Welcome to Part 2 of my hip-opening short article! In Part 1 we looked at how classifying a little, particular group of yoga postures as ‘hip-openers’ neglects the anatomical reality that nearly all yoga poses are hip-openers, and if we treated them that means, our practice can provide us a lot more. We will now turn our biomechanical eye to how you can shift your positioning to genuinely open your hips in your practice!

How to Open Your Hips (Really)

Let us take pigeon pose. Single-leg pigeon present is what most yogis image when it pertains to hip-opening (although we now understand that there are a multitude of other presents which open the hips also). This is a tricky present because it requires a variety of motion in the front hip that most people do not really have. In order to move into the shape, we frequently unconsciously destabilize other joints (especially the front knee), which is just a lame circumstance that nobody really wants. In order to effectively open our hip in this present, without putting other body parts at danger, most of us will have to prop our front thigh up very high – however couple of people really do this.

I believe I’ll elaborate on this whole subject in a separate post, however for now, I’ll just provide that full lying face-down single-leg pigeon pose is not a terrific hip opener for most chair-sitting bodies (and it hadn’t been an excellent hip-opener for me when this photo was taken awhile back – heh heh.) For genuinely efficient and non-joint-damaging hip-opening I ‘d suggest other stretches rather, like the remarkable reclined pigeon pose (pictures below).

Reclined pigeon stretches a couple of muscles in the back of the hip, but let us concentrate on just among its primary target muscles to keep things basic: the infamously tight piriformis.

As I wrote about in my hamstring stretching post (with cool elastic band pictures to illustrate ), in order to stretch a muscle, the range in between the muscle’s attachment points need to enhance. Most people merely do not comprehend how to really move a muscle’s attachment points far from each other (I did not fully comprehend this myself till I studied with my biomechanics teacher, people!) and they, therefore, wind up completely bypassing their intended stretch, stretching inappropriate tissue rather.

piriformis-pelvis

The pear-shaped piriformis attaches from the front of your sacrum, which is part of your pelvis, to a prominence on the femur called the greater trochanter. In order for this muscle to stretch, the pelvis and thigh have to move away from each other, meanings that your pelvis must be un-tucked. If your hips stays tucked when you are stretching your piriformis, your pelvis and thigh have moved as a unit as opposed to moving away from each other, meanings that a stretch did not take place in the place you believed it did. I am not exaggerating when I say that 99% of the yogis I see stretch their piriformis this way, which means they are not stretching their hip at all. (Unfortunate face!)

Here’s a quick evaluation of a tucked vs. un-tucked pelvis. In the un-tucked picture, keep in mind the presence of the natural inward curve of the lumbar spine/low back.

tuck-untuck-pelvis

The below image shows the means most yogis do reclined pigeon. Understanding what we know about how to identify an un-tucked vs. tucked hips, can you see that in this posture, the hips is tucked, and instead of the natural inward curve of the lumbar spinal column, you see a lumbar spine that’s rounded outward? There’s no piriformis stretch occurring in this pose at all because this muscle’s attachment points aren’t moving away from each other. Rather, the whole hips is tipped backwards, leading to an unexpected stretch to the low back and a piriformis that unhappily kept its same old short length.

ankle-to-knee-dont

In this image, nevertheless, you can see that Anna has actually backed off the shape by not drawing her thigh in toward her chest, which has permitted her hips to stay un-tucked. Now all she’s to do is preserve the un-tuck and perhaps move her pigeon leg knee far from her a bit to really create a stretch in her hip.

ankle-to-knee-do

Although the position in this 2nd photo couldn’t look as “deep” as the first one, if you train your eyes to actually see what the bones are performing in a stretch, you must see that this arrangement is the only variation in which the hip is actually stretching. (For the record, Anna is in fact quite flexible, and she and a little percentage of flexi-types could be able to pull their thigh in a bit closer to their body and still keep an un-tucked pelvis, but nobody needs to draw their thigh in as close as the first picture. To keep an aligned pelvis, your tailbone needs to remain securely grown on the ground. Your thigh can draw in a bit as long as your tailbone keeps contact with the ground. Make good sense?)

Other Poses

There are many other positions which can open our hips, however to cover this subject completely is too big a job for this little old article. As I discussed above, all hamstring stretches are hip-openers, and you can make use of the positioning ideas I offer in my hamstring stretching post for all your hamstring-openers (consisting of parsvottanasana – pyramid pose, adho mukha svanasana – downward facing canine, and supta padangusthasana – reclined strap stretch). All seated yoga postures are also hip-openers, all backbends are hip openers, all standing presents are hip-openers – the list is virtually unlimited! Your entire yoga practice can end up being a hip-opening practice if you can see these poses for what they are actually providing to your body.

Biomechanics and anatomy offer a profound understanding of the body and exactly what our yoga practice is offering to us. As a progressive yoga teacher, my hope is to bring the clearness of this biomechanical viewpoint to the method we exercise yoga so that we can move toward living in our bodies in a genuinely mindful means. I invite you to forget about “hip-openers” and to start thinking of aligning your body with integrity so that you can turn your whole yoga practice into the hip-opening experience that it’s implied to be!