Restorative yoga for happy hips

Struggling with tight hips? Find a new openness through release and surrender with this restorative yoga sequence.

Tightness in the hips often comes from sitting all day, exercising a lot, or emotional tension – this part of our body is home to our sacral chakra, relating to our emotional identity. Feeling stuck here in some way is common.

What’s more, tight hips can be linked to pain, imbalances and instability in the lower back, knees, gluteal area, groin and pelvis.

Healthy mobility in the hip joints contributes to postural comfort and greater well-being, as well as freeing up our entire yoga practice.

Worth a try? You can practise this restorative yoga sequence at home in about 20 minutes.

Make time for it once a week and you’ll really start to feel the difference. Along with your yoga mat, you’ll need a couple of bolsters (or use some firm, rolled-up blankets), two–four cushions and a couple of blocks or large books.

Cover yourself with a blanket in the poses for additional comfort.

1. Side Lengthening Pose

Take two bolsters (one on top of the other) and lay over them in a straight line with your waistline in the middle. Move the top leg forward and the bottom leg an equal distance backward, keeping the knees soft. If your top knee is in the air, place a cushion or two underneath it. If possible, rotate your torso in the opposite direction of your top leg. Hold your upper wrist with the lower hand and apply a gentle pull. Stay for up to two minutes on each side. To exit, bring the body back into a straight line and slowly sit up.

This pose lengthens the whole side body––from the arms, through the torso and hips, down to the legs. Depending on where your pockets of tightness are, you may feel it across the top and front of the hips and along the groin/inner legs/inner knees (adductors, pectineus, gracilis, sartorius), outer legs (tensor fascia latae, iliotibial tract), front thighs (quadriceps) and lower back (quadratus lumborum).

2. Sleeping Frog

Lie on your front, on a folded blanket if you wish. Bring the soles of the feet together and support them with cushion. Make a pillow with your hands and rest your forehead on it. Stay for up to three minutes. To exit, bring the knees together with the feet in the air, then roll to one side and up to a seated position.

With the help of gravity, this pose gives a deep release in the groin and inner thighs.

3. Easy Wide Angle Pose (Upavista Konasana)

Sit on a block or two to elevate your hips and free your lower back. Extend your legs to the sides and flex the feet. The legs remain in line, without rolling inward. If this doesn’t come yet, bend your knees and support them with rolled up blankets underneath. Exhale and fold forward from the hips (rather than the waist), resting your hands or forearms on the ground (or on a chair if you need the extra height), and your forehead on as much support as you need. Stay for up to three minutes.

This pose nurtures release in the hips, inner thighs, hamstrings and lower back. It eases tension in the front body.

4. Reclining Hero Pose (Supta Virasana)

Elevate one end of your bolster as high as you need. Fold the lower legs and use padding under your seat, feet, or ankles if necessary. Lie back and support your arms. Keep the knees apart to free the lower back. Stay for up to three minutes. To exit, press down through your forearms, engage your core and sit up.

This pose lengthens the front thighs. It is restful for the psoas muscles––the main hip flexor. The openness of the chest encourages us to breathe well (low in the belly) in order to let go of tension.

5. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana)

Set up as above, but bring the soles of the feet together. Allow the knees to fall out to the sides onto some form of support. A weight on top of the feet gives further grounding and release. Stay for up to five minutes. To exit, bring your knees together and roll to one side and up to sitting.

This pose opens the pelvis and soothes the abdomen, while providing deep rest and rejuvenation to seal the practice. If you are super-limited for time, this is the pose to do.

It’s great to also enjoy a dynamic vinyasa practice that builds strength and cultivates mobility through internal heat and progressive movement. But I’ve found that complementing that practice with restorative poses takes openness to a whole new level, and not just in the physical sense.

By providing complete support to the body with props –– and soothing quiet for the mind–– restorative yoga enables an unfolding and opening to occur organically. It nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system, enabling us to switch from our fight-or-flight reactive mode to a rest-and-digest state. As we feel peacefully supported by these poses, tightness is gently teased out of the fascia and muscles, and pent-up emotions gradually dissolve.

May this sequence bring you openness and ease.

Photos: Bellanova

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