What is it about our lifestyles today that make us so familiar with back pain and used to hearing our hips crack and groan while we’re young? It’s definitely, no doubt about it, all the sitting. Improve your hip mobility and limber up with these exercises.
Feet Together, Knees Apart
Simple as that. This pose is one of the best passive hip openers as it allows gravity to do its work without using any force or pressure. Lie on your back on a comfortable surface (it can even be your bed), bend your knees and place your feet as close to your sitting bones as possible. Let your feet touch and slowly open your knees, let them gently “fall” to the sides.
That’s it; all you have to do now is stay in this position and breathe. You can read a book, scroll through your phone, stretch out your arms over your head, or simply close your eyes and breathe. Stay in this position for at least 5 min and let gravity do its magic and release all tension from your hips.
Seated: Feet Together, Knees Apart
This pose is a bit more active than the one above, as it requires a straight spine and more core strength and control. Sit tall on your sitting bones, knees bent in front of you, and your spine straight. Keeping your feet together, gently open your knees, and once again, let them “fall” to the sides. You can grab your ankles to straighten up your spine even more, or even do something yogis like to call “reading a book,” and place your hands on your feet and open them up, allowing them to roll over and open up like a book. Check this video for better instructions on how to do this version if you’re interested.
If you’re pretty new to these hip openers or your level of flexibility is making it really uncomfortable, start by leaning against a wall or even a pillow behind your lower back to avoid any pain or pulling sensations. A crucial thing to note—do not open your knees forcefully; let them spread open naturally. Our body is different every day, and sometimes it’s tighter than we think. Staying in this position for a few minutes will relax your muscles, and you’ll see an improvement from when you started. Imagine then what doing it every day for a few minutes could do! Try to make it a habit to get into it while you catch up on your favorite TV show or listen to a podcast. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy it even more.
Sitting Side-Hip Stretch
Improving our hip mobility and range of motion is a long-term process, as it’s something we’re supposed to be working on daily. Sometimes it’s better to work at one hip at a time, as we all have one side that’s more open and more flexible than the other. Starting in a seated position and legs extended in front of you, open up your legs and bend your left knee, placing the foot adjacent to the inner thigh of your right leg. Push your foot into your thigh as leverage while adjusting your sitting bones to find a comfortable position. Place your right palm next to your right leg (or on the leg itself) and root it into the ground, feeling the firm foundation. Inhale and lift your left arm towards the sky, stretching your whole spine. Exhale and gently lean to the right side, extending your entire left side body and keeping your left hip down, stretching it out, and working on the fascia surrounding your hip bones. Stay here for 3-5 breath cycles, trying to stretch your hip as efficiently as possible through every inhale and exhale. Once done, reset by coming back to the starting position and switching up the legs.
When you watch little kids and how they move their bodies, you’ll notice this pose pretty often—squatting deep; knees spread wide. Somehow, while we’re growing up, we stop performing it, and our hips start to close up, the fascia surrounding our bones tightens up and loses flexibility. Our sacral nerves get bundled up too close, which starts sending shooting signals down our legs and up our back, causing pain, pinching sensations, and an overall sense of rigidness. If only we were still kids, stopping whatever we’re doing to squat down every once in a while. Instead, we have to instruct ourselves to do this pose that once felt so natural to our little bodies.
Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width and squat all the way down, like your sitting bones want to touch the floor. You might need to adjust your stance to make it more comfortable and walk your feet out or in, depending on your body’s frame. Press your palms into one another and use your elbows to push your knees outwards, all while straightening up your spine and opening your chest, shoulders away from the ears. You’re using inhales to grow tall from your sitting bones all the way through the top of your head, and exhales to open the hips a tiny bit more every breath cycle. Repeat this 5-10 times and relax. It might be weird or uncomfortable at first, but once you start performing it on the daily, your lower back will be begging you for it.
Our habit of constant sitting decreases our mobility and our range of motion. Yes, we can definitely make a mental note to move more, use the stairs instead of an elevator, take a walk instead of driving everywhere, and remember to stretch our legs every once in a while throughout our workday. Still, we need to do more to really feel the difference and reduce our hip and back pain. Include these exercises into your daily routine and feel the change!