The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.
— Alan Watts
Imagine what everyday life was like for our early ancestors. They were nomadic. They hunted and grew their own food. They washed clothes and dishes without the help of a machine. In short, their bodies were constantly in motion. This is actually the way our bodies were designed to move.
Fast forward to today, and you can see how much modern conveniences have affected us as a society. At work, we’re much more likely to be sitting in front of a computer than we are to be moving our bodies as if we were working the fields. What’s worse is that even our most mobile times of the day are still reduced to long periods of sitting. To get to our place of work, rather than walk or bike, many of us sit in a car or bus for up to two hours a day.
Prolonged sitting combined with the stress of everyday life is taking its toll on our health—and can even shorten our lifespan. A study done by the American College of Sports Medicine found a positive correlation between sitting times and mortality rates from cardiovascular diseases and other causes.
Basically, sitting too much is killing us.
So then, what do we do when life demands we work at a desk or sit on a plane for hours?
The answer is quite simple—move your body! Physical activity can help eliminate the detrimental effects of sitting by bringing fresh blood flow and oxygen into your joints, muscles, and organs.
Let’s Talk About Those Tight Hips
While it is common to feel tension in the back and shoulders after sitting for a while, our hips accumulate a lot of tension, as well. Our hips are made of a complex group of muscles that connects the femur to the hip joint and stabilizes the pelvis, among other things. There are 21 muscles that cross the hip and support it in its movements.
Since this is an entire muscle group where everything works together, having tight hips can manifest as pain elsewhere in the body. For example, a tight psoas muscle can result in pain in the leg or low back. Conversely, focusing on opening those tight hips can alleviate symptoms and leave you with a spring in your step.
Not sure if you have tight hips or not? Well, you’ll definitely be able to tell once you get into these poses (or you can take a short quiz for tight hips to see if you have especially tight hips).
5 Easy Yoga Poses to Help Your Tight Hips
Here are some simple yoga poses that anyone can do to build flexibility and open up tight hips. Remember to breathe through each pose. Use each inhale to show you where you hold tightness and each exhale to help melt away the tension and fold you deeper into the pose.
1. Butterfly / Bound Angle Pose / Baddha Konasana
This is a beginner’s pose that anyone can do, but you can also push yourself farther for a deeper stretch.
- Sitting on the ground, bring the soles of your feet together and keep your back straight.
- Wrap your first two fingers around your big toe and use your elbows to gently press your knees to the floor.
- Maintain a straight spine as you fold forward over your feet.
- Do not push yourself too hard. Simply go to the place where you feel a stretch and breathe deeply.
2. Reclined Pigeon / Supta Kapotasana
The typical pigeon pose can be a bit intense for those with tight hips, so doing the pose on your back will give a gentler stretch.
- Lie on your back with your feet planted flat and knees bent.
- Place your right ankle on top of your left knee, keeping your foot flexed to activate your muscles.
- Reach around your left thigh and pull your legs into your chest until you feel a stretch.
- Breathe deeply into any tightness.
- Repeat on the other side. Hold each side for about 10 breaths.
3. Low Lunge / Anjaneyasana
It’s easy to see why this simple pose is the foundation of the hatha yoga sun salutation. It is very effective at creating length and flexibility in the hip flexors. This pose specifically targets the psoas muscle, which connects the lumbar spine to the femur bone.
In this posture, remember to keep your front knee over the foot, the core tight, and the back straight. And, of course, remember to breathe!
4. Yogi Squat / Malasana
A seemingly simple squat is a great way to stretch both the inner and outer hips.
- Stand with the feet hip distance apart with toes slightly turned out.
- Then, squat down and bring your hands to heart center.
You can use your elbows to push the knees away from you, creating a deeper stretch. Or, you can stack blocks or books underneath you and sit on them to support your bottom and provide a gentler stretch.
5. Child’s Pose / Balasana
Alas we reach my all-time favorite yoga posture, child’s pose! What might seem like a resting pose can be quite effective for opening the body and releasing tension. This is a great overall stretch and relaxation pose.
There are several different variations of this posture, but the one we’ll do is with the knees apart:
- Kneel on the floor sitting on your heels with your knees apart.
- Lay your torso down between your thighs as you bring your arms overhead.
- Breathe into any tightness you feel in your shoulders, low back, and hips.
…and Remember to Breathe
To help support your body in a day filled with sitting, try to incorporate these exercises into your routine. And when the poses get difficult for you, turn to your breath. The breath is the most important element of these poses (and any yoga pose for that matter).
In addition to these poses, add some physical activity, like a brisk walk or Vinyasa flow, and your body will thank you.