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Many if not most yoga practices focus on increasing flexibility and mobility, but when it comes to our hips it is equally important to ensure they are strong and stable. This strength will in turn increase your practice over time.
If you are a beginner, it is great to get in to this habit right from the get go. For those more advanced, in their practice it’s never too late.
These 7 poses will have you engaging your adductors and mobilizing all of the hip.
If hip strength is something you particularly need to work on, give my Yoga with Blocks practice a go this week as well.
Grab 1 block, roll out your mat and let’s get to it.
1. Bridge – Lay down on your back. Set your feet flat on the mat. Take the feet wide, and drop the knees together. Bring your hands to your belly or your hip bones. Take a few grounding breaths here, as you scan how your hips, low back and abdominals are feeling now. Narrow your feet back to hip width, and walk the feet in close to the sit bones. Grab your block and place it in between the upper thighs. Keeping this block in place by squeezing will not only start to strengthen your hips but also increase stability in your pelvis. Let the arms rest at your sides. Push in to your feet, curl your tailbone down and lift the hips up inch by inch. The low and mid back will lift. Keep squeezing the block to hug in to the midline. Keep the belly engaged. Push the heels down in to the mat, while also drawing them backward. Your upper body doesn’t need to be working here, instead let your shoulders and torso relax. Take 5 or so breaths here, then lower the hips down inch by inch. Remove the block, setting it off to the side. Push in to the heels and lift back up. Lean your weight in to the right leg and extend the left leg up. Don’t let the pelvis dip down, or collapse to one side or the other. As you inhale push and reach through the lifted toes. As you exhale, drop and hover the hips. Do 5 rounds of this, and then switch legs.
2. Reclined Pigeon – Lower the hips down from bridge. Cross your right ankle over the left knee. Flex the foot. Reach through with your arms and pull the left knee in toward the belly. Though this practice isn’t focusing on flexibility, it is always important to open the hips in order to make other poses easier to get into. Find your breath as you hold here. Relaxing the upper body, using the arms only to hold the leg in place. Evenly distribute the weight through both sides. Take 5 deep breaths in this pose, then switch to the other side.
3. Knee lifts – Come in to table top pose. Set the knees up under the hips and the hands underneath the shoulders. Push in to the hands to keep your elbows straight, and also find a neutral spine. Lift your right knee, opening it out to the side (yes, like a puppy peeing on a fire hydrant). Notice if your weight is rocking more to the left side, or if you’re collapsing to that side. Squeeze and lift the knee higher on your inhale. As you exhale, drop the knee down, but keep it hovering. Do 5 rounds of this.
4. Gate Pose – Straighten your right leg out to the side, and lower the toes down to the ground. Your ankle, knee and hip should all be in one line. Lift up the torso. Slide the right hand down the right leg. Left arm reaches up and over as you take a side bend, lengthening out the side waist. Lifting back up, bring the left hand down to the floor. Reach the right arm straight up to the sky. Squeeze in to the glutes, and lift your right leg up off of the floor (like a modified side plank). Set your right foot down and then return to table top.
Repeat 3 and 4 on the other side.
5. Downward Dog – Return to table top. Grab hold of the block and place it between your upper inner thighs. Tuck your toes underneath and lift the hips up to come in to downward facing dog. Often in this pose it can feel like your legs are widening away from each other. Use the block to instead feel them actively engaging to the midline. Bend your knees as much as needed. Curl your tailbone towards the sky, and let the neck soften. Keep hugging the block in place as you take tiny steps, bringing the feet forward to the hands and finding a forward fold. Keep the block in place still as you bend your knees, sink the hips and lift up in to chair. Bring the hands to the heart. After a few breaths remove the block and straighten the legs to standing.
6. Tree – From standing, lean your weight in to the right leg. Lift your left foot, bringing it somewhere on the inside of the left leg (ankle, shin, or thigh – avoiding the knee). Don’t drop your weight in to the right leg and hip, you won’t have any strength this way. Instead feel your right leg pushing against your left foot, everything squeezing to the midline. From here find more height. Squeeze the left knee open. Your right knee and toes stay pointing forward. Keep everything level and engaged. Bring your hands together at the heart, or extend your arms up overhead. Stay balancing on your right leg, as you extend your left leg in front of you. Then step the left leg back behind you, coming in to high lunge.
7. Warrior – As you find the lunge, imagine you are still hugging your block in to the midline with your thighs. Tilt your pelvis and bring your hips underneath the shoulders. Open up in to Warrior 2, bringing the heel down and spinning the toes out so that the back foot is parallel to the shorter edge of the mat. Arms open up in the same direction as your legs. Dig your heels in to the mat. As you sink down further, push the right knee open. Reverse your arms, bringing left hand to back leg and reaching the front arm up to the sky. Finding a back bend. Inhale back to center. Straighten the front leg, walking the back leg in a couple of inches. Send your hips back as you slide your front hand down the front leg, and reaching the other up to the sky for triangle pose.
Take a vinyasa, ending in downward dog. From there repeat 5-7 on the other side.
Want more hip strengthening and stabilizing poses? Follow along with the full practice video below.
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