hip opener


Yoga for hip openers

hello friends! ever since these photos of me started making the rounds on tumblr, the most common question i get asked is “what are hip openers?” so i thought i would make my next guide focused on that. hip openers are poses that help to loosen the muscles that connect to the hip joints. remember that these muscles are often very tight and be careful not to overstretch yourself. loosening the hips happens very very gradually. incorporating some of these poses into your yoga practice can help to achieve both front and side splits!

ps. i tried to put these in a coherent order so that you can flow through them with one leg, then go back and repeat the flow using the opposite leg! 

  • standing wide-legged forward fold - put your feet wider than shoulder width and bend forward while keeping the back as straight and flat as possible. you should feel the stretch in your hamstrings - hold for a few breaths, then rotate around to downward facing dog.
  • lizard pose - start in downward facing dog and raise one leg up behind you, then swing it through to place your foot next to your hand, on the outside. keep your front knee at a 90 degree angle and sink into a deep lunge, with your back knee on the floor and leg extended. you’ll feel this one in your back leg’s hip flexor (along your hip crease) and also deep in your front leg’s hip joint. 
  • pigeon pose - from lizard pose, move your hand to the outside of your front foot, keep the knee bent, and pull your foot across so it’s near the opposite hand. bend the knee as generously as you want - the closer it is to being parallel with your body, the deeper the stretch. rest here, or go down to your elbows, or even lay forward as you advance in the pose. hold for 5 breaths.
  • seated wide-legged forward fold - extend both legs wide as far as is comfortable. rest here, and then bend forward with a straight back. i also like to stretch by reaching toward one foot and then the other.
  • head-to-knee forward bend - extend one leg and bend the other at the knee. gently bring your head to your knee while keeping your back straight and your core engaged. if you can’t get down far, just keep your back straight and hold for 3-5 breaths.
  • wind relieving pose - come on to your back, bend one knee and interlace your fingers on your shin bone, about two inches below the knee. pull gently toward your body, keeping your back flush with the ground and engaging your core. you can also rotate your knee gently here.
  • happy baby pose - bend legs and grab for the inside of your heels, and try to keep your back completely flush with the mat - this will give you the deepest stretch in this pose! you can also roll a bit to massage your lower back. 
  • reclining goddess pose - release legs from happy baby and let them fall open to the floor. try to keep your lower back close to the ground and put arms wherever is comfortable. relax here and appreciate your fantastic body! 

hopefully this helps to answer some questions about hip openers! these the poses i focused on when i was trying to achieve the splits, but having loose hips can help with all kinds of other yoga poses and can also release a lot of tension from your lower back. happy hip-opening! :)

mat: Manduka Pro Black Sage

clothes: sports bra - lululemon flow Y IV, shorts - nike, hoodie - lululemon scuba, socks - smartwool

King Pigeon, also known as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana 1, is not only a beautiful pose but a multi-beneficial one as well.  As a backbend it stretches the spine, chest and neck, helping to release tension and calm the mind.  It is also a hip opener, opening the back and outer hip areas of the front leg and the frontal hip area of the back leg.  The quad muscles and ankle of the back leg as well as the groin area are stretched.  When attempting this pose remember to focus on lengthening your spine which will help you avoid crunching your lower back.



There are a number of benefits to stretching out your hips! Agile hips can improve circulation in your legs, ease back pain, and help your knees. Although, what you might not already know, is that your hips hold onto a lot of negative energy and emotions: such as sadness, guilt, and fear.

Anything that we don’t want to deal with in our lives we put away in our hips, so it’s important to stretch them out, as well as move prana (life force/energy) to this area. Our pranayama is our breath work. 

The following is a list of excellent hip opening asanas with links to how to get into the postures. If you are practicing at home, make sure to warm up with a few sun salutations before moving into the asanas.

Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge)

Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Standing Forward Bend)

Utkatasana Variation (Fierce)

Malasana (Yogic Squat)

Utthan Pristhasana (Lizard)

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana Prep (Pigeon)

Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fish)

Agnistambhasana (Double Pigeon)

Gomukhasana (Cow Face)

I keep writing about sex. I think, I mean—
all I want is the after of it, after you took my
skirt off with your teeth, after I was so clumsy
with the buttons on your shirt that I ripped
them open because I was so fucking frustrated
and they bounced around my feet like pearls,
rolled under the bed. You thought it was sexy
and fucked me against the wall with my bra
still on. I felt like a queen. Saw, in the unforgiving
morning light, where your mouth had been. And
your nails. Your sweat. Now all I want is tenderness.
I hold eggs in my hand at the grocery store,
check them for cracks and leaks. I try to do the
same to myself. When I go to restaurants I stay
for hours, ordering nothing except wine and tracing
my finger around the glass rim until it sings. When
you said, Your skin is holding you in nicely, I cried.
So now you know. Don’t leave.
—  Kristina Haynes, “When I Opened My Hips”

"Flying Pigeon" 

This is the more advanced option for the pose I’m uploading Friday (as soon as I get back from Montana) called “Perching Pigeon” 

Stay tuned for this video and learn how to fly with me :) btw, this is a SERIOUS hip opener! By serious I mean whoa, you better warm up! I chilled in Half Pigeon and practiced something similar to this sequence before I even attempted it. 

What’s this? Another bunny yoga sequence from tonedbellyplease? Why yes, yes it is! And this time it’s specifically focusing on opening your hips so you can one day do the splits! 

Yoga Bunny originally by Brian Russo

NOTE: There was a typo on the original on the 8th pose saying lock knee into elbow. this has been corrected.


Deep Hip Opening Yoga Practice - Level 1 (20 minutes) 

Join me for this 20 minute *Level 1* Deep Hip Opening Practice with long holding Hatha poses to increase hip flexibility. If this is too much try the Gentle Hip Opening Routine

Practice to build flexibility for the *Level 2* Deep Hip Opening Practice. Check out more videos like this in the Hatha Yoga Playlist

~Sarah Beth Yoga

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You know what’s really, powerfully sexy? A sense of humor. A taste for adventure. A healthy glow. Hips to grab on to. Openness. Confidence. Humility. Appetite. Intuition. …Smart-ass comebacks. Presence. A quick wit. Dirty jokes told by an innocent-looking lady. … A woman who realizes how beautiful she is.
—  Courtney E. Martin

Gentle Yoga for Hip Flexibility (12 minutes)

This all-levels routine is just the thing to unwind your hip flexors, hamstrings, and glutes. This Friday’s arm balance “Perching Pigeon” requires open hips and a can-do attitude. The attitude? Well just like they say: Whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t, you’re right. You got it, but for now how about a little hip opening and emotional/physical tension releasing? :)

Doing yoga while it’s snowing outside (as it is here in NYC) is one of my favorite things to do. Come join me today at Sangha Yoga Shala at 2pm or 7:30pm for hip opening (think pigeon, ankle to knee and bound angle pose shown above), spine lengthening, smile inducing Vinyasa and see why practicing yoga during a snow storm can be so much fun. ☺️ PS, there could be a cameo appearance by Mia. So put on your snow boots and I’ll see you there!