6 more juicy hip openers to release stuck emotions
This is a sequel to a post I wrote a couple years ago, “Why your hips are keeping you sad (and what to do about it)”.
When I first started a yoga practice, hip openers and backbends were the most challenging for me. As my practice deepened and I began to study the energetic body, I realized why these poses were so inaccessible. Through physical and emotional work, I was able to peel away layers of stored trauma and stress — and physically get into those challenging poses.
Are your hips tight? Join the club. It’s not just you. I see a lot of bodies in the yoga studio, and a lot of tight hips.
Your hips are like your body’s junk drawer. Things get shoved in there and forgotten, until the drawer becomes hard to open and you just avoid it altogether.
The reasons your hips are tight are not always emotional, though I believe this is often a contributing factor. And it’s never because “I’m not flexible” — that’s a cop out excuse I don’t want you to ever say again. Cool? Cool.
Causes of tight hips
- You’ve experienced trauma, particularly sexual trauma
- You have a stressful work or home life
- You suffer from anxiety
- You sit at a desk most of the day
- You’re a runner or an athlete who doesn’t stretch a lot
If you read that list and nodded “yes” to one or more of those bullets, it’s easy to see why your hips are so tense.
Your hips are the largest joint in your body. That’s a big deal. They keep your body stable. When they’re tight, that tension can radiate into other issues like low back pain or tight hamstrings. The good news is you can make it better.
So open up the junk drawer. Warm up with some sun salutations and work through some of these juicy hip-opening yoga postures. As you do, listen to your body and heart. Be open to experiencing emotional release. Give those emotions space and a name so they can be released. Cry if you need to. Your yoga mat is your sanctuary — a place where you’re safe to be as you are.
6 juicy hip openers
Surprised to see this on the list? Pranayama, or breathing exercises, is advanced work. It requires you to be relaxed, focused and connected to your body and mind. It can help you to find the focus, centeredness and softness you need to dig deep in your yoga practice.
One of my favorite pranayama exercises is nacho shodhana. Watch my YouTube tutorial here.
2. Lizard’s Pose
This pose works the inner hip and groin area. It can be quite intense, but props are your friend here. Start in a low lunge position and then walk your front foot to the outside edge of your mat. Your hands should both be on the inside of your foot. Rest your back knee on the mat and relax your jaw as you take deep breaths. For more opening, lower your forearms to a block or the mat. For less, place your hands on blocks.
3. Lizard with Quad Stretch
This is a stretch that always gives me that hurt-so-good sensation. It stretches your quadriceps and hip flexors and holy guacamole does it work. Keep your outside forearm, hand or hand elevated with a block grounded. Bend your back knee and grab for the pinky-toe side of your foot, pulling your heel toward your glute. If you can’t reach your foot yet (hello, quads!), use a strap.
4. Fire Log (Double Pigeon)
Love pigeon pose? You might double love this pose. Stack your ankles over opposite knees with your feet flexed. Slowly start to walk your torso forward, perhaps lowering your forearms onto a block or the mat. If this is too intense, start with a supine figure four pose.
5. Sleeping Swan (Pigeon Variation)
I find that this twisted variation of half pigeon helps me find a deeper hip opening as well as a little twist. First, get into traditional pigeon pose, starting with your right leg bent in an L or V shape. Then, weave your left arm under your right as you find your forward fold position. If you want more, you can take a half bind with you right hand.
6. Reclined Hand to Big Toe Pose Sequence
Grab a strap! I find that this pose feels better with a strap, even if I am able to grab my toe with my hand. My straps were in my car from a class, so I grabbed an old neck tie my husband was getting rid of. A towel works in a pinch as well!