Hip Opening Asanas

For those of us who are not full-time yoga teachers and have a day job in the office, we spend ALOT of time sitting down in front of the computer which inevitably causes our hip flexors to contract excessively. Over time, it loses its flexibility and length which may lead to problems with our posture and even cause lower back pain. Other cardiovascular exercises like running or even day to day walking requires hip strength but does not work on our hip flexibility. Our pelvic area is also a complex system of powerful muscles, tendons and ligaments and when we’re tired or stressed we feel alot of it in our hips. Consciously including asanas that helps to open our hips into our daily practice or even dedicating a day of practice to a hip opening sequence will help us to stretch our hip flexors and hip rotators and help relieve stress and release tension.

There are many yoga asanas that helps us to achieve this purpose. There are the usual suspects like eka pada raja kapotasana (one legged king pigeon pose), utthan pristhasana (lizard pose), baddha konasana (bound angle pose) and utthita hasta padangusthasana (extended hand to big toe pose). Then there are less obvious ones like virabhadrasana I (warrior I) and even urdhva dhanurasana (upward bow pose). Supple hip flexors will help us to go deeper into poses like urdhva dhanurasana as it allows us to push our tailbone higher towards the ceiling.

There is one particular variation of eka pada raja kapotasana which is particularly effective at targeting our hip flexors and it is relatively simple to do so much so that you can do it in your office next to your desk whenever you feel like taking a break from sitting down. Some call it the King Arthur’s pose or the screaming pigeon pose which is rather amusing but understandable once you get into the final pose. Bring your mat next to the wall and fold it in half or in quarters. Kneel on your mat very close to the wall, flexing your knees and slowly bring your left shin against the wall with your left foot dorsi flexed against the wall. Keep your left knee on your mat. Now bring your right foot forward, flex your right hip and right knee and and place your right foot firmly on the ground, knee above ankle and thigh shin in a 90 degree low lunge. On an exhale, slowly push your tailbone back towards the wall to rest against or next to your left foot and rest your back against the wall if you can.

Try to keep your spine long and shoulders in a neutral position and if your ribs start to stick out, consciously pull them back in by contracting your abdominal muscles to help maintain a long spine.  On your next exhale, stretch your arms up towards the ceiling and look up at your thumbs if you can. You should feel a very intense stretch along the front of your left thigh which is your left hip flexors. Stay for a few breaths and on an exhale slowly come out of the pose by bringing your left shin off the wall and change sides.