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Your hip joints are an anatomical miracle — and also a pain in the butt (literally). Nearly every person on the planet has experienced some sort of physical issue that is directly related to their hips, which, considering the intricacy of this ball-and-socket joint, isn’t really a surprise. Each hip is surrounded by 17 muscles, which allow you to move your legs forward, backward, side to side, in and out, and in rotation. Various combinations of those muscular actions allow you to stand upright, run, jump, change directions, kick, dive, flip and climb stairs.
Because of their complexity, the possible number of hip issues you can have increases exponentially, and symptoms of hip problems include things like back pain, knee/ankle pain, poor balance and bad posture. Typically, a strength or mobility imbalance in one or more of the muscles that control your hips is responsible for your issue, either because of lifestyle choices such as being sedentary or imbalanced athletic training.
These yoga-derived hip stretches can help remobilize your hips and get you on the path to improved performance and pain-free activity. Do them after a workout or on an active rest day when your muscles are warm and supple for best results.
1. Frog Pose
Mobilizes the hips, inner thighs/groin, shoulders and chest
Athletic benefits: Improved lateral strength and speed, reduced knee strain, better rotational capability for sports such as martial arts
Rx: 1 to 2 minutes
Get into a tabletop position with your elbows under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Slowly slide or walk your legs apart as far as you comfortably can, keeping your knees in line with your hips and your ankles in line with your knees. Your toes should be pointing left and right, and your lower back should be as flat as possible; don’t let it arch. When you feel a stretch, stop there and breathe.
Mobility Modification: Place a yoga block or towel underneath your chest or pelvis if you’re particularly inflexible in this position. This helps support your weight and prevents overstretching or strain in your hips.
2. Prayer Squat
Mobilizes the hips, shoulders, ankles, glutes, knees, hamstrings and lower back
Athletic benefits: Increased squatting depth, enhanced explosive power, improved running efficiency, better Achilles tendon health
RX: 1 to 5 minutes
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with your legs turned out from your hips. Bend your knees and hips and slowly descend into a very low squat, keeping your heels on the floor, your chest lifted and your knees in line with your toes. Place your elbows against the inside of your knees and press your palms together in front of your chest. Use your elbows to push outward against your knees to gently open your hips, and consciously pull your tailbone down as you lift the crown of your head up.
Mobility Modification: Place a folded blanket or small set of weight plates underneath your heels if your ankles are inflexible. This enables your tissues to release slowly and without strain.
3. Half Split
Mobilizes the hips, hamstrings, calves and lower back
Athletic benefits: Improved squat depth and power, increased running efficiency, improved range of motion for sports like gymnastics and dance
Rx: 1 minute per side
Begin in a lunge with your right foot forward and your left knee on the ground. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your right foot under your shoulders, then shift your hips back over your left knee and slowly straighten your right leg, flexing your foot and pulling your toes toward your shin. Keep your back as straight as possible as you walk your hands forward and hinge at your hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your right leg. Hold and breathe.
Mobility Modification: Place yoga blocks underneath your hands if you lack flexibility in this position to allow for length in your spine and posterior chain.
4. Cross-Legged Forward Fold
Mobilizes the back, shoulders, hips, piriformis, knees and ankles
Athletic benefits: Improved gait, increased power
and flexibility, superior balance for sports like cycling
Rx: 1 to 2 minutes; change the cross of your legs
Sit cross-legged with your knees stacked over your ankles, and relax your feet and thighs as much as you can. Press your sit bones into the floor and then slowly walk your hands forward, hinging at your hips with your head and spine aligned. Then round forward and allow your head to drop between your arms and rest your forehead on the mat.
Mobility Modification: If your sit bones lift off the floor, place a blanket, yoga block or pillow underneath your glutes to raise your hips above your knees and increase your range of motion.
5. High Lizard Lunge
Mobilizes the hamstrings, hip flexors, quads and lower back
Athletic benefits: Increased overall lower-body power, improved agility and speed, a more refined running stride
Rx: 1 minute per side
Get into a push-up position with your head, hips and heels aligned. Place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders and clasp your hands together. Step your right foot up and outside your right elbow with your knee bent 90 degrees and your left leg straight. Press down into your elbows and right foot to partially support your weight, and as your left hip flexor begins to relax, redistribute your weight and pressure appropriately to enhance the stretch.
Mobility Modification: Perform this move on your hands rather than your forearms, or even place your hands on a yoga block if this is a super-challenging position for you.