We've all either been or seen that student in yoga class that has tears flowing down her (or his, but I've definitely seen it more from the ladies) face, just to overhear this student say to their friend after class, "Those hip openers really got to me today."
Yup, the hips, the keeper of our emotions.
The hips are part of the pelvic girdle: the ilium (back part of the hip bone), the ischium (uppermost & largest part of the pelvis), the iliac crest, the pubis and the hip joint. Not counting the numerous ligaments, membranes, and cartilage that also comprise the pelvic girdle.
The hip joint is a synovial joint between the acetabulum of the hip bone and the head of the femur. This joint is what allows the movement of the hips in yoga asana. You can find flexion (decreasing the area between the bones of a limb at a joint), extension (increasing the area between the bones of a limb at a joint), adduction (bringing in closer to the midline of the body), abduction (bringing away from the midline of the body) and rotation through this joint.
It's no wonder emotions & stress can find a place to hide in this area of the body! Ever notice how tight people's (or your) hips get?
Here are a few poses to help you loosen and open those pesky hips...tears are optional!
Be sure to warm up with several rounds of sun salutations and standing postures like Warrior 1 & 2, triangle pose and extended side angle (all of which are standing hip openers).
Anjaneyasana or low lunge: step your left foot back, extending the leg long, with the knee to the floor, top of the foot comes to the floor. The right leg is bent, foot pointing forward. Walk your hands up the right knee, inhale and lift the chest, find some length in your spine. Hook your thumbs in front of you and inhale your arms up, lifting the chest and exhale, lunge into the right leg. Take 5 breaths here. Exhale your hands down and switch sides.
Baddha Konasana or cobbler's pose: Sitting on the floor, draw your knees in towards you with your feet on the floor. Open your knees wide and bring the soles of the feet together. Grabbing onto the big toes, open your feet so that the soles of the feet are directed up towards the sky (if available to you). Draw the heels in as close to the pelvis as possible. Inhale, lift your chest and look up. Draw the naval towards the spine and exhale, lead with the chest and chin (helping to maintain a straight spine), draw your heart center towards your toes. If your elbows are resting on the insides of your thighs, you can gently press down and back. If your hips are tight (your knees may be lifted pretty far off the ground), you can put blankets or blocks under your knees to relieve some of the pressure from your hips. Take 5-8 breaths in this position and come up and on inhale. Repeat, but for the second pose, round the spine, drawing the 3rd eye or forehead towards your toes. Take 5-8 breaths here and then come up on an inhale.
Agni Stambasana or fire log pose: You may also have heard this pose called double pigeon.
From baddha konasana, stack the right shin on top of the left. Ideally, the heel of the right foot will be just past the left knee. Both feet are flexed. If the hips are tighter and you have quite a bit of space between the knees and the hips, you may put a blanket or block in that space until your hips become more flexible. If this is enough for you, place your hands on the floor directly behind you and breathe. Or, I like to press my thumbs into my hip creases here, give it a shot, it may feel good to you, it may not. If you would like to go farther, inhale, lift your chest, draw the naval in and exhale, walk your hands in front of your legs, folding forward. Try to draw your chest past your legs. Take several breaths in this position and then inhale, slowly come up. Switch sides.
These are just a few, for some more poses that help out your hips, check out this page at Yoga Journal:
As a reminder, everybody's body is different. For some, their hips are already pretty open and these poses seem easy. For others, it can take a long time to get the hips open. Just be patient with yourself and keep trying, they will eventually become more flexible. Listen to your body and don't force anything.