Happy Hips and Hamstrings

By Madhu Bansal

Why hips? Almost every movement – whether walking, standing, sitting, or bending –originates from the hips. Yoga for hips and hamstrings can improve balance and posture by stretching and strengthening the muscles and joints in your legs. The goal of this two-part sequence is to stretch your hip flexors and strengthen your hamstrings.

Hip flexors are made up of three different muscles – Psoas Major, Illiacus, and Rectus Femoris (part of the quads) – all working together to provide stability to the lower extremities. Below is a series of hip opening stretches that will help increase the mobility and range of motion in your hips.

As always, be mindful of your stretches, engage in the Ujjayi breath, and stay in each pose/asana for at least five to 10 deep breaths and warm up with simle shoulder back and core stretches.

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Cradle the Foot Stretch

  • Cradle the right foot and knee with both hands and gently rock from side to side.
  • Switch and repeat with the left foot.

Benefits: Great flexor and opening for the hips. This stretch is weight bearing and excellent to help build hip bone density.

Bound Angle/Butterfly/Cobbler (Badha Konasan)

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  • Start with Staff Pose (Dandasan).
  • Keeping the spine long, bring the soles of the feet together.
  • Press the outer edges of the feet together and gently draw the feet in closer to the body.
  • For support, place a folded blanket or a block under each knee.
  • For further challenge, keep the spine long and come into a forward bend.

Variation: Supine/Supta Badha Konasana – a reclined version of the pose.

Benefits: Opens the hips and groin.

Half Lotus (Ardha Padmasan)

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Start with ‘Cradle the Foot’ to warm up and open the right hip.

  • When ready, place the right foot close to left hip.
  • Switch and repeat with the left foot.

Variation: Supine or lying on your back. For support, place a folded blanket under the folded knee.

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Pigeon (Kapotasana)

  • Starting on all fours, swing the right knee forward.
  • Rest by resting the forearms down or rest the forehead down, keeping the hips level.
  • For support, place a folded blanket under the right hip.
  • Switch and repeat sides.

Variation: Supine/Supta Kapotasan – Starting from supine lunge, place the right foot over the left hip and gently press the knee towards the chest.

These stretches could be used as a warm up to progress into poses such as:

  • Downdog (Adho Mukha Svanasan)
  • Warrior I, II (Veera Bhadrasan)
  • Extended Side Angle (Parsvakonasan)
  • Triangle (Trikonasan)
  • Wide Stance Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasan)

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