Maintaining flexibility and stability in the hip joints is crucial for lower-back health and cultivating overall freedom and ease in our bodies.
“Open” hips are a top priority for many yogis, and for good reason: Maintaining flexibility and stability in the hip joints is crucial for lower-back health, not to mention for cultivating overall freedom and ease in our bodies. And opening the hips can be particularly helpful when it comes to sitting comfortably for extended periods of time in meditation. In this sequence, we’ll warm up with standing postures to strengthen the outer hips, ensure stability and proper positioning of the femur in the hip socket, release tension in the lower back, and stretch the inner thighs. With the outer hips “turned on,” the inner thighs prepared, and the core awake, you’ll more readily launch into the peak pose—Flying Pigeon. (Remember, even if this pose feels out of reach, there is benefit in the attempt!) Finally, we’ll move into deeper stretches on the floor to help release any trapped physical and emotional tension.
Sit cross-legged with one shin in front of the other, and your feet under your knees. Draw your navel in, lengthen your spine, and relax your shoulder blades down your back. Inhale to lengthen your spine even more, and on an exhale, straighten your arms and lean forward, staying up on tented fingertips. Pause here for 5 deep breaths.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Come to your hands and knees; bring your hands a few inches in front of your shoulders and spread your fingers. With your feet hip-distance apart, curl your toes under and lift your hips. Move toward straightening your legs while descending your heels toward the ground. Stay for 5 deep breaths.
Standing Forward Bend
From Downward Dog, walk your hands back toward your feet. With your fingertips on the mat, firm your legs and fold forward. If you feel any sensitivity in your hamstrings or low back, bend your knees deeply. Stay here for 5 deep breaths, then walk your hands back out to Down Dog.
Extended Side Angle Pose
From Down Dog, place your right foot between your hands and turn your back toes in slightly toward the left side of your mat. Ground down through your right hand on the mat (or a block) inside your right foot, then lift your left arm skyward. Use your right arm to press your knee open as you simultaneously hug the right hip in to lengthen your torso and open your right inner hip. Hold for 3–5 breaths, then repeat on the other side.
From Tadasana (Mountain Pose), place your right heel high up on your left inner thigh or below the knee, but not on the joint. Place your hands on your hips, making sure your pelvis is even in all directions, as you hug your outer left hip in toward your midline and extend through your right knee. Connect your eyes to one point—your drishti—as you bring your hands to Anjali Mudra (Salutation Seal). Stay here, or grow your hands overhead and stay there for 5 deep breaths, then repeat on the other side. Release, then step back to Down Dog.
Warrior Pose II
From Down Dog, place your right foot between your hands. Turn your back toes in slightly toward the left side of your mat, then rise to stand and bring both arms parallel to the ground. Firm your back leg and work toward a 90-degree bend in your front knee, tracking your knee straight ahead of you. Firm your right hip under and draw your navel in. With your arms spread, open your chest as you keep your shoulders floating above your hips. Stay here for 5 deep breaths.
Extended Triangle Pose
From Warrior II, straighten your front (right) leg and shift your right hip back as you reach forward and grab your right ankle with your right hand or place the hand outside the leg on the mat or a block. Float your spine over your front leg and open your chest, keeping the front ribs and navel in. Lift your left arm skyward and gaze up toward your left hand if that feels ok on your neck (if not, look sideways or down). Stay in this position for 5 deep breaths.
Half Moon Pose
From Triangle, look down and slide your right hand about a foot in front of you, a little to the right of your right foot. Step your left leg up and revisit all the actions of Triangle Pose: Hug your right hip toward the midline, firm your back (lifted) leg, lengthen both sides of your waist, and draw your ribs and navel in. Settle your gaze toward your mat, to the side, or up toward your lifted hand. Stay here for 5 deep breaths. Move through a vinyasa, then repeat Warrior II, Triangle Pose, and Half Moon Pose on the left side.