Hip Openers in Yoga: What They Are and Why We Do Them

hip openers-pigeon

The other day while practicing triangle pose, my yoga teacher mentioned the pose is a hip opener. It got me thinking about why we do hip openers in yoga. What’s the benefit of having open hips? And what does it even mean to have them?

According to Yoga Journal, our hips are physically connected to more than twenty muscles. That means tight hips affect many other areas. Hips are powerful joints. They stabilize the body and allow us to walk and bend. We want open hips, because tight hips make the spine work harder to support our bodies.

With open hips we’ll have less back pain and better circulation. Even neck pain and poor posture can start with tightness in the hips. Hip openers don’t just open the hips. They also stretch muscles in the inner thighs, legs, and back.

And the benefits are not just physical. According to yogic tradition, we store negative emotions in our hips. If we don’t feel in control of our lives, it may show up as tightness in our hips. So, opening the hips may help us feel more at ease and open to creativity and new ideas.

Hip openers can also help relieve stress and anxiety. When we’re stressed, we again tend to constrict our hip muscles, which can lead to back pain. Releasing tension in the hips can have a relaxing effect on the entire body.

Hip Openers in Yoga

You can probably think of poses that are intense hip openers. Fire log, cow face pose, and pigeon come to mind. You know they are hip openers because you feel the burn when you reach your edge in these poses.

But there are many other poses that qualify as hip openers. As my teacher mentioned, triangle is one of them. Others include:

  • child’s pose
  • forward bends
  • squat
  • seated or reclining cobbler’s pose
  • “number 4” (sometimes called eye of the needle)
  • warrior two
  • frog
  • crescent lunge
  • lizard
  • runner’s lunge

In fact, it’s difficult to think of many poses that don’t work the hips in some way.

Performing Hip Openers Safely

Sometimes our hips open before they’re ready, so never force yours to open if it’s painful. Despite their power, hips are delicate. Listen to your body and go only to your edge when you practice hip openers.

If you struggle with hip openers, props are your friend, so don’t hesitate to use them. (In fact, if you practice yoga, props are your friend.)

A block or blanket tucked under your hip in pigeon or under both hips in butterfly can make opening the hips more comfortable, so you’ll stay in the pose longer. You can also try sitting up on a blanket or block for forward bends as well as using blocks to reach the ground in poses like runner’s lunge, lizard, and triangle.

How do you feel about hip openers? Do you love them? Hate them? Have a favorite or one you would like to avoid at all costs? Let us know in the comments!

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Maria Kuzmiak

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