Hip Opener Yoga: Go With the Flow

In today's world, many of us are engaged in jobs that demand we sit for long periods of time, which has a profound effect on the health of our hips. Whether we spend more time sedentary or not, having strong and flexible hips is an asset to our health, well-being, and vitality. Let’s explore some of the best gentle, moderate, and intense hip opener yoga postures that you can try at home today.

Key takeaways:

What are hip opener exercises?

Hip opener exercises are designed specifically to target the muscles and connective tissues surrounding your hip joints. These postures may help improve the strength, stability, mobility, and flexibility of this key muscle group. Additionally, since we store a lot of tension in our hips, a fitness routine that incorporates hip opener yoga and exercises may help ease sore and tight hips.

Benefits of hip opener yoga

Let’s explore the many benefits of hip opener exercises.

Enhanced flexibility

Having stiff, inflexible hips can affect our movements profoundly. From getting out of bed in the morning to taking a long lunge during exercise, our hips are implicated in almost everything we do.

Incorporating hip opener yoga into your exercise regime can vastly improve the range of movement in your hips, enabling you to perform simple and complicated movements with more ease.

Improved posture and alignment

If our hips are unbalanced and overly tight, it can lead to lop-sided walking patterns, lower back pain, and other issues that affect the entire body. Many hip opener yoga postures help to release tight muscles and connective tissues while stretching and flexing the spine, leading to improved alignment and balance in the body.

Stress and tension relief

Our hips can hold a lot of tension from the rigors of daily life, and in the Yogic traditions, it is said that the hips can hold emotions and stress. Incorporating a range of hip openers into your movement practice can help release stored tension and stress, promoting a better feeling of wellbeing.

Best hip opener yoga poses

You don’t have to be a yoga practitioner to reap the benefits of these hip-opening exercises. They are an easy addition to any workout regimen and work well as a warm-down stretch following a strong fitness session.

These yoga postures can be quite intense, so make sure you are listening to your body. If you experience pain, gently back out of the pose and rest. A strong stretching sensation is fine, but being in pain is not.

1. Butterfly pose

Intensity: Gentle

Target: Inner thighs

Woman doing Butterfly pose
  1. Sit on the floor and bring the soles of your feet together, knees out to the side
  2. Gently press just above the knee to deepen the stretch
  3. You should feel the muscle right at the top of your inner thighs
  4. Relax and breathe into the stretch for one minute
Yoga teacher tip
If this pose feels too strong, try putting some cushioning under your knees to support them.

2. Wide legged forward fold

Intensity: Gentle

Target: Inner thigh, hamstrings

Woman doing Wide legged forward fold
  1. Start by taking a wide stance with your feet facing forward
  2. Place your hands on your hips and with a flat back, fold forward from the hips
  3. Keep your feet planted firmly on the ground
  4. Place your hands on the floor and gradually walk them back until they are in line with your feet
  5. Hold the posture for 10 deep breaths and come out slowly, lifting the torso first and then stepping your feet together
Yoga teacher tip
You can lessen or increase the intensity of this hip opening stretch by having your feet wider or bringing them slightly closer together.

3. Supine figure four

Intensity: Moderate

Target: Outer thighs

Woman doing Supine figure four
  1. Lay on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground
  2. Pick up your left leg and place the ankle just below the right knee
  3. Thread your left arm between your legs and clasp your hands behind the right knee
  4. For more intensity, pull your legs towards you using your arm strength
Yoga teacher tip
Make sure you keep pressing your lower back and pelvis into the floor, don’t let your bottom come up off the mat.

4. Low lunge

Intensity: Moderate

Target: Hip flexors

Woman doing Low lunge
  1. Begin in a lunge position with your right leg in front
  2. Drop your left knee to the floor, sliding the leg behind you
  3. Make sure your right knee remains stacked at a right angle over the ankle
  4. Lift your upper body and reach up to the sky with both arms straight, biceps by ears
  5. Bend a fraction more into your right knee to feel a deeper stretch across the left hip flexor
  6. Hold for 5 deep breaths and repeat on the other side
Yoga teacher tip
Keep your core tight in this stretch to ensure you aren’t over-arching your lower back. If you need extra support, keep your hands placed on the thigh of your bent leg.

5. Frog pose

Intensity: Strong

Target: Inner thighs

Woman doing Frog pose
  1. Begin in an all-fours table top position with hands under shoulders and hips in line with knees
  2. Gradually slide your knees out to the side, keeping your calves at a 90-degree angle to your thighs
  3. Once you feel the stretch, breath deeply into any areas of tension
  4. If you want to go deeper, continue to slide your knees out and come down onto your forearms for support
  5. Stay in the pose for up to one minute
Yoga teacher tip
This is a very strong hip opener so make sure you are supporting yourself well either on your hands or forearms and remember to come out of the posture very gently.

6. Pigeon pose

Intensity: Can be very strong

Target: Outer hips

Woman doing Pigeon pose
  1. Begin in an all-fours table top position or downward-facing dog
  2. Bring your right ankle to the left wrist
  3. Gently lower the right shin, knee and thigh to the ground, making sure to support your weight with your hands
  4. Place a folded blanket or yoga block under your right hip if you need extra support
  5. Slide the left leg out behind you with the top of the foot on the floor, keeping your hips balanced and in line
  6. Either stay here or gradually fold forward until you feel a strong stretching sensation through your outer right hip
  7. Hold for up to one minute and repeat on the other side
Yoga teacher tip
To increase the stretch aim to get your front shin parallel to the top of your yoga mat, ensuring that your bent knee and right hip remain aligned. To decrease the stretch, draw the shin of your front leg closer into your body.

Hip opener yoga can be performed on its own or as part of a flowing sequence moving from one posture to the next. To truly experience the long-term benefits, you must practice consistently.

You are the person who knows your body best, so listen to any pain signals and respond gently. It takes time to release all the stored-up tension in our hips, so go slowly, build these hip opener exercises into your fitness routine, and feel the freedom and stability of strong, flexible hips.

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