5 yin yoga poses for tight hips
We are, more than ever, the sitting generation. We wake up and sit down to eat our breakfast, then usually sit in a car or on a bus or a train to get to our office, where we sit down at a desk for hours on end and either eat lunch at our desk or get up to sit down somewhere else to eat it, before sitting on our commute home to sit on the sofa and go to bed. So many of us have (amongst other things) chronically tight hips which can really limit us in so many facets of life. You will struggle to sit cross-legged, you will struggle to squat as low, you may struggle to get up from sitting and if you are a yoga practitioner and want to practice advanced asana, many of the poses will remain locked to you, not because you aren’t strong enough, but because you aren’t mobile enough.
The beauty of these yin poses is you have the time to allow your body to open, you get an opportunity to cool your jets for a second and not have to worry about doing, you have an opportunity to recharge your batteries and, you target the deeper connective tissue which is where you will find greater range of motion, rather than just focusing on your muscles.
Before I had a bolster I used to roll a pillow up in a blanket, or you could just roll a couple of thick blankets together and if you don’t have a block, you can use books. All of these postures will vary in intensity depending on the time of day, how open you are in your hips, how many hours you’ve been sitting as well as about a million other variables so just be mindful, treat yourself with kindness and DO NOT FORCE ANYTHING. Stay in each pose for 1-5 minutes and make sure to do both sides. Also, if we were to be super correct, I would have used the proper yin names for these poses but I don’t wanna and you are more likely to be familiar with these.
From tabletop position, step your left foot in line with your hands and if it feels okay, shuffle your right knee further back. I also like to turn my left foot to 45 degrees. Untuck your right toes and place a blanket underneath your right leg if you need to pad your knee. Then, you can either stay like this, bring your forearms down to the mat, bring your forearms down to a block or lay over a bolster. You can transition from here straight into pigeon before doing the other leg, but if it’s too intense for your hip, do the other side before coming into pigeon (to give it a bit of time to rest).
From your lizard lunge on the left side, shuffle your foot over to the right side of the mat and gently lower you left knee down so your shin is flat on the mat – it does not have to be at 90 degrees but equally, you want to avoid sitting on top of your foot. If your left hip is really high, you can place a block underneath. You can also place a blanket under the outstretched leg to pad the knee and melt over a bolster or, bring your forehead to the floor.
This one can be super intense so be very mindful and move slowly. Place your left shin parallel to the short edge of the mat and flex your foot. Then pick up your right leg and with the foot flexed, stack the foot above your left knee and the knee above your left foot. Remove the flesh from underneath your sitz bones, bring your fingertips either side of you and as you inhale, sit up tall. Without using your hands, see if you can encourage some external rotation in your hips. If nothing moves and you’re feeling an intense stretch already, you can stay here and just breathe. If your top knee is really high, you can place a block between the top knee and bottom foot.
If your legs are starting to stack nicely, you can fold forward if you like, extending through the crown of the head on each inhale. You can bring your forearms or forehead to a block. To come out of this pose, gently lift up your chest and then grab hold of the top leg with one hand below the knee and the other around the foot, picking it up in one fluid movement and gently placing it down. You may wish to extend both legs and shake or roll them from side to side before coming to the other leg.
4. Cow face
From seated, bend your left knee and bring your left foot towards your right hip. Bend your right leg and bring your right foot towards your left hip, doing your best to try to stack the knees on top of each other. Remove the flesh from your sitz bones and make sure both hips are grounded. I personally think the bind used for the full expression of this pose would be a bit too intense for long holds, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. You may prefer to either take eagle arms or just bring your hands down in front of your legs as you fold over.
From seated, bring the soles of the feet to touch and gently lower the knees towards the mat. Usually the feet would be very close to the body, but as a yin pose I prefer to bring the legs into more of a diamond shape. If the knees are really high you can place a block underneath them, and then place one end of a bolster on top of the feet and lean your head on the other end.
And there you have it! If you have any questions, tips, if you try any of these or you have your own favourites, I would love to hear about it in the comments below. Enjoy your happy hips!