughout the routine—breathing in and out through your nose and extending your exhalations to allow for a deeper release of tension. Secondly, find the best position and try to stay completely still. To get the most benefits, you don’t want to wriggle around. Find the right spot, hold it and focus on the sensation of release.
1. LEGS-UP-THE WALL
This is a legit yoga pose! It even has a Sanskrit name—Viparita Karani. Legs-Up-The-Wall gives you all the benefits of an inversion, whilst at the same time allowing your body and mind to relax. It’s great to practise after exercise but also when you’re travelling long distances, especially by aeroplane. Try to get your bottom as close to the wall as you can, close your eyes and tune into your breath.
2. HALF-RECLINING HERO POSE
This is a great quad and hip flexor stretch that also opens up the chest and the fronts of the shoulders. If you put the bolster (or a block) under your bottom, it intensifies the stretch in the hip flexors but this version can take some time to get to. It’s not suitable if you have a knee or lower back injury so please approach it with care.
3. RECLINING HAND-TO-BIG-TOE B
This variation of Reclining-Hand-To-Big-Toe stretches the calves and hamstrings whilst opening up the groin and adductors. Hold both ends of the strap in one or both hands and gently pull your foot up towards the top of the mat—keeping your right leg straight. Try to level your hips and press both buttocks (and shoulders) into the mat. Release any tension in your jaw.
3. RECLINING HAND-TO-BIG-TOE C
Draw your leg across your body to bring the stretch into the outside of your right hip. This variation stretches the external hip rotators, as you continue to release tension in your calves and hamstrings. Draw your foot up towards the top of your mat. And to intensify the pose, look to the right and bring your attention to the twist at your lower back.
4. SUPPORTED RECLINING BUTTERFLY
Reclining Butterfly is a passive groin stretch that also opens up the chest and the fronts of the shoulders and improves mobility in the thoracic spine. You may find that you are able to relax deeper into the pose if you put blocks under your knees (at the appropriate height). And you can also move your feet closer to or further away from your hips to adjust the intensity.
5. SLEEPING PIGEON
Sleeping Pigeon is another great pose for stretching the external hip rotators, including the glutes and piriformis, as well as the hip flexors of your straight leg. And resting on a bolster should allow you to spend longer in the pose. Try to keep the back of your pelvis level and bring the foot of your bent leg as close to the top of your mat as you can.
This pose unquestionably requires significant flexibility in the hips. Initially, you may only be able to work with one leg bent at a time. It’s fantastic for stretching the glutes and external hip rotators, including the tensor fascia latae and the top of the iliotibial band. Try to make yourself as symmetrical as you can before relaxing into the pose. Then ask someone to take a picture and post it all over social media.
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Here is a QuickGuide that you can download and save to your phone to use as a reference. Please let me know if you have any questions about the poses and if there are other sequences that you would like me to break down.