"Why do we all have such tight hips? It's mostly due to our hip flexors, which shorten throughout our day as a result of sitting for long periods of time, at our desk, in the car, etc," says Danielle Diamond, creator of Xen Strength Yoga. "By lengthening and stretching the hip flexors, we can correct the alignment of the pelvis and relieve compression of the spine, which results from that misalignment." Another sitting sin: office butt!
Another tell-tale sign of tight hips are your feet. Danielle explains: Stand and take a look at your feet. If your toes naturally turn out, you may need to work on opening and balancing the muscles of the hips. As your tightened hip and leg muscles pull your pelvis forward and roll your thighs outward, they then put more pressure on your knees and lower back.
To ease pain and correct imbalances, try these hip-opening poses:
Extended Side Angle (Parsvakonasana) On Wall
1. Stand with your right hip about 3 feet away from a wall, turn the left toes toward 10PM, and step your right foot on the wall, your toes in line with your shoulder.
2. Bend the right knee deeply, so the knee stacks over the ankle, possibly bringing the right thigh parallel to the wall.
3. Bring your right hand to the inside of your right foot on the wall. Press your inner thigh into your tricep, and resist the arm into the thigh to open your groin up even more.
4. Reach your left hand up in line with the shoulder, and then reach it out over your left ear, facing the palm down- extending all the way from the outer edge of your grounded left foot through the fingertips.
5. Lengthen and breathe deeply.
6. Keep as much space between the shoulders and the ears as possible by plugging the shoulder blades down the back.
7. If you find your neck to be strained in the pose, focus on softening the neck muscles and don't turn your head to look up at the palm, instead keep the chin in line with the sternum.
8. Hold the pose for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side.
Benefits: This pose strengthens and stretches the legs, knees, ankles, hips, groins, spine. It also challenges the mind by making you work at a different angle.
Garland Pose With A Twist (Parivritti Malasana)
1. From standing in mountain pose, bring your feet mat distance apart (the "short" width of the mat) and turn your toes out about 45 degrees. Bring your palms together at your heart center and slowly lower your seat down toward your heels- resting it on the block if needed. If you have knee issues, place a block under your seat, and go down only as far as is comfortable.
2. Bring your hands to prayer at the sternum, and press the palms together to create resistance against the thighs.
3. Keep your heels lifted. If they can't reach, tuck a blanket or rolled mat under them. Keep the knees in line with the ankles.
4. Drop your tailbone toward the floor as you reach up through the crown of your head- lengthening instead of folding forward. Pull your navel in and up toward your spine to keep your balance.
5. Stay here for 5 breaths, or a few minutes while watching TV if possible, this is a great pose to release tension in the low back; the longer the better!
6. You can add a gentle spinal twist to this pose by bringing your right hand down to the inside of the right foot, turn the fingers away from your body, and press the right elbow against the inner thigh to open the hip even more.
7. Inhale the left arm up into the air and resist the right elbow into the thigh as you rotate the right side of the ribcage up toward that left palm- gaze into your hand, or keep the chin in line with the sternum.
Benefits: Also known as a yogic squat, Garland pose opens your hips and groin, and stretches your ankles, lower hamstrings, back and neck. It also tones your abdominals, aids in digestion and keeps your pelvic and hip joints healthy.
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