Many of us suffer from tight hips and hamstrings. This sequence of yoga poses will work to loosen up your muscles and stretch out those extremely tight areas. It is said that we hold a lot of negative energy in our hips and hamstrings. Opening up these areas is a great way to release that negativity. This will help to uplift your body, mind and spirit.
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Benefits of Stretching Your Hips & Hamstrings
Decrease Risk For Injury
Yoga that stretches out your hips and hamstrings helps to decrease the risk of injury, especially for runners and other athletes. When these areas of our body are opened it decreases strain on other areas of your body, especially the back and knees.
Decrease Aches & Pains
A common source of lower back pain is from tight hamstrings. Work on stretching out these areas daily. If you are consistent with your practice you will notice how your aches and pains gradually begin to disappear.
Many of us unfortunately spend most of our day sitting. This leads to tight joints and muscles, and contributes to poor posture. Yoga works wonders for improving both flexibility and the strength of your postural muscles. This will allow you to both sit and stand taller with improved posture.
Yoga Sequence For Tight Hips & Hamstrings
Here are some great hip openers and hamstring stretching yoga poses that you can try. Try to hold each pose for about a minute or two to allow your muscles to release. Don’t forget to really breathe into the pose. If you feel that you cannot breathe while in any of the poses, then that is a sign that you need to pull back. Listen to your body and do what feels good for you. The point of these poses are to make you feel good, not strained. Just be patient and over time you will begin to see how your body will release and become more flexible.
FYI: Many of these poses are one sided, so don’t forget to repeat the pose on the other side.
Reach your arms up with your shoulders relaxed. Step the back leg out behind you. Bend the front leg so that your knee is right on top of your ankle. Be sure that your knee does not bend forward over the ankle, as this will put strain on your knee. If you are having trouble balancing, move your back leg out to the side, away from your body to widen your stance. Keep your hips and pelvis level and squared off to the front of your mat.
Keep your front knee stacked right on top of your front foot. Take your back leg and turn your foot to the side. The middle of your back foot should be in line with the heel of your front foot. Keep your hips and pelvis leveled and facing to the side of your mat. Arms are out wide with your shoulders relaxed. Gaze right out over the middle finger of your front hand.
From your warrior II posture, reach your front arm over your head and reach your back arm down your back leg. You will feel this stretch not only in your hips but up your side body as well.
From your warrior II posture, reach your front arm down so that your front hand is in line with the middle of your front foot. If this puts too much strain of your body, try placing a yoga block right in the middle of your front foot and reach down for that. Your back arm will reach straight up to the sky. For more of a balance challenge, turn your head to look up at your top hand.
Front knee is bent and stacked right on top of your front ankle. Your back leg stretches out long behind you. Both arms are placed on the inside of your front leg. If this stretch is too much, try bending the back leg so that it is resting on the mat.
Stay in your runner’s lunge, but allow that top knee and foot to fall away from your body. You will feel a nice stretch in your hip when you do this. If you need more of a stretch, bend your arms and rest your body onto your forearms. If you want to make the stretch easier, you can bend your back leg to rest on the mat and/or place your hands on a yoga block.
Bring your front leg into a 90 degree angle in front of you. Try to keep this angle as much as possible as you reach your back leg out towards the back of the mat. Keep your hips level and facing toward the top of the mat as much as possible. You may want to place a yoga block under that front hip if you are having trouble keeping your hips in line. For a deeper stretch, bend forward to rest on your forearms.
This is a modification for the pigeon posture. Start by laying on your back. Place your right ankle on top of your left knee. Bend that left leg up to a 90 degree angle. Keep your right foot flexed to protect your knee. Reach your arms through your legs (underneath that top leg) to grab onto the back of your left leg. For a deeper stretch press your right foot against your left leg as you use your arms to pull the left leg forward. Repeat on the other side.
From your pigeon posture, swing your back leg forward and stack it right on top of your front leg, keeping both legs at a 90 degree angle. Keep both sides of your seat planted firmly on the mat. For a deeper stretch you can press down on the top leg or reach forward with both arms. I find that this stretch is difficult when you are first starting out. As you can tell from the picture, I still cannot stretch my top leg all the way down to meet my bottom leg. Be patient with this stretch and don’t push your body too far.
Bound Angle Pose AKA Butterfly
Bend both knees out to the side and place the bottoms of both feet together. Reach your legs out to the side as much as your body allows. For a deeper stretch, fold the top of your body forward over your legs.
Reclined Bound Angle Pose
From your butterfly posture, lower your upper body back on to the mat. Keep the bottoms of your feet glued together and allow your knees to fall out to the side. This is a very nice restorative posture. You can stay here as long as you’d like, allowing yourself to breathe into the stretch.
Lay on your back. Cross your legs. Bring your legs up toward the sky. Grab on to your shins or ankles and stretch your legs gently up and in the opposite directions. Repeat on both sides.
Lay on your back. Plant your feet hip width apart, right under your knees. Push off of your feet and lift your hips up toward the sky.
Lay on your back. Bend your legs, bringing your knees up towards your chest. Grab onto the outsides of your feet and gently stretch your hips out. It also feels good to rock your body side to side while in this posture.
Frog pose is like a middle split with your knees bent. Both knees are bent in at a 90 degree angle with your feet flexed out. Your knees, thighs and seat are all in one straight line. Think of your lower half as being in a goal post position, where your upper body is the base of the pole. Bend forward and rest the top of your body on your forearms.
Bend your top leg into your body. Bend your back leg up towards the sky. You can either grab onto your back foot to pull it up or place it in the crevice of your arm. As you become more flexible in this position you can practice reaching your front arm back to bind it with your arm that’s hooked onto your leg. Try to keep your hips as level and squared to front as possible. For a deep stretch, try to keep that front leg at a complete 90 degree angle, like you would have it in the pigeon pose.
Upward Facing Dog
Lay on your stomach with your leg out long toward the back of the mat. Keep your thighs, shins and the tops of your feet facing down toward the mat. Place your hands right underneath your underarm area. Use your arms to lift your upper body, chest high and open, back extended. Try to relax your shoulder down your back.
Downward Facing Dog
From your upward facing dog, curl the toes under moving through a plank position and then into your downward facing dog. Your seat is lifted high up towards the sky. Spread your fingers out wide on your mat. Extend your shoulders, while keeping your core engaged and your back in a neutral position. Your legs are extended straight as you try to push your heels toward the ground.
From your down dog, walk your hands in towards your feet. This moves you into your forward fold. Be sure that you are bending forward from your hips, and not your back. Allow your upper body to hang heavy. Fold your arms together and gently sway your upper body side to side.
For a deeper hamstring stretch, reach your hands all the way down to your mat. You can either grab onto your big toes with two fingers or slide your hands underneath your feet.
Wide Legged Forward Fold
To move into a wide legged forward fold, step your feet wide apart on your mat. Be sure that both of your feet are facing forward. With a straight back, gently fold forward. Lower your head towards the floor and place your hands on the matt. For a deeper stretch, wrap your hands around the back of your ankles to pull your body into the stretch a little bit more. Try to get your forehead as close to the mat as possible.
If you are consistent with your Yoga practice you will begin to notice a major change in your body. Yoga has so many health benefits, both physically and mentally. I hope this sequence helps to open up your hips, stretch out your hamstrings, improve your posture, release negative energy and to prevent injuries. A little bit of Yoga truly does go a long way in improving your activities of daily living.
If you suffer from neck or back pain, you can check out this post for another great yoga sequence.