Tightness in the hips is not an uncommon experience of these modern times. While physical stagnation does not help to promote flexibility and openness in these joints, there may also be an emotional component that contributes to lack of fluidity in this area. Since the mind and body are more intimately connected than we often consider, it is not uncommon for us to miss the physical signs that may be pointing towards something deeper – towards something energetic and emotional that yearns to be released.
Many intense emotions are carried in the hips, and the more we let it all fester, the tighter we start to feel – both physically and emotionally. As a storage unit for our unrecognized and unprocessed emotions, the hips require extra love and care as we begin to process all of which we have unconsciously stored there. As we begin the process of opening the hips through various yoga poses, we start to release deep emotions and unconstructive negativity that has kept us feeling stuck, resentful, or frustrated.
Yoga is a gentle way of releasing what the body may have tucked away in tight hip joints and muscles. Because of the mind-body connection, we are able to release emotional and energetic constriction through moving and releasing physical constriction in the body. By exploring these hip-opening yoga poses, we start to release all that no longer serves us. Practicing at our own unique pace and to our own level of comfort allows us to naturally feel into and release the emotional blockages that may be contributing to any negativity we carry.
Hip Openers to Release Negativity
Each hip opening pose offers a chance to really sink deeply into the moment. If emotions arise, know that this is entirely natural. As we process old residue that may be contributing to any negativity, frustration, or anger within us, we are likely to feel something unsettling arise. This is a natural part of the process; there is no need to panic. Simply observe whatever comes up as you breathe into it. As with any yoga practice, trust your body’s innate wisdom and consult with a practitioner for guidance and support in case of contraindications in some poses.
Supta Eka Pada Utkatasana — Reclined Figure 4 Pose
This simple pose is a gentle way to naturally open the hips. It is so easy and simple that it can easily become a daily stretch.
Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet resting on the floor.
Begin with your left foot on the ground as you raise your right foot, placing the outside of your right ankle on your left thigh. The right ankle should rest just above the knee.
Wrap your hands around your left thigh and gently pull it in towards you as is comfortable.
Hold for thirty seconds and release, bringing your right foot back down to the mat.
Repeat on the opposite side.
Baddha Konasana — Butterfly Pose
Butterfly pose is a grounding pose that like the others, deepens with continual practice. It also provides a stretch to the inner thighs and groin.
Begin seated on the floor or mat with legs straight ahead of you. If this is challenging, you might wish to prop yourself up on a folded blanket.
Bend your knees to bring the soles of your feet together. Bring your heels as close to the pelvis as is possible without pain in the knees or low back. Wrap your hands around your toes and ensure that the back is straight.
Keep the pelvis in a neutral position and let the knees fall towards the floor without pushing.
You may fall forward slightly so long as the spine remains straight. Allow the shoulders to relax.
Hold this pose for one to two minutes and then gently release by drawing the knees towards one another and then extending them.
Ashwa Sanchalasana — Low Lunge Pose
Opening the hips, groin, quads, and hamstrings, the low lunge stretches a good portion of the lower body.
From standing, gently fall forward into a standing forward fold, allowing your hands to fall towards the ground.
Plant your palms by your feet and take a large step back with your right foot. Bring your right knee and shin to rest on the floor. The top of your right foot may touch the mat as well.
The left knee will be bent. Align it over top of the left ankle. Hands or fingers remain in contact with the mat. Open the chest as you gaze forward.
If accessible, you might practice strengthening your balance as you raise your arms up towards the ceiling.
Hold the pose for thirty seconds before reversing the motion and coming back to a neutral standing position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Malasana — Garland Pose
Not only is it a great hip opener, garland pose also stretches the ankles, hamstrings, back, and neck. It strengthens the core and improves posture.
Begin with your feet between hip and mat width apart. Turn the toes to point slightly outwards.
Bend your knees to lower the body to come into a deep squat. The torso should come between the thighs.
If your heels come up off the mat, bring a folded blanket or cushion beneath them for support.
Bring upper arms or elbows to the inside of your thighs. Bring your palms together in prayer position and press your elbows along the inside of your thighs, just below your knees. Bring your hands to heart center.
Keep the spine straight and shoulders relaxed.
Hold for 30 seconds and then release by bringing your hands to the floor and slowly unrolling into a standing position.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana — Pigeon Pose
Love it or hate it, pigeon pose offers an incredible openness to the hips. A more advanced hip opener, it can be helpful to practice some of the other poses first to warm up the muscles before moving into this deeper stretch.
Begin in Downward Dog, feet and palms planted as the tailbone reaches for the ceiling. From here, raise the right leg backwards and towards the sky and then gently swing your knee forward to the space between your knees.
Allow the right knee to come down to the floor by your right hand. If possible, allow the right foot to rest by your left hand so that the right shin rests parallel to the top of your mat. Depending on flexibility, the right shin may instead angle towards your left hip.
Let the left knee come down to the mat and the left leg resting flat on the floor. The left foot should point backwards. Ensure that your hips are both facing forwards.
If possible, drop your torso over your right leg and bring your forehead to the floor. Breathe into any tension that arises.
Hold for twenty seconds.
To come out of the pose, curl your toes and step back into Downward Dog. Repeat on the opposite side.
Ardha Matsyendrasana — Half Spinal Twist Pose
Also called Half Lord of the Fishes Pose, this spinal twist helps to gently stretch the lower back and hips.
Begin by sitting on your heels and then bringing your buttocks to the floor on the left side of your legs.
Bend your right knee and bring your right foot over your left leg. Place it on the floor outside of your left thigh.
Place your right hand flat on the floor behind you. Raise your left arm and bring it across your body, turning slightly towards the right. Grasp your right ankle with your left hand.
Keep the spine long and gaze behind you without putting pressure on the neck to turn any further than is natural.
Hold for one minute and then gently release. Repeat on the opposite side.
Utthan Pristhasana — Lizard Pose
Lizard pose is slightly more advanced than some of the other hip openers, but it is still a good preparatory pose for pigeon pose. It stretches the hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads.
Begin in Downward Dog. Take a deep breath and on the exhalation, step your right foot to the floor outside of your right hand. Ensure that your toes are aligned with your fingers.
Keep a bend in the right knee and point the toes outwards slightly.
Carefully bring your elbows to the floor, letting your forearms rest flat on the mat. Let your fingers spread wide as you use the full surface of your palms for support. The neck should be in a straight line with the spine.
Press back into your left foot as you hold for twenty seconds.
To come out of the pose, raise your forearms up and step back into Downward Dog.
Rest in Child’s Pose for a few breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Supta Baddha Konasana — Reclining Bound Angle Pose
This pose is a great way to end your practice, functioning as a potential alternative to Savasana. It is a deeply relaxing and restorative pose.
Begin seated with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your knees and draw the soles of your feet together, drawing your heels in towards you as if coming into butterfly pose. Allow your knees to drop open to either side.
Lean backwards gently, bringing your hands to the floor behind you. You may drop your elbows down first before coming to rest your back on the floor. You may use a bolster along the length of your spine if this is more supportive.
Adjust your positioning so that the spine is straight. Bring your shoulder blades slightly inward and allow your arms to rest out to the sides with palms facing up.
Draw your tailbone towards your heels and relax. Hold this pose for two to three minutes.
To come out of the pose, bring your knees together and roll to one side before pushing your way up to a comfortable seated position.
Overtime, these hip opening poses help to release physical and emotional blocks that keep us constricted. They offer us the opportunity to sink a little bit further into clarity and inner peace each time we practice. To take our hip opening practice even further, we can envision any tension stored there melting away. We can breathe out any negativity as we hold these poses, and through this practice, we start to find that things look a little bit brighter. Negativity is released while positivity and radiance take its place.