Tight hips are an unfortunately common occurance in Americans, which can often lead to back pain. When the hips are tight, the back works extra hard to try to keep you balanced. Unfortunately, that leads to back pain. If you consistently stretch your hips, they’ll become loser and more flexible. Your back will thank you for that. Without further ado, here are four poses to help combat tight hips.
Low lunge (Anjaneyasana)
This is an essential hip opener for tight hips – especially is you sit all day. It opens the front of the body by releasing tension built up in the hip flexor (front of the hip). If kneeling aggravates your knee, simply put a pillow or other cushion underneath your knee while in this pose.
How to do it: There are many ways to get into this pose. One way is to start standing on your knees. Step one foot forward and bend into the knee, keeping the front knee directly over the ankle. You can also come into this from downward facing dog by stepping one foot through the hands and dropping the back knee. No matter how you get into low lunge, just remember that the further away your front heel is from your back knee, the more intense the stretch will become. If you need less intensity, walk your front foot back or your back knee forward.
Reclining figure four (aka reclining pigeon) (Supta Kapotasana)
When yogis think hip opener, they think pigeon. Unfortunately, if you have really tight hips, pigeon can be difficult to get into. Enter reclining pigeon (sometimes referred to as reclining figure four or dead pigeon). While you get the same stretch through the hip, this variation is a little easier on the knee joint. Plus, because you’re on your back, you take out any sort of backbend that you may find in pigeon.
How to do it: Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee. For very tight hips, you may want to stay here. If possible, keep your shape as you pull both knees in toward your chest. Thread your hands through the thighs to keep your legs in place. To intensify, pull your tailbone toward the ground and lengthen through the sides of your body.
Bound angle (aka Butterfly) (Baddha Konasana)
If you sit at a desk or in a car all day, this pose can feel really good at relieving tight hip flexors. If you aren’t a big fan of the seated position, you can get the same stretch in the pose lying on your back.
How to do it: Sit up tall with a straight spine, legs out in front of you. Bend your knees and put the soles of your feet together. Try to bring your heels as close to your groin as possible without rounding your back. If you have very tight hips, this might be uncomfortable. There are two ways to combat this. First, you can try sitting on a folded blanket or yoga block to add height. Second, you can try to put a yoga block under each knee to give it some support. If your back hurts in this pose, or you find your back rounding, lay down your your back and try it that way.
Wide-legged forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana)
In this pose, you not only get the benefits of opening through the hips, but you’ll also get an inner thigh, hamstring and back stretch as well.
How to do it: Stand up nice and tall. Walk your feet apart wider than hip distance, toes slightly pointed in. (The more flexible you are, the wider your feet will be.) Shift your weight forward slightly. You should have more weight into the balls of your feet, but your heels should still be planted. Keep your back as flat as you can as you begin to fold forward. If you can’t quite reach the ground, don’t worry. Simply use a yoga block to give you some height.
Notes on relieving tight hips
These poses can help release hip tension, especially if you do them consistently. Even if you can dedicate 5 minutes as soon as you wake up in the morning, or right before you go to bed in the evening, that’s better than nothing. If you already workout on a regular basis, consider adding these poses into your cool down/stretching sequence after each bout of exercise. Try holding each pose for at least 5-10 breaths before switching sides.