Expressions like “burying your feelings” or “keeping it inside” aren’t just metaphors. When we suppress thoughts, memories, and feelings, we are literally hoarding and filling our bodies with them - particularly around the hips.
Yoga teachers have long referred to the hips as the “emotional junk drawer” of the body, and have emphasized the importance of practicing hip opening postures to release and declutter all that “emotional junk” we’ve accumulated over time.
Here are a few easy yet effective hip opening postures below. Remember to breathe, and when you exhale in these poses, close your eyes and try to imagine everything that no longer serves you, everything that causes you stress or anxiety, just flowing away from your body. Practice these regularly and you’ll be feeling lighter, happier and more clear headed in no time.
Emotions aside, though, these hip openers are great for those of us who spend too much time sitting at our desks, or for runners and cyclists with tight hips. In all of these poses, remember that it’s important to listen to your body and to know your limitations in order to avoid injury. Remember that this is your practice, and your practice alone. So respect the process, respect your body’s boundaries, and just enjoy.
Eka Pada Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose)
This posture has been hailed the “king of hip openers.” Bring your right shin forward, as parallel to the front edge of your mat as possible. Slide your left leg backwards with your toe tucked, lower your hips and then untuck your toes. Ensure that the back leg is in a straight line. Fold your upper body forward from the hips, your arms can be stretched forward or folded in front of you. If you choose to stretch them forward, challenge yourself to move your hands/fingertips a little further each time you exhale. Alternate sides.
Lift your upper body from the floor, bend your left shin upwards from the knee and reach for your left foot with your left hand. Place your foot in the nook of your left elbow to hold it in place. Raise your right arm and, if possible, join hands to open the chest and create a slight arch in your back.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Lie flat on your back with your feet in a butterfly position, where the soles of your feet are touching. You can also challenge yourself to deepen this stretch by either crossing your legs, or bringing your legs into padmasana (lotus pose).
Malasana (Garland Pose)
Sit in a low squat position while keeping your knees wide and facing outward. Bring your hands into anjali mudra and press your palms together, with your elbows out wide and the tips of your elbows touching your knees to gently push your knees out further. Be sure to keep your back as straight as possible. This is a very relaxing pose - once you ease into it, be mindful of and just enjoy your breath.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Bend)
Stand with your legs three to four feet apart. Stand tall and strong as if you were in mountain pose, ensuring that your feet are planted firmly into your mat. Stretch your arms out behind you and clasp your hands together, then slowly bend forward and downwards from the hips.
Be aware of your hips, making sure that they aren’t pushing too far backwards, which can take away from the benefits of this posture. Because of the blood rushing to your head, this is a great energizing pose for when you’re feeling a little lethargic or unfocused.
Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
Lie on your back, and as you inhale, bring your knees towards your belly. Grab the insides of your feet with your hands, and open your knees slightly wider than your torso. Keep the position of your hands firm, flex your heels, and gently push your feet into your hands to create resistance. You can also rock side to side in this pose to ease tension in the lower back.
Uttan Pristhasana (Lizard Pose)
Both a groin strengthener and hip opener, Uttan Pristhasana or “Lizard Pose” is a good way to warm up for more intense hip opening asanas. Go into a deep forward lunge, with your front knee bent at 90 degrees and the back knee raised. Lower both of your forearms to the floor on the inside of your front leg. Keep your back strong and lengthen the spine. Ensure there isn’t tension in the neck, but don’t allow it to just drop. Keep your face and shoulders soft and relaxed. If you can’t go all the way forward with your forearms, use a block for support. Alternate sides.
If you want to challenge yourself, lift your back leg from the knee and catch it with your opposite hand (Left leg, right hand. Right leg, left hand), pulling your back leg towards your body.
Illustrations by: Poppy Malby