Did you know that 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. In people who sit a long time at work, hip flexors and rotators become tight and gluteal muscles, weak. This combination negatively affects our ability to walk, maintain proper posture and the stability of our spine. The tighter our hips, the tighter the lower back; with tension amassing in these regions, the poses are prone to shortening, making it harder to walk, sit, stand, and practise.
If you never move in certain directions, you’ll reduce your range of motion over time. Try to commit to doing some of these feel-good stretches three or four days a week and you'll notice a major difference in how your hips feel soon enough! In addition to the benefits of improved range of motion and circulation, there is also the benefit of decreased back pain. Opening the hips can create an energetic shift or release as well. Here are some hip-opener asanas.
(The writer is a Hatha Yoga and Yin Yoga teacher in Kochi)
Kneel on the floor. Touch your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees wider than your hips.
Lay your torso down between your thighs. Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor.
Bridge Pose/Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Lie face up, arms extended by your sides, and knees bent so that your feet are flat on the floor. Press through your heels to lift your hips up and walk your feet in a few steps toward your body, keeping your feet and knees hip-width apart and your feet directly undereath your knees. Interlace your fingers underneath your body and press your fist into the mat. If you are comfortable here, then you can lift your heels. Hold for at least five breaths.
From the standing position, bring the feet wrist-width apart. Right feet angle to 90 degrees and lift the left heel, torso faces over the right leg.
Place both palms on the sides of the right leg.
Bring the left knee on the ground. You will feel a stitch in the inner hip.
You can either stay with your hand on the ground or grip them behind your back for an added stretch or bring them above your head by the sides of your ears.
Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Cross your left foot over your right quad.
Lift your right leg off the floor. Grab onto the back of your right leg or shin and gently pull it toward your chest.
When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold there. Hold for at least five breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Stand on the shins, with the knees placed about hip-width apart. Supporting your lower back, begin to arch the spine back.
Reach for the ankles keeping the hips firmly over the knees. Use the abdominal muscles to avoid collapsing the back.