Hips are one of the hardest-working joints in the body. Every time we take a step, sit down, stand up, etc we are putting them to work. You might not notice when they’re stiff in the way you notice tight hamstrings or a sore back, but you will feel the difference when they are open and flexible.
This modified variation on Crescent Lunge — Anjaneyasana — stretches the hip flexors and thighs, while also helping to open the abdomen, chest, and shoulders.
- Begin standing at the top of your mat. Bend your knees, fold forward, and place your hands on the mat. Then, step your left foot to the back of the mat.
- Align your right knee over the heel of your right foot.
- Lower your left knee to the floor and slide your leg back a few inches. Un-tuck your left toes and rest the top of your left foot on the floor.
- Inhale as you raise your torso to an upright position. Sweep your arms overhead. Draw your tailbone toward the floor. Gaze up at your thumbs.
- Hold for up to one minute. Step both feet forward to the top of the mat again, and come to a full standing position. Repeat on the other side.
A standard pose in many yoga styles, Extended Triangle — Utthita Trikonasana — tones the legs and stretches the hips, groins, and hamstrings. It also opens the chest and shoulders, and helps to relieve lower back pain, stress, and sluggish digestion.
- Begin standing at the top of your mat. Turn to the left and step your feet wide. Extend your arms out to the sides at shoulder height. Your feet should be as far apart as your wrists. Rotate your right (front) foot 90 degrees, so your front foot’s toes point to the top of the mat. Turn your left toes in slightly. Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot.
- Reach through your right hand in the same direction that your right foot is pointed. Shift your left hip back, and then fold sideways at the hip. Rest your right hand on your outer shin or ankle. If you are more flexible, place your fingertips on the floor. You can also place your hand on a block.
- Align your shoulders so your left shoulder is directly above your right shoulder. Gently turn your head to gaze at your left thumb.
- Hold for up to one minute. To release, inhale and press firmly through your left heel as you lift your torso. Lower your arms, change the position of your feet, and repeat on the opposite side.
3. Tree Pose
A popular balancing pose, Tree Pose —Vrksasana — stretches the hips, thighs, torso, and shoulders. It builds strength in the ankles and calves, and helps remedy flat feet.
- Begin standing with your feet together. Slightly shift your weight to your left foot. Bend your right knee, then reach down and clasp your right ankle. Use your hand to draw your right foot alongside your inner left thigh. Do not rest your foot against your knee, only above or below it.
- Rest your hands on your hips and lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Fix your gaze softly in front of you. Press your right foot into your left thigh.
- For a deeper pose, extend your arms above your head, reaching your fingertips towards the sky. To deepen your pose even more, try closing your eyes.
- Hold for up to one minute. Step your feet together again, and then repeat on the opposite side.
Questions? Need help with a pose? Ask in the comments!