Are you already back in the grind at work spending hours sitting at your desk? Are your hips tight? If the answer to either question is yes, start the New Year with open hips!
If your hips are tight, in pain or you have always dreamed of doing the splits, consider stretching to improve the joint mobility (check with your doctor if you have pain or are experiencing any worrying symptoms). Even those of us born with flexibility still need to work consistently to maintain hip health.
In the slideshow, I show a few of my favorite yoga poses, which I do a couple of times a week, to maintain my hip flexibility. I recommend that you hold each pose for approximately 1-2 minutes. Practice safely and without pain. Hips can be extremely vulnerable when pushed too far. The New York Times Science reporter and author, William Broad, wisely asserts, “Better to do yoga in moderation and listen carefully to your body. That temple, after all, is your best teacher.
Modified poses are offered in the photographs, but if you need to take it back even more, use props.
Modified Saddle Pose I
Kneel on your heels with your knees separated mat-width apart and big toes touching behind you. If you experience pain or discomfort in your knees or quads, roll a blanket into a log shape and lay it horizontally in the creases of your knees (the bigger the roll, the less pressure). Then, lean back using your hands to support your torso a few inches away from your buttocks, fingers facing your body.
Modified Saddle Pose II
If it’s available to you, from Modified Saddle Pose I, bend your elbows and lower your forearms onto blocks. If you can go deeper, get rid of the blocks and place your forearms on the mat.
Modified Lizard Pose
Come onto your hands and knees. Step your right foot forward about an inch toward the right edge of your mat to assume a knee lunge position. Let your hips sink forward and place your forearms on the ground to support your torso (use blocks for extra elevation if needed). Let your back soften toward the floor. After holding for 1-2minutes, repeat on the left side.
From modified Lizard Pose, curl your back toes under. Elevate your back inner thigh off the ground so that you are balancing on your forearms and left toes only. Hug your right knee in towards your midline. Gaze below your face or slightly ahead. Let your upper back melt towards the ground (try not to round).
Open your legs into a V position. If your pelvis scoops backwards under your torso (a posterior tilt), fold a blanket and sit on it. Over time, work to increase the angle of your V by sliding your hips forward while keeping your legs planted in the same place.
Come into a seated position with the soles of your feet together. Elevate onto a blanket if needed and use blocks for support under your thighs if they are high off the ground. Hold your feet with your hands and open them upward. Simultaneously, use your inner thigh muscles and elbows to press your upper legs towards the floor. If you can do so with a long spine, begin to hinge at your hips to assume a forward bend towards your feet (if your spine begins to round, skip the forward bend and work upright).
Come onto your hands and knees. Extend your right foot in front of you, balancing on your heel (If you are too high to support yourself with your hands on the ground place blocks beside your hips and rest your hands on them). Pull your toes back towards your body (dorsi flexion). If you can maintain a long spine, begin to hinge at your right hip to fold over your right leg, aiming your face to your shin. After holding for 1-2 minutes, repeat on the left side.
From the upright half hanumanasana position, slide your right foot forward and lower your hip structure towards the mat. You will likely need to place 1-2 blocks under your right sit bone for support. As you become more flexible, lower your props.