Using Yoga for your Hip Pain
OK, you’re probably wondering (like I did) how Yoga can assist your Hip Flexors.
There’s a bit of a story so stick with me here.
I like to call it “becoming pain free by training your Hip Flexor!”
I’m a middle aged guy (47) who loves cars, meditation, trucks, farming, outdoors, dogs and of course, family.
Yeah I know, it doesn’t sound too physical in terms of physical training, but that’s who I am.
Anyway, one day I headed out to take my dog for his usual walk, he’s a big boy at 42 kilos, a beautiful Shar Pei-Mastiff, called Django.
I took him along our usual path, it’s about 3 miles long and at 1/4 way through, I usually like to break into a light jog.
Nothing was any different until I started jogging (lightly), but it was a damp day and I unfortunately slipped awkwardly falling hard onto my right side obviously on my right hip area.
However I wasn’t sore and I didn’t feel any pain immediately, so I thought nothing of it, got up, brushed myself off and carried on finishing the walk with my dog.
This time I reduced to walking because it was too wet conditions.
The next day, I was in all sorts of excruciating pain on my right hip side.
I immediately knew why, so of course made an appointment to see my doctor.
I was given some good advice and not so good advice, I felt, from my doctor.
First thing I was prescribed was a ton of pain killers!
Although this was great (for me) in the interim for some form of immediate pain relief, I knew long-term, that this was not the route I wanted to take!
3 weeks later, through all the seemingly endless consultations, it finally came down to the fact that my existing hip pain from the fall, was in fact my “Hip Flexor”.
And worse yet, I began to get a very sore lower back at the same time!
Now it was time to fix both of these issues!
No more unnecessary pain killers!
Don’t get me wrong, they certainly have their place, just not long term for me.
Now I really needed to understand my injury so it took me on a journey that started to look at my back pain first!
Stay with me, it will all make sense as you read to the end.
“The hip flexor as a cause of back pain” – I would never imagine?
Back pain is caused by the muscles of the lower back!
You’re wondering what this has to do with the hip flexor?!
Well this hip flexor is a major cause of the annoying back pain in the lumbar region.
The hip flexor appears to receive the most attention more than any other body part.
The thing is, the hip flexor in particular can and does lead to many different pain ailments in our body.
The hip flexor is one of the most important structures in the body that stresses our lumbar spine. But many don’t think of this muscle that bends the hips when it comes to back pain.
What follows is an article that I hope you will find is important information about the hip flexor and the cause of back pain and the connection to Yoga for both pain relief:
Do you want a pain free back?
With a relaxed and stable hip flexor, complaints in the lower back often lessen. In other words, everything flows through the hips! So when your hips are right, the back has more opportunity to be free of pain.
The purpose of this article is to clarify why open hips are important, why stress blocks the muscles, what we need to keep in mind when practicing, and which open-hip yoga exercises.
These are good for yoga beginners (That was me) with 1 that is slightly more advanced. Truly consider practicing these as often as you can on a daily basis. If I can, you can.
Here’s why we should practice yoga exercises for open hips regularly:
- Open hip joints bring more mobility to the lower back. This prevents back pain.
- Open hip joints make it easier to position the pelvis optimally, which also relieves the lower back.
- Open hip joints reduce tension in the knees and thus relieve the knee joints.
- Open hip joints reduce blockages in the pelvic area, allowing energy to flow better.
The pelvis is the seat of the Svadhisthana Chakra, our sexual chakra. Open hips enrich your sex life.
What does it mean to open hips?
To understand this, a little excursion into our anatomy is necessary. Hip joints are like the shoulder joints so-called ball joints.
The head of the femur (femoral head) must be integrated into the socket.
You can imagine that the hips are the strongest bone structures within the human body.
Also, the muscle groups involved are so much stronger and do not stretch as easily.
Consequently, hip openings are a bit more complex and take a lot of time and dedication when practicing any kind of move, Yoga or other forms of sport or activity.
Basically, it’s about moving the head of the femur back into the acetabular cup and holding the connection during any yoga exercises.
This integration reduces the pressure in the hip joints.
Unfortunately, the rest of our muscles and our excessive posture shortens the muscles involved or doesn’t work together optimally.
Therefore, this “holding back” just for yoga beginners very difficult.
You get an idea of integrating when you push your thighs backwards.
Muscles Involved in Open Hip Yoga Exercises:
- Quadriceps (muscle on the front of the thighs)
- Adductors (inner thigh muscle)
- Psoas (muscle on the front of the hips, hip flexors)
- Piriformis (muscle at the back of the hips)
All of these muscles are addressed and stretched in different ways in yoga exercises, and in particular in the case of hip openings.
The resulting optimal interaction of the muscles brings the hip joints back their mobility.
By moving the thigh bones backwards, we connect to the back of the body.
We step out of our actions, leave the ego behind us and experience trust and a deep inner peace.
Then relaxation is guaranteed and yoga works. It certainly did for me.
Important notes on Yoga exercises for open hips:
As a yoga student, you do not need to know which yoga exercises are responsible for stretching the adductor or the psoas.
Rather, you should know that there is always an interaction of different muscle groups.
Please note the following:
- Yoga exercises for open hips require dedication and time.
- Avoid pressure (risk of injury, for example, in the knees)!
- Exact body alignment is important to avoid tension in the hip joint (keyword: keep thigh bone behind!).
- Use block, belt, wall and ceiling as support.
That was the theory. Now comes the practice. 8 effective yoga exercises for open hips
- Malasana (squat)
Bend your feet from the stance (Tadasana) and crouch down.
Make sure that your feet are hip-width apart and that the sides of your feet are parallel.
Mostly, the feet tend to turn outward. With open hips, it’s easy to bring your heels to the floor as well.
If you can’t do that, use a blanket or pad under your heels for support.
Bring your hands together in front of your heart, palms touching. Important: At the same time you press the knees against the upper arms and vice versa, the upper arms against the knees.
Create length in your back by lifting your head and making the pelvis sink heavily towards the floor.
Focus: Become soft in the groin, relax and keep your back long.
Important: If you have pain in the knees, just leave this exercise for now.
Dynamic variant: Remove the heels from the ground and get on the fingertips, the knees still press against the upper arms.
Now begin to pull the heels alternately in the direction of the ground and move the hips (without control) to the side.
- Ashva Sancalanasana – Variation 1 Practice the straddle standing up.
Then turn your right foot 90 degrees forward and bend your right leg until your knee is just above your right heel – joint over joint. Bend over and bring both hands to the inside of the right foot.
Keep your back long, make room in the pelvis by turning your thighs inwards and pushing the thigh bones backwards. Bend your arms and pull your right shoulder under the right knee.
Stay in this position, look ahead. Now grab the right heel with your right hand (thumb and forefinger) and press it even harder on the floor.
Hold this open-hip yoga exercise for up to 8 breaths, stand up, and then practice the other side.
Yoga exercises OPEN Hips
Focus: Keep the width in the pelvis by pushing the inside of the thighs in and out. The left leg is powerfully stretched.
Dive deep into the hip opening with the exhalation.
The back stays long!
Advanced version: Bring the left hand to the right heel and pulse with the breath for 5-8 breaths.
- Ashva Sancalanasana – Variation 2 As described in the second yoga exercise for open hips, come with your hands to the inside of your right foot.
Keep your pelvis stable, ie it does not dodge.
Now walk more towards the middle with both hands, take the upper body with you, but keep your back long.
Hold this open-hip yoga exercise for up to 8 breaths, stand up, and then practice the other side.[Yoga exercises open hips]
Important: The right knee stays just above the right heel.
It tends to tilt inward – hold against it.
Focus: Strong back (left) leg.
Let the groins soften and consciously relax.
- Adho Mukha Svanasana with bent leg
You are in the position Adho Mukha Svanasana (looking down dog).
Your back is long, you have a firm base over hands and feet.
Now stretch your right leg up towards the ceiling. Bend it and pull the right heel in the direction of the right buttock half.
This is an intense and important stretching of the thigh front (quadriceps).
The feet stay active by spreading the toes. Keep the lower back long and avoid a hollow back.
Now pull the thigh bones back and pull the right hip over the left hip in your ways.
Yoga exercises OPEN Hips
Focus: Pull the right knee towards the ceiling more intensively and at the same time lower the right foot to the left lower.
Breathe into the opening of your right hip. There is an intense stretching of the adductors and last. Advanced version: You stretch your right leg upwards without dodging left or right.
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana – the pigeon [Advanced Yoga Movement]
The pigeon is a very good open-hip yoga exercise that stretches the psoas.
Important in this exercise is the correct position of the hips.
These should be aligned parallel to the front side of the mat.
For example, if the right knee is stretched forward, the left hip is often too far back.
Take your time and bring the hip joints in a line. In addition, you should make sure that you do not tip on one buttock half.
The legs should be active and powerful. Imagine pulling power into the pelvis.
If you feel you don’t have this power, just put a block or a blanket under, for example, the right buttock half, if the right knee is at the front.
Draw your attention to the back of the body during this exercise by pulling the thigh bones backwards and trying to hold it.
Dove – yoga exercises open hips incl.
Rotation The pigeon is a very complex yoga exercise for open hips.
It took me a long time to master this which is normal.
There is much to take note of and to align. Above all, practice with dedication, without perfection and avoid pressure on your knees.
Focus: Keep your legs active, always turn the thighs in and out slightly.
This creates space in the pelvis, takes pressure from the hip joints and allows you a good connection to the back of the body.
Breathe in the stretch and relax consciously.
- Baddha Konasana I really like this yoga exercise for open hips, because it teaches us to surrender and accept our limitations.
It is not only worthwhile for yoga beginners to sit on a blanket.
This relieves the strain on the lower back and hips, which in turn makes it easier for you to lean forward as you tip forward from the pelvis (not from the thoracic spine!).
In this yoga exercise, the knees should not hurt. Imagine pushing your knees out of your hips to the side and forward.
Thus, the inner sides of the thighs (adductors) and the strips are stretched intensively.
Important: If you are in the forward bend, keep your back long and the head slightly raised (cervical extension of the thoracic spine).
- Eye of a needle. I like to practice the yoga exercise for open hips “eye of the needle” at my classes at the end.
It contains a gentle hip opening, provides length in the lumbar spine and requires a good degree of care. A calm, fine breath helps to enter the deep stretch.
In this yoga exercise for open hips it is important that you activate the feet. So spread stretch your toes, so you can relieve the knee joints.
You should also pay attention to a 90-degree angle between instep and tibia.
In yoga we call these Tadasana feet, meaning the same foot position as standing. Like in the dove, you must avoid pressure in this exercise, otherwise knee injuries may occur.
Less is more in this position. As I show you in the picture, you can practice this yoga exercise very well on the wall if you wish to.
The hips remain perfectly aligned.
Transform this yoga exercise into a meditation by consciously breathing in and out.
- Ananda Balasana – half Happy Babya on the wall Ananda Balasana, the eighth yoga exercise for open hips.
As in the seventh exercise, this also creates a wonderful length in the lower back, relieves it and is at the same time, a gentle hip opener.
Slide your feet to the wall, your legs are stretched (without stretching them!).
Pull one knee to you and bring the hand of the same side of the body at the knee inside to the outside of the foot.
Get the heel just above the knee (joint over joint), pulling the knee towards the armpit without pressure.
For more stability, place your other hand on the thigh of the extended leg.
Push the thigh towards the floor and hold the base against the wall.
That grounds well and aligns the pelvis.
Focus: With each inhalation, create space in the pelvis and with each exhalation, make the body more difficult to sink into the ground.
Conclusion: Yoga exercises to open up the hips are important to relieve the knee joints, hip joints and lower back. You should always practice with undisturbed calmness of mind.
The tasks in these yoga exercises is to integrate the head of the femur into the acetabulum. Not always easy of course, but possible and definitely beneficial.
I sincerely hoped, some if not all of these Yoga Poses help you alleviate some of your lower back pain and of course, your hip pain issues. I know that without practicing these poses and stretches everyday, I would still be so self reliant on pain killers. It’s definitely no way to live.