Repeated muscle movements above and below the hip joint make it tight, impairing our overall mobility. Stretching exercises open hip flexors, rotators and inner thighs, relieve lower back and sciatica pain, and improve circulation and overall flexibility. Try these hip-opening asanas: lizard pose, Anjaneyasana, pigeon pose, Gomukhasana and ankle to knee pose.
In a general sense, mobility is the ability to move or be moved freely and easily. In the fitness world, mobility is being able to perform functional movement patterns without restrictions in the range of motion (ROM).
Keeping The Hip Fit
The hip joint is the largest and one of the most important joints of the body.
It bears our entire body weight when we walk, run, and jump. Functionally, the hip joint is one of the most flexible joints and allows the greatest range of motion.
Yet, it’s also one of the tightest areas of the body and one that creates chronic and reverberating pain. It connects our upper and lower body. So the muscles attached above and below the hip are affected by movements supported by this joint system.
Movements require work from these muscles that stabilize and support and thus place a certain level of force on the hip, which the hip joint must accommodate repeatedly.
With repetitive motion, tightness occurs, which creates restrictions in the body and makes mobility challenging. Open hips help relieve back pain, improve circulation through the legs, and increase agility and flexibility of your gait, all of which equate with better mobility.
The hips are also at the center of your body and alignment, so releasing the hips will help relieve tightness in areas above and below this ball and socket joint. Super important! Here are 5 stretches to help you increase hip mobility.
1. Low Lunge Or Anjaneyasana
- Releases tightness in the lower back, especially for those that experience sciatica and lower back pain (LBP)
- Opens the hip flexors (psoas, rectus femoris, and TFL) and the front chain of your body (rectus abdominis, pectoral muscles, and side waists)
- Increases ROM for faster and more agile movements
- Keep the front foot directly under the knee.
- Slide the back leg as far back as you can so you’re above the knee joint and not directly on the patella (knee bone).
- Try to connect the little toe of the back leg to the floor (allowing slight internal rotation of back leg).
- Draw the abs in to protect lower back when leaning back.
2. Lizard Pose
- Stretches and releases inner thighs while opening the hip flexors
- Increases range of motion and gait for longer strides
- Opens the chest and shoulders
- Align the front knee directly above the foot.
- Keep back leg as straight as you can.
- Drop the back knee to the floor to modify.
- Keep chest lifted and back as flat as you can (avoid rounding upper back).
- Draw the front knee as close to the shoulder (midline) as you can.
3. Pigeon Pose
- Relieves chronic LBP and sciatica
- Opens the hip flexors and inner thighs
- Releases tension and increases ROM in the hip rotator muscles (glute medius, glute minimus, piriformis, and gemellis).
- Increases circulation through the legs and digestive and reproductive systems.
- Keep back leg as straight as you can.
- Keep hips squared by placing each hip on its own side of the mat.
- Keep front shin parallel to the front of your mat. Modify by propping your seat up with blankets or blocks.
- Keep front foot flexed to stabilize the knee joint.
4. Cow Face Pose Or Gomukhasana
- Releases tension in the outer hips and lower back
- Opens all hip rotator muscles
- Stretches ankle joints
- Flex both feet to stabilize knees.
- Cross legs at the knee joint.
- Prop your seat up with blankets or blocks to modify.
- Keep a straight back when leaning forward over the legs.
- Breathe … this is a very intense hip stretch!
5. Ankle To Knee Pose
- Relieves tightness in LBP and sciatic pain
- Releases hip flexors and rotators
- Increases ROM for quicker and longer lateral movements
- Align both feet above and below the knees to form a triangle with both legs.
- Flex both feet to stabilize knee joint.
- Keep lower back slighted arched and back straight when leaning forward.
Hold each stretch for at least 20-30 deep and long breaths. I promise it gets easier, the longer you stay in the stretch.
The muscles and attachments of your hip joint are extremely strong, as they should be to keep this large joint stable. However, this also makes stretching it a challenge!
For those that sit all day long, your hips are in a constant state of flexion, so working on flexibility and mobility is not to be overlooked. The tighter the hip, the less you use them. The less you use them, the tighter they get. Vicious cycle!
So the more you release and open the hips, the more you can release tension and prevent restrictions…all leading to better mobility. We can all agree that we want to move without limitations and, more importantly, without pain.
So the more mobile our bodies are, the faster we can move and feel good doing so.