Bound up hips affect your whole body, tightening everything from your hamstrings to your neck. Through my skiing and BASE jumping, my back takes a lot of abuse. I’ve found that when my lower back often gets really sore and tight, my body as a whole tightens up. Hips are definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when you have lower back pain—or at least they weren’t for me; I didn’t even realize that “tight” hips were a thing. But, a tight back and hips are something pretty much everyone can relate to, whether you’re a skier, runner, or cyclist, or even if you just spend a long time in the car or on planes.
Above Photo By: Re Wikstrom
The primary reason that I began a regular yoga program was that my body had started aching and my lower back was constantly sore due to a back surgery I had when I was younger that fused my L4 and L5 together. The only thing I knew about my hips is that when I’d go to the occasional yoga class and the teacher would have us go into “pigeon” pose, I was in for a grueling sufferfest of trying to make my body do what it clearly could not. Or so I thought…
With regular yoga, my body started feeling better, and I grew stronger as a whole, both mentally and physically. I’ve since obtained my 200-hour yoga teacher certification and have learned a lot about my body and the amazing things yoga can do for you. I’m now free from lower back pain when I’m practicing regularly. And when I’m not, I notice—quickly.
The following hip openers can really improve your performance, give you more range of motion, and create more flexibility in your hamstrings. If they’re difficult for you at first, give it some time and patience, and you’ll learn to love them. I promise!
Low lunge: Make sure both your hip bones and toes are pointing forward, drop your back knee, and let your hips sink into the pose.
High lunge: Straighten your back leg, activating your quadriceps muscles. Keep your front knee directly above your ankle and let your hips sink into the pose while keeping your legs strong.
Warrior II: Rotate your hips and shoulders to the side and drop your heel, placing your foot perpendicular to the front of your mat. Keep your back leg straight and strong, and make sure your front knee isn’t falling inward. Extend your arms straight out to the side and bend your front knee, gazing over your front fingers.
Pigeon set-up: From downward dog, step your right leg forward and plant your ankle behind your left hand and your knee behind your right hand. Keep your ankle flexed to protect your knee, then straighten your back leg and pull your chest up.
Full pigeon: Exhale and fold over your front leg as far as you can comfortably breathe. You may need to place a block or a pillow under your hips. Relax into the pose and let your muscles relax around your hips, but remember to breathe! Stay in this pose for at least 15 breaths and come out slowly.
This is a variation of full pigeon, and is good if you have knee issues or very tight hips. Start by lying on your back, then place your right ankle on your left knee and relax your right knee to the side. Place your hands behind your left knee or on your left shin and gently pull back.