Hip Opening Yoga

Hip Opening Yoga 101

Yoga is an ancient and powerful tool with endless benefits to your physical health as well as emotional well-being. Within each individual yoga practice, there are various types of movements and poses that accomplish specific functions. Hip opening poses are one of these poses.

Hip opening poses are a valuable addition to your yoga routine. Once these poses are learned and incorporated, you will increase your circulation, flexibility, mood, and creativity.

Read on to discover several easy-to-accomplish hip opening poses that we will discuss. They will provide you with endless emotional and physical benefits.

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What Does Opening the Hips Mean?

Yoga generally focuses on increasing flexibility and range of motion in the body through various poses, called asanas and stretches. Often, this includes the hip and pelvic area in addition to other areas of the body such as the:

  • Neck
  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Spine
  • Legs

However, there are specific asanas involved in hip opening yoga. We will address these poses later, but it’s important to remember that hip opening yoga is just one ingredient needed to develop a successful and holistic yoga practice.

Your hips are the largest joint in your body, connected to one of the largest (and arguably most important) muscle group in your body: the glutes. When we sit, the hip flexors and glute muscles become shortened or tightened throughout the day.

Culturally, the majority of our population spends a lot of time throughout the day:

  • Sitting at a desk
  • Riding in a car
  • Lounging on the couch

None of these positions are beneficial to the hips, keeping them rigid and closed in most instances listed above. This may result in reduced mobility and long-term issues with the hips and lower back.

Hip opening yoga is specifically geared toward increasing the range of motion in the hips, stretching open the tendons and muscles that otherwise are tight throughout the day.

What Do Hip Opening Stretches Do?

Hip opening stretches have many considerable physical and emotional benefits, including:

  • Increased circulation in the hips and lower back
  • Increased strength in the hips and lower back
  • Decreased back pain
  • Improved stabilization muscles in the hip and pelvic region, leading to a decrease in injury risk
  • Increased support for the spine and back
  • Release of:
    • Tension
    • Anxiety
    • Fear
    • Stress

Throughout various hip opening poses, you will experience stretching, movements, and breathing combinations that will lead to an improved yoga practice and better emotional well-being.

Does Yoga Help Hip Mobility?

Yoga helps to increase the mobility of all joints involved in your practice. When focusing on hip opening yoga, you will improve your hip mobility. Hip opening yoga will increase the strength of your hip flexors and expand your range of motion.

This is beneficial for many reasons and for all age groups.

Tension and stiffness in joints can lead to many chronic pain issues such as arthritis, but yoga is proven to increase the durability of joints.

Tight hips and hip flexors can not only lead to discomfort in everyday motions (stiffness when standing, walking, etc.) but may also increase the likelihood of developing symptoms like:

  • Knee pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Increased risk of muscle tears and strains

Improve your health by learning and incorporating hip opening poses in your yoga routine. Even without routinely practicing a full yoga sequence, hip opening stretches and poses are an important addition to your everyday movements.

3 Great Hip Opening Yoga Poses

There are a vast number of hip opening yoga poses for all ages and experience levels. We will go into detail on three of the most popular and widely used hip opening yoga poses, particularly useful for beginners. These poses are:

  • Butterfly pose (Baddha Konasana)
  • Happy Baby pose (Ananda Balasana)
  • Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Each of these hip opening poses is beneficial to any individual. These are beginner poses that can be modified as needed, increasing their effectiveness, but will undoubtedly improve your practice regardless of skill level. And if you are worried about you’re yoga outfit staying in place, you can find here the 5 best yoga tops that don’t ride up.

How to Perform the Butterfly Pose

Our first and most simple hip opening pose is the butterfly pose. Many people (myself included) may recognize this as a stretch from elementary school PE classes, it’s that common!

The butterfly pose is useful as a preventative stretch for runners or those involved in other high-impact activities. Keeping the hip flexors stretched and open can reduce the risk of muscle strains or strains when training.

There are many variations of this pose, but the basic Butterfly asana is one of the easiest and most productive in opening the hips.

This pose is helpful with stretching:

  • Hip flexors
  • Glutes
  • Lower back
  • Shoulders
  • Neck

This asana is yet another example of a hip opening pose that can be modified to any skill level and involves only a few simple steps. It is also useful to practice before or after a workout to eliminate or decrease muscle soreness.

  1. Begin in a seated position (preferably on a yoga mat for comfort)
  2. With your spine straight and upright, bring the soles of your feet together directly in front of you
  3. Pull the heels of your feet towards your seat, with your knees spread wide and open toward the floor
  4. Hold your ankles or feet firmly with your hands
  5. Use your elbows to press down on the inside of your knees, deepening the stretch as you lean forward

Hold this position for 30-60 seconds, breathing slowly and deeply. To release, slowly straighten your legs out in front of you and bring them together.

Don’t worry if your knees aren’t close to touching the ground. As your flexibility increases, you will be able to open your hips wider and get a deeper stretch.

This pose has many variations to either simplify or increase the depth. If you feel like you need to take this one a step further, it is easy to do:

When in the pose, hinge your hips and pull your torso forwards toward the floor, forehead towards your feet. It’s important to keep your spine straight, as pulling on your feet with a hunched back can cause unnecessary strain.

Stretch Muscle Groups with the Happy Baby Pose

The Happy Baby Pose is a fundamental pose for many yogis, and not just when focusing on hip opening asanas. This is a well-known pose and will likely be familiar to those even with no knowledge of yoga.

This pose stretches many muscle groups, including:

  • Thighs
  • Groin
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower back

This basic pose involves just a few steps.

  1. Lie on your back on the floor (preferably on a yoga mat for comfort)
  2. Bring your knees up and toward your chest
  3. Grip the outsides of your feet with your hands
  4. Pull your knees toward your armpits (knees slightly wider than your torso)
  5. Press your feet lightly but consistently on your hands, creating some resistance

The soles of your feet should be facing upward toward the ceiling, with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle, tops of your thighs parallel to your abdominals, but spread wider. If this is difficult due to inflexibility of the hamstrings, soreness, or stiffness elsewhere, there are variations available.

If you can’t reach your ceiling-facing feet with your hands while lying flat on your back, you can use a:

  • Yoga strap
  • Belt
  • Looped hand towel

Any of these items wrapped around each of the arches of your feet will decrease the distance you need to reach. Continue the pose as described above.

Note: If you are pregnant, previously injured (knee, back, hips), you may need to consult a professional before attempting this pose.

The Bridge Pose Used as a Hip Opening Exercise

This pose is another beginning pose for opening the hips. It is most often used as a hip opening exercise but is also useful in:

  • Aiding digestion
  • Decreasing menstrual pain
  • Stretching the neck and chest

This pose is another simple asana and can be accomplished by following these steps:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor (preferably on a yoga mat for comfort)
  2. Bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor, heels as near to your buttocks as possible
  3. Place your arms flat on the floor, palms down, by your sides
  4. Exhale, and press your hips/thighs toward the ceiling, using your buttocks to lift your pelvis off of the mat
  5. Stretch your pelvis upwards while pressing your arms onto the floor, lifting your head and neck off of the mat if desired

The majority of your contact to the floor should be on the tops of your shoulders and the soles of your feet. Utilize your arms by your sides for pressure and balance as needed.

Maintain this pose for 30-60 seconds, and exhale as you flatten your spine and release the pose. Be sure not to “flop” onto the floor; rather roll your spine from your neck down to your hips, bringing your body back into contact with the mat. Sit up slowly.

There are additional modifications available if you find it difficult to hold this pose. You can slide a yoga block or a rolled-up bath towel under your sacrum for additional support.

If you feel discomfort in your neck, place a rolled-up towel behind your neck.

To increase the depth and stretch of the pose, you may lift your heels off of the floor, stretching your hips higher toward the ceiling by pressing on your tiptoes before resting your feet on the floor again.

Note: If you have an existing neck injury, consult a professional before attempting this pose.

Why Do Hip Openers Release Emotions?

Yoga is a spiritual and often emotional practice, releasing tensions that have built up in the body both physically and emotionally. There are many areas of belief when referring to the hip and pelvic region. This region is thought to involve:

  • Sacral chakra (creative center)
  • Reproductive health
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Stress
  • Vulnerability

Hip opening poses are thought to release emotional tensions while also releasing physical muscle tension.

Many believe that your creative center is held in your hip/pelvic region, as this is related to the creation of life due to the location of the reproductive organs. As you release the tension and tightness in this creative center, you also release the “hold” on your creative abilities, expanding your ability to create art and other modes of self-expression.

Another prevalent belief system relates your hip/pelvic region to the “flight or fight” mode of stress response in the human body. When you are feeling:

  • Stressed
  • Anxious
  • Scared
  • Vulnerable

Your body often reacts in a fight-or-flight manner. The muscles in your hips and pelvic region are associated with your ability to run, or the “flight” response.

Our hip and glute muscles react to this emotional tension, tightening in response to the possible need to flee. Our bodies hold onto this subconscious emotion, and it can finally be released when the hips are opened through various poses and stretches.

The Value of Hip Opening Yoga

The ability to utilize hip opening yoga poses is important in many emotional and physical aspects of your practice. Don’t forget to incorporate these effective and preventative asanas into your everyday movements.