What are hip openers?
Hip-openers are some of the most requested asanas in my classes as they bring release in many areas that are tight and carry a sense of release across the board to most practitioners. What many students do not know is that virtually our entire practice of yoga is a big hip-opening opportunity! There are over 20 muscles that cross the hip (the collection of inner thigh muscles known as the adductors, the collection of outer thigh muscles known as the abductors, the hip flexors in front, deep lateral rotators in back, and more), so any movement that stretches any of these muscles could be considered a “hip-opener.” For this reason, we could argue almost every pose is effectively a “hip-opener.”
Tight hips affect everything from your ability to get into wheel pose to simply being able to pick up something off the floor. When hips are tight, they increase the load and cause overuse of the spine. In addition to the benefits of improved range of motion and circulation and decreased back pain, opening the hips can create an energetic shift or release as well. Yogic tradition holds the hips as a storage ground for negative feelings and pent-up emotions, especially ones related to control in our lives. Hip-opening can also create space for the birth of new ideas and new pathways. Opening the hips gives us access to freedom in the body and in our own unique expression — creatively, physically, sexually, and spiritually. Opening our hips and following these movements could potentially allow us to find a sense of ease in letting go of old unhealthy habits – both physically and emotionally!
How to open with dynamic movement
In these movements we are going to work the properties of our fascia. Fascia is a web of fibrous connective tissue, mostly collagen, that’s EVERYWHERE in your body. It wraps your organs, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, offering a sheath that enables body parts to move individually or as groups. Most importantly, it’s all connected. The fascia’s rubber band like qualities return your body to an original position after being elongated. Because fascia is a fluid structure, hydration is key to maintaining its health, but drinking tons of water isn’t necessarily the solution. While water intake definitely helps maintain healthy fascia, movement plays a significant role and here we will incorporate dynamic movement to improve its health and our overall flexibility.
- Start in downward facing dog and step right foot wider of your right hand
- From this wide lunge position begin to ‘bounce’ the hips finding your end range in a rebounding effect movement (see video)
- Continue this dynamic pulsing movement for 20 counts and follow this with a 1 minute lizard lunge at maximum depth
Follow with these drills:
Side Plank dips:
- Find a modified side plank position (see photo below)
- Extend top arm across your ear
- Dip the hips down toward the mat and then lift back up
- Repeat these hip dips for at least 10 rep
Cow Face pose:
- Sit comfortably in gomukasana (as pictured below)
- Flex into your feet and ground through the outer edge of your feet
- Bring fingertips to mat close to your body
- Shift weight into fingers and knife edge of feet as you lift hips and knees in order to find a bounce movement
Dynamically strengthen pigeon pose:
- Find your way into pigeon pose with right shin forward
- Keep your left toes tucked
- With your right foot flexed plant your left hand on the sole of the foot to keep it grounded in place
- Your right hand can keep you upright and as you push the mat away through the right foot and left toes lift your hips up and back. Then glide the hips forward and down to the starting position. Continue this gliding movement.
- Once you have repeated this dynamic movement at least 10 times settle into an extended pigeon pose for a 1 minute hold.
There are over 20 muscles that cross the hip, making them an essential function of our mobility. Developing strong hips is beneficial whether you're looking looking to improve your yoga flows, or alleviate stresses in other muscle groups and protecting the spine. Fortunately there are a number of drills to practice to keep hips strong and dynamic. Give these variations a try, and then enjoy the benefits from wearing sexy and nibber sipoti.
Written By Michelle Welling