As promised, here are 3 hip openers that I just love. I’m just going to give instructions for one side only. Make sure you reverse the instructions for the other side. These poses are extremely satisfying eased into after a class. Practice them for a minimum of 40 seconds on each side, right up to several minutes a side. Feel the body surrender as your stretch receptors allow your body to move into the safety of the stretch. This is why you will want to stay for at least a good 40 seconds and more. Afterwards get up and feel the freedom in your hips as you walk around.

Half pigeon

This can also be called one legged king pigeon pose. Please read the instructions for all of Half Pigeon because the last point indicates how to appropriately modify it for less flexible bodies.

  • Many get to this pose from a down dog position. If you do then bring your right knee to the floor next to your right wrist so that the right foot lands near the left hand.
  • Or, in other words line the knee to foot parallel to front of mat with the outside of your leg on the floor.
  • Gently flex your foot.
  • Now lower hips down onto the floor so that your left leg is extended back behind you.
  • Support yourself on your hands.
  • Try to lower your body down toward the floor. You may find yourself supported on your hands or forearms.
  • If you’re really flexible you could even be completely supine in which case the pose is sometimes referred to as the ‘Sleeping Swan’.
  • If you really can’t keep your lower leg square to the hips (parallel to the front of your mat) then it is fine to bend the leg so that the right foot is closer to the left hip! As you become more flexible, you can move your heel progressively closer to your left hand.

Thread the needle pose

  • Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor at hip width, knees bent.
  • Cross the right ankle over your left knee.
  • Thread the right arm through the space between the legs and bring the left around the outside to interlock the fingers of both hands just below the knee. If you can’t reach, grab behind the thigh instead.
  • Draw your left knee toward your chest. It’s best to aim to keep the hips/lower back on the floor.
  • Feel the stretch through your hip joint on your right side particularly.
  • See what you can do to maintain symmetry, without twisting your spine. Keep your knee tracking back toward your shoulder. The tendency is for the left knee to move toward the centerline and minimize the stretch. Gently push the right knee away from you.
  • Keep everything relaxed from your shoulders, core, head and neck.
  • If you can engage your arms (if you are more flexible) make sure you are pulling with your biceps and not your shoulders, bend the arms.
  • You can even feel the liberation in that area

Square pose – a real challenge for creating open hips!

Here’s a huge exercise that you may want to leave ’til you are well warmed up. It’s a variation on a cross-legged pose.

  • Lay the outside of your right leg down on the floor so that your lower leg (that’s your shin!) is parallel to your hips.
  • Now bring the left leg over your right so that your left ankle rests directly on your right knee without extending your ankle past your knee.
  • Allow whatever the opening in your hips allows to lower your left knee toward and over your right ankle.
  • Support yourself with your hands on the floor. As you surrender to this pose your hands will move further away from you.
  • Your left knee may very likely be flying high up above the other leg. Don’t worry, you will notice that over time – even in a few minutes that your legs are closer together. Mind you, it’s not comfortable! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 😉
  • If you really cannot get your left foot to your right knee then for the first few times maybe you can slide your ankle a little more toward your midline.
  • The aim is to have both lower legs lying together touching. The more your hips open the more you can move your hands out in front of you to one day be lying stretched out over your legs with your forehead on the floor!

You know, just for good measure, it’s probably good to balance the above poses with a little concerted inner thigh stretch in bound angle pose or Badokonasana. You do feel an inner thigh stretch to varying degrees in the above stretches. But this is just a handy pose to practice anytime you are on the floor – even just watching TV. Sit with the soles of your feet together and let the knees open out toward the floor! Oh, and a final tip: If it’s too difficult to ‘surrender’ to this pose, pop some cushions under your knees so that they can fall easily. Then just remove layers of padding over time.

By the way you can ‘Google’ any of these poses to find photos or even videos of them. OK that’s it! I hope you enjoy discovering your hips!