“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 Wall1. 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.
One-Legged Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) 1. From Downward Facing Dog, bring your right knee forward between your hands and lower your hips onto the mat, your right shin at a diagonal. If your hips are tight, place your right heel toward your left hip, and if they are more open start to bring your right shin more parallel to the front of the mat.2. Rotate your left hip down toward the mat to square the hips, and hug the knees in toward the midline to keep them square. The goal is to even out the hips as much as you can, so if needed, place a block or blanket under the right hip if it is raised.3. Take a peek at your left leg and make sure that the ankle, knee, and hip are all in one straight line with the toes pointing straight back.4. Stay here with your hands on either side of your hips, and lift the sternum up toward the ceiling in a backbend, or lower your torso over your right knee bringing your hands in front of your right shin.5. You can rest on your forearms (top), or walk your hands out bringing the chest toward the floor (bottom). Keep your navel drawing in and your upper body lengthening forward, keeping the spine long. Stay here, and breathe into any areas where you’re holding tension. Five breaths is good, 25 is great!Benefits: Stretches the thighs, groins, psoas, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and neck. It also stimulates the abdominal organs while folded. There is nothing better than a few minutes folded over a bolster in this pose, to undo tightness in the hips after a run or cycling session.
Double Pigeon (Agnistambhasana)1. Start in seated crossed-egged position. 2. Moving your left shin parallel to the front of the mat, bring your left knee to a 90 degree angle in front of your left hip.3. Gently place your right shin on top of the left shin, aligning the right knee over the left ankle and the right ankle over the left knee. Try to bring the shins so they’re parallel with one another – use the front of your mat as a guide. The shins may not lie flat on top of one another, one knee might be up in the air- if so, place a block underneath it for support. Each time you practice, the knee will release down a bit more.If you look down between your legs you should see an upside-down triangle.4. With your hands on either side of the thighs take a deep breath, if you already feel a stretch stay here and breathe, if not, start to walk your hands in front of your shins, reaching your sternum forward as you keep the tailbone rooted down. Keep your spine long and reach out instead of folding forward.Benefits: This is another pose that is most beneficial when you take the time to hang out and gently let the hips release for a minute or two at least- five would be better. This pose opens the hips in a way similar to pigeon pose, but at the same time hits both glute muscles and the lower back, which also gets tight from sitting at a desk all day.
Supine Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasana)1. Starting on your back with your knees bent, bring the soles of your feet together and slowly lower the knees down to the floor. If your hips are tight, put a folded blanket or a block under each knee for support (bottom).2. Lift your pelvis and reach your tailbone toward your heels to create a long spine, then lower it back down.3. Bring your palms face, up by your hips, resting them at a 45 degree angle from the torso.4. You can stay here for as long as you like, breathing deeply as you inhale and exhale, calming the nervous system with long, even, breaths.5. To linger in the pose, do the restorative version with a bolster, folded blanket, or firm pillow under your back (bottom). Take your prop and align it right behind your sacrum while sitting on the mat. Have it positioned in the direction of the spine, supporting your head and neck. This will not only give you a greater opening in the hips, and low back, but also in the shoulders, as they roll open off the pillow or bolster.Benefits: This pose gently stretches the inner thighs, groins, and knees. It also stimulates the abdominal organs, and helps relieve the symptoms of stress, mild depression, menstruation and menopause.More about Danielle and Xen Strength YogaRelated Links:7 Mind-Body Bettering Benefits of Yoga (Better Sex Included!)Get Ready For Summer With SELF’s Drop 10 PlanThe Busy Girl’s 20-Minute Workout–For daily fitness tips follow SELF on Facebook and Twitter.Get SELF on your iPad and Kindle Fire!