If you’re lucky, you won’t notice your hips are tight until you’re trying to do the Half Pigeon pose in your yoga class. But if you’re not so fortunate, yourare making themselves known every time you so much as walk to the bathroom or sit on the couch—expressing themselves in the form of lower back pain and muscle stiffness. Tight hips can even shorten your stride, slowing your 5K goal time!
Wondering if you have tight hips? Here’s a simple test: Stand and look down at your feet. If your toes point outward rather than straight ahead, your hip muscles are probably overworked and need to be stretched.
It’s a common issue, says Prevention advisor Rob Danoff, director of family and emergency medicine residency programs at Aria Health in Philadelphia. “For people who sit a long time at work, the hip flexors and rotators become tight, and the gluteal muscles become weak,” he says. “This combination negatively affects our ability to walk, maintain proper posture, and the stability of our spine.”
New York City-based yoga teacher Amanda McDonald agrees that tight hips are a widespread issue: “Hip openers are actually the most-requested moves in my yoga classes.” If you never move in certain directions, she says, you’ll reduce your range of motion over time.
The following yoga poses target each of the four primary directions of hip movement, with modifications for whatever level you’re starting at. Try to commit to doing some of these feel-good stretches three or four days a week, and you’ll notice a major difference in how your hips feel soon enough!
1Happy Baby Pose
Target: Inner Thighs
Lie on your mat and pull your knees to your chest. Place hands on outsides of feet, opening your knees wider than your torso. Press your feet into hands while pulling down on feet, creating resistance. Breathe deeply; hold for at least 30 seconds.