The following set of hip stretches are grouped according to the type of hip stretch. The first group includes stretches for the hip extensors, the back of the hip. The next group stretches the abductors which includes the glutes (medius and maximus) and piriformis. One final stretch is included that focuses on the iliotibial band.
All of these hip stretches have been chosen for effectiveness.
The following yoga hip stretches are for the back of the hip joint. These differ from hamstring stretches in that the knee is bent and these stretches can be used as preparations for hamstring stretching.
One of the easiest hip stretches for the back of the hip is to kneel on one leg with the other foot flat on the floor, knee upwards.
You can sit on the heel of the kneeling leg or have the hip inside the foot (like in hero pose.) Place both hands on the floor in front of you and bend forwards. If you find your lifted knee uncomfortable, try moving the foot forwards. I'd suggest positioning the foot so that the front of the ankle is just behind the front of the knee. Rather than letting the knee move outwards use the inner thigh muscles to pull the knee inwards, towards the chest.
From here, a similiar pose is low lunge. From the previous pose, reach the kneeling leg back so that you are in a lunging position with one leg forwards and the other leg back. Move the pelvis forwards and down and reposition the front foot so that when viewed from the side the front of the ankle is just behind the front of the knee.
If your left foot is forwards you may find it easier to drop your right elbow to the floor first. Then sink your right elbow down. Reach your chest forwards, away from your pelvis and pull your ears away from your ribcage so that the sides of your neck feel long.
To increase the hip stretch come up onto your hands, then bend the elbows (like doing a push up) to sink your chest to the floor. I find it easier to bend the elbows out to the sides however, you could also choose to point your elbows rearwards.
This hip stretch can be done with the back foot pointing backwards, as show, or with the toes tucked under.
A variation of both of the above stretches is happy baby hip stretch done one leg a time.
Yoga hip stretches that work on the piriformis and glutes are similiar to hip stretches for the back of the hip, however, the leg of the hip being stretched is externally rotated and then bent forwards.
These hip stretches may be good for runners and/or people who suffer from sciatic nerve pain. These poses can be counterposed with inner thigh or adductor stretches.
Bound angle pose is normally taught with the feet pulled close to the pelvis. However, if you move the feet forwards, away from the pelvis, and then bend forwards, the pose then becomes a stretch for the outer thighs. (With feet close to the pelvis this pose is a stretch for the inner thighs.)
As you bend forwards work at spreading the inner edges of the feet. Use the muscles of your ankles and feet as opposed to using your hands.
In addition, press the sides of your feet into the floor. If you feel the sides of your glutes activating, you are doing the foot activation correctly.
To add weight to the stretch lift your hands off of the floor and then reach them forwards.
One of my favorite hip stretches is a variation of the low lunge but with the front foot turned out. (I used to call this "painful pose").
Start in a low lunge with the front foot turned out. Move the back knee rearwards far enough so that your shoulders are over the front foot when viewed from the side.
Press the front knee rearwards so that the inside edge of the foot lifts off of the floor.
Try to touch the back of the knee to the floor. It's probably not going to happen but that's one of the ways to deepen the stretch.
To increase the stretch bend your elbows and sink your shoulder towards the front foot.
Continue to push the front knee back and down. To add weight to the pose lift the back knee. (Back toes can be tucked under or they can point back so that the top of the foot is on the floor.)
A variation of the above yoga stretch is runners stretch.
Instead of lunging, swing the back leg forwards and rest the ankle of the leg you are stretching on top of the bottom leg.
Use your hands to prop up your body from behind.
To make the pose easier move your bottom foot further forwards (away from the hips.)
To increase the stretch move the bottom foot backwards (closer to the hips.)
You could also try grabbing the bottom foot with both hands. Then use your arms to pull your chest towards your foot.
To vary the stretch and move towards a pose I call armpit pose, you can move both legs to the side.
If your left foot is on top then move both legs to the left so that the left foot is in line with the left shoulder.
To prepare for armpit pose, reach the left arm forwards, across the sole of the foot and try to grab the right foot.
Once you can grab the foot, increase the stretch by moving the bottom foot rearwards so that the supporting knee moves higher.
You can also try levering the "grabbed" foot forwards so that your armpit moves closer to the foot.
To get into armpit pose you need to have your elbow reach past the outer edge of the top foot.
From there internally rotate the arm, bend the elbow and reach the hand along the inside of the bottom leg and then try to reach it behind the back.
Try to clasp hands behind the back.
Pigeon pose is perhaps on of the most common yoga hip stretches.
To learn how to keep your knee safe in this pose (as well as some options for the "hip lifted" version of this pose), check out yoga pigeon pose.
For the "Hip Down" pigeon yoga hip stretch, keep the front leg hip on the floor.
A beginners or warm up stretch is to then sink the chest to the floor. A more advanced or deeper stretch is to reach the same side shoulder towards the foot.
In either case you can reach the back leg back. To add weight to the back leg side of the pelvis you can lift your back knee.
Because the front leg hip is on the floor in this hip stretch it's relatively easy to position the front shin parallel to the front of your mat (if you are using one.)
With your chest close to the floor in this pose (you can rest your elbows on the floor if you like) you can practice pressing your front knee down into the floor in time with your inhales. Relax as you exhale.
As you press your knee down see if you can feel your outer thigh or hip muscles activating. Notice them relax when you release the downward pressure of your knee.
Once you are comfortable or having gotten used to his position you can move your chest towards your foot each time you inhale.
If your right foot is forwards them move your chest to the left each inhale.
Return to the "resting" position each time you exhale.
Keep the front leg hip on the floor and press down with your front knee each time you reach towards your foot.
The feeling may be like you are using your knee to help push your ribcage away from it.
Once you get the knee pressing action, additionally lengthen your spine each inhale and reach your back leg rearwards.
Relax all of these actions as you exhale.
To add weight to this yoga hip stretch and to help the back-leg-side of your pelvis sink down, gradually lift your back knee as you straighten it. Then rest the knee back on the floor as you exhale.
To intensify the hip stretch use you arms to help reach the shoulder on the front-foot-side towards the front foot. So if your right leg is forwards reach your right shoulder towards your right foot.
To deepen and then relax the stretch straight the right elbow to deepen the stretch then bend it to reduce from the stretch.
Notice in the picture below how close my right hand is to my right knee.
You can also try bending towards the back foot side. (Not shown.)
A yoga hip stretch that works on both hips at the same time is double pigeon pose.
For this yoga hip stretch one shin on top of the other with the fronts of the shins parallel. Position the feet so that the sole of each foot is flush with the top of the opposite thigh.
Sit up tall to begin with and focus on pressing the feet down (not the knees.)
After holding for a few breaths or more, bend forwards with hands on the floor. Keep pressing your feet downwards. You can add weight to this glute stretch by slowly relaxing the arms, then lifting the hands and then reaching the arms forwards.
You can also try laying back to vary the stretch.
This final stretch can be extremely uncomfortable but is a good way to stretch the iliotibial band, or perhaps more exactly, the muscles that work on it.
Start with one leg crossed over the other. (You may find it easier to start with if you sit on yoga blocks to raise your hips higher!)
Use your hands to press your knees towards each other. Ideally (and this may take some practice) your knees will be stacked over each other.
The stretch is a little less intense if you move your feet rearwards. For a more intense stretch move the feet forwards enough so that the feet and knees are all in one line. (Not shown.)
Sit up tall and focus on breathing deeply and smoothly.
Note that if you have a chronically tight IT band, it may be tight because it is compensating for something else. So rather than just using this stretch I'd suggest also working on hip stability. A simple way to work on hip stability is to practice balancing on one foot. You can also try balancing one leg while binding the non-standing leg.
The seated get up is a way of getting into the one legged squat from a seated position. Even if you aren't interested in one leg squats this video does include tips on stabilizing the knees (at about the 5 minute mark.) Usual muscle activations for knee stability might include the quads, the hamstrings or any of the glutes. This looks at another set of muscles all together. If you like the video or find it helpful, please do share it! Thanks!
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