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It’s said that we store a lot of emotions in our hips (if you’ve ever started crying during Pigeon Pose, you know what that means), and that should come as no surprise—the hips are one of the most important and complex areas of the body.
As the connection point between your lower limbs and your torso, the hip complex is critical for maintaining balance, mobility, and stability for your entire body. When the psoas (the long muscle that runs from the lumbar spine through the pelvis to the femur) is chronically tight, your lower back starts to feel tight, too. This tension makes the psoas shorten, and a slight swayback begins to form, making everyday actions, such as walking, sitting, standing, or practicing yoga feel more difficult. Your hamstrings may then have to overcompensate, and knee pain could begin to arise.
On a psycho-spiritual level, the hips are also the seat of our sexuality and individuality. Our svadhisthana (root) chakra, located within the pelvis, is the energy center associated with sensuality, creativity, pleasure, and freedom of expression. This area is deeply enmeshed in our connectivity to ourselves and others, and is often where we hold onto unexpressed emotions.
Whether your hips feel tight from sitting too much, your intense running regime, or even your genetics, it’s important to loosen them up and keep them moving. The following yoga poses massage, open, and lubricate the hips, which can ward off discomfort, improve your posture, increase your range of motion—and even unlock whatever you might be holding onto.
11 yoga poses that for deep hip opening
Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog
Begin in Downward-Facing Dog Pose with the tops of your thighs back, heels pressing toward the floor, back flat, and your palms out in front of you, shoulder-width apart. Firm your outer arms and press actively through your index fingers. On an inhalation, begin to raise one leg up toward the ceiling as your other heel stays planted. Ensure your lifted leg is in line with your back, forming a straight line from the top of your shoulder to your heel. Hold this posture for 10 seconds.
This pose will begin to stretch out the backs of the calves and the hamstrings while warming up the hips.
Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog, Variation
On an exhalation, from Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog, open up the hip by bending the lifted knee and bringing the heel toward your opposite glute. Hold this posture for 10 seconds, then place the foot back on the ground, aligned with your grounded foot. Repeat Three-Legged Downward-Facing Dog and this variation on the other side.
This variation will begin to open the hip flexor to prepare it for some of the deeper postures.
From High Lunge, bring your back knee down to the floor and sweep your arms overhead. Draw in your lower belly to protect and lengthen your spine. Sink down into your back hip while simultaneously engaging your core. If you have a blanket nearby, you could place it under your back knee for added comfort. Hold for 10 seconds.
Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)
From Low Lunge, inch your front foot out to the side, coming into a wide lunge with your hands placed on the floor inside of the knee. Take your back knee off the floor, if available, and either stay up on the hands or bring the forearms down to the ground for a deeper stretch. Remain in the pose for 10 seconds, continuously aiming your back inner thigh up toward the ceiling, and your chest forward through your arms.
Unwind from One-Legged King Pigeon Pose by lowering your lifted leg back down onto the mat, hands back down in front of you, and swivel into a seated position. Sit up tall and align your right knee on top of your left ankle and your left knee on top of your right ankle. Rotate both hips outward. If the top knee is lifted above the bottom ankle, place a pillow or block under the lifted knee for safety and support. If the knees are comfortably resting on the ankles, slowly begin to fold forward. Hold for 10 seconds.
Come back to Downward-Facing Dog, and repeat Pigeon, One-Legged King Pigeon, and Cow Face Pose on the other side.
From Cow Face Pose, unwind your ankles and place both feet out in front of you, soles of both feet touching, heels drawing in toward your pubis. Open the feet like a book, and hinge at the hips to fold forward any amount. Stay here for as long as feels comfortable.
This content was originally published here.