Ahhhhhh when the hips are happy and balanced our whole system feels the difference. The hips and pelvis comprise of a dense complex group of muscles, we want to gain flexibility and openness in this area and balance that with strength and stability by firing up dormant muscles in the glutes especially to help alleviate back pain, sciatica and postural problems.
We spend so much of our lives sitting, driving and more sedentary than ever, that we can over stretch the ligaments around the sacrum, making other muscles over work by picking up the slack! This simple sequence can be done anywhere. Remember to work mindfully with your body, tuning in to your breath so that you soften into the poses rather than pushing or forcing.
Bound angle pose (Supta baddha konasana). Start in a seated position and bring the souls of the feet together, knees wide, lay back onto a bolster/blanket or flat on the floor. Make sure you lengthen your tail bone towards your heals without flattening out the lower back. Take extra support underneath the thigh bones if you are really tight in the inner thighs, this will allow you to relax the muscles and open the hips. If the head drops back then take some height with a blanket or towel under the back of the head. Stay here for a few minutes and draw your awareness inwards to the journey of your breath, on the exhalation let go of the stress and tension from the body and the mind.
Sleeping Pigeon Laying on your back with knees bent, cross the right ankle above the left knee, reach the hands through and grasp either behind the left calf or deeper through to the shin. Guide the right knee away from the face to externally rotate the thigh. Keep the pelvis grounded and draw the legs towards you. Pause where you can start to inquire into your tension and holding patterns, bringing the awareness back to a smooth consistent breath. Stay for at least 10 breaths and remain on this side for the next pose before swapping sides.
Twisted sleeping pigeon Take the left hand onto the top of the right foot and lay the right arm out to the side, twist the legs across the body to the left until the sole of the right foot touches the floor. Turn the upper body to the right and guide the right knee away from the face. Observe here where you are holding tension around the hips and try to soften as you meet these borders. sometime even holding back out of the pose slightly to encourage release.
Gluteus activation Lay on the back with knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor, inhale and lift the buttocks up ioff the ground, press down through the heels and lower the hips a few centimetres, press down through the heels to slowly lift back up. Focus your awareness on the lower gluteus and upper hamstring attachment, activating these muscles to support the pelvis. Keep the knees from splaying out, repeat 10 times with the breath. For more of a challenge you can raise one leg straight into the air, hugging towards the midline to maintain stability while you slowly lift and lower for 10 each side.
Downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) Press into the hands, especially the pads of the finger tips so that you don't put took much pressure in the wrists. Lengthen up to the hips to extend the spine, if you are tight in the hamstrings keep a bend in the knees. Broaden the upper back and soften the belly towards the spine. Three legged dog, inhale raise the right leg up, keep both hands pressing into the earth as you bend the right knee and open the knee and hip unto the sky, stacking the right hip above the left, opening the hip flexors on the front of the right leg. Draw the left heel down to the floor to open the tissues on the back of the left leg.
Low lunge (Anjaneyasana) Square the pelvis from 3 legged dog and step the right foot through between the hands, drop the left knee to the floor. Inhale and raise the torso up, hands can remain on the right knee or extend up along side the ears, lifting from the back of the heart. Anchor the tailbone down to the ground and draw the pubic bone towards the navel. Stay for 5 conscious breaths.
Reverse warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana) Bring hands to the floor and turn the left heel down to the ground, inhale rise up to warrior 2, stay low in the right hip and keeping the knee stacked over the heel, slide the left hand down the left leg, resting the hand either above or below the knee. Extend from the right hip crease through the whole right side of the body. Stay for 3 to 5 breaths filling the chest and opening the heart.
Extended side angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana) inhale rise up to Warrior 2, exhale reach and extend over the right leg, rest the elbow on top of the knee or reach the the floor. Keep the right knee open onwards the little toe side of the foot, anchor the left heel to the floor and draw the right buttock in underneath you. turn and open the chest, firm the shoulder blades into the back. The left arm can extend straight up to the sky or reach over by the left ear. Stay for 5 breaths.
Half moon (Ardha Chandrasana) Turn to look down at the floor, start to reach out beyond the right foot (take a block under the hand if needed) step the left foot in closer then start to transfer the weight onto the right foot, Firm the top of the right thigh bone in to the hip socket and extend throughout the left leg and foot. Once you find your balance start to turn and open the rib cage to the left. Beginners keep the left hand on the hip, for more of a challenge, extend the left arm up to the sky and shift the gaze forward or up. Advanced variation: Ardha Chandra Chapasana- If you are steady, bend the left leg and reach back to take hold of the foot or ankle, firm the right hip in, then open through the heart by pressing the left shin back and reaching the chest forward. Stay for 3 to 5 breaths with a focused but soft gaze.
Extended warrior Slowly step back into extended side angle, then bring both hands to the floor inside the right knee, extend the torso out to the side, you can press the right hand into the inner left knee to keep it from collapsing inwards or else extend both arms long, soften in the hips and stay for 5 breaths.
Wide legged forward fold (Prasarita Padottanasana) Walk the torso around to the centre and turn both feet so they are parallel, start with hands under the shoulders, reaching the chest forward to lengthen the spine (hands on height if needed) press the thigh bones back. Spread the sitting bones apart to create space in the pelvis, exhale and fold forward softening in the front of the hips. maintain as much length as you can in the front of the torso. Walk the hands back in line with the heels or take hold of the outer edges of the feet. Stay for 5 breaths. Repeat standing poses on the left side for equal amount of time. Return to downward facing dog after.
Half pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) From downward dog step the right knee outside the right wrist, the right foot can come across towards the left front hip for beginners or more towards the left wrist for a deeper opening. Slowly fold forward from the hips, drawing the thigh bones into the pelvis as you inhale and as you exhale spread the sitting bones back and apart. Don't worry about the right buttocks coming down to the floor, either relax here or take some support under the right buttocks. Drop the head or rest it on the forearms or floor. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths allow the outer hips to slowly unravel, each exhalation you can use the simple mantra "let go". Raise the torso up, sit down on the right buttock and bring the left leg around and cross over the right thigh
Half lord of the fish pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) Take height under the buttocks if needed so that you can sit tall and upright. Press the left foot to the floor and release the groins. Inhale and lift the right arm up, exhale come across the body into the twist upper right arm presses against the left thigh. Inhale and lift and lengthen the front torso, exhale soften the belly to the spine and twist a little deeper into any space that opens up. Stay for 5 smooth breaths, not pushing or forcing anything. Return to centre then close the left knee down on top of the right knee.
Cow face pose (Gomukhasana) If you are tight in the hips here either take height under the buttocks or switch to simple cross legs. have the feet outside the hips, soften in the groins as you forward fold. maintain length in the front body. Spread your breath to the back ribcage, open the back of the heart space and filling to the back of the lunges. let the head hang. Stay for 5 to 10 breaths slowly lift the head and tradition back through down dog to repeat on the other side. Once both side are done, lay down on your back for a sweet sweet savasana.