17 Hip-Opening Yoga Poses to Help Stretch and Strengthen Tight Hips

Just 30 seconds a day of these simple yoga poses will improve your flexibility.

hip opening yoga poses
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If you’re lucky, you won’t notice your hips are tight until you’re trying to do the Half Pigeon pose in your yoga class. But for some people, tight hips make themselves known all throughout the day, whether you’re walking to the bathroom, sitting on the couch, or climbing into bed. Stiff hips can even shorten your stride, slowing your 5K goal time!

Wondering if you have tight hips? Here's a simple test: Stand up and look down at your feet. If your toes point outward rather than straight ahead, your hip muscles are probably overworked and need to be stretched.

Tight hips are a common issue, says Rob Danoff, director of family and emergency medicine residency programs at Aria Health in Philadelphia. “For people who sit a long time at work, the hip flexors and rotators become tight, and the gluteal muscles become weak,” Danoff says. “This combination negatively affects our ability to walk, maintain proper posture, and the stability of our spine.” In 2017, a study published in The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that hip joint injuries account for about 6% of all sports injuries—and they’re becoming more common by the year.

New York City-based yoga teacher Amanda McDonald agrees that tight hips are a widespread issue: “Hip openers are actually the most-requested moves in my yoga classes.” If you fail to move in certain directions that open up the hips, you’ll reduce your range of motion over time, she says. The good news is that there are a range of simple yoga poses you can do at home that target each of the four primary directions of hip movement, with modifications for all levels.

Try to commit to doing some of these feel-good stretches three or four days a week, and you'll notice a major difference in how your hips feel soon enough!

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1 Butterfly Stretch
hip opening stretches   butterfly stretch
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Target: Inner Thighs
Level: Gentle

Butterfly stretch is a seated hip opener that is gentle enough for all levels. To do it, sit on the floor with your spine long. Bend both knees so that you can bring the soles of your feet together. Stay right here, or reach your hands around your feet as you hinge at your hips and fold, bringing your torso over your legs. You can also extend your hands long as your hips become more flexible. Hold for 30 seconds.

2 Malasana/Yogi Squat
hip opening stretches   malasana
FilippoBacciGetty Images

Target: Inner Thighs
Level: Moderate

While standing, turn your toes out about 45 degrees, bringing your heels in towards one another. Bring your hands to prayer at your chest and squat down as you place your elbows inside your inner knees. Press your elbows into your knees to lengthen your spine. You may sway side to side or hold still. If this is intense, you can place a block or folded towel beneath your sacrum to prop you up. Hold for 30 seconds.

3 Happy Baby Pose
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Inner Thighs
Level: Gentle

Lie on your mat and pull your knees to your chest. Kick your feet up to the sky as if you are stamping on the ceiling. Hook your elbows inside your inner needs and reach your hands to the outside of both feet. Press your feet into hands while pulling down on your feet, creating resistance. Breathe deeply, and consider swaying side to side for a lower back massage. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

4 Reclined Bound Angle Pose
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Inner Thighs
Level: Moderate

Lie on your mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out to sides. Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Hold for at least 30 seconds. If this is too intense on your inner thighs, you can place two blocks or rolled up towels underneath your knees to bring the earth closer to you.

5 Frog Pose
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Inner Thighs
Level: Intense

If most inner-thigh openers feel too easy (and your ankles and knees are injury-free), try Frog Pose. Get down on all fours, with your palms on the floor and your knees on blankets or a mat (roll your mat lengthwise, like a tortilla, and place it under your knees for more comfort). Slowly widen your knees until you feel a comfortable stretch in your inner thighs, keeping the inside of each calf and foot in contact with the floor. Make sure to keep your ankles in line with your knees. Lower down to your forearms. Stay here for at least 30 seconds. If this is intense, you can also do one leg at a time.

6 Supine Figure Four
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Outer Thighs
Level: Gentle

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your left ankle right below right knee, creating a “four” shape with left leg. Stay here, or for more stretch, thread your left arm through the opening you created with your left leg and clasp your hands behind your right knee. Lift your right foot off of the floor and pull your right knee towards your chest, flexing your left foot. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side.

7 Half Pigeon
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Outer Thighs
Level: Moderate

Start in a runner’s lunge with your right leg forward and your right knee over your right ankle and back leg straight. Walk your right foot over towards your left hand, then drop your right shin and thigh to the floor, making sure to keep your right knee in line with your right hip. Allow left leg to rest on the floor with the top of your left foot facing down. Take a moment to square your hips to the front of the room. Hold here, or hinge at your hips and lower your torso towards the floor, allowing your head to rest on your forearms. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side.

8 Double Pigeon
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Outer Thighs
Level: Intense

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your shins stacked with your right leg on top. Use your hands to position your right ankle on your left knee. Ideally, the right knee will rest on the left thigh, but if your hips are tight, your right knee may point up towards the ceiling (overtime, as your hips become more open, your knee will lower). Keeping your hips squared to the front of the room, hinge at the hips and slowly walk your hands slightly forward. If this is enough of a stretch, hold here, or fold your torso over your thighs to go deeper. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on opposite side.

9 Low Lunge
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Hip Flexors
Level: Gentle

Start in a lunge with your right leg forward and your knee stacked over your ankle. Your left leg can extend straight back with your back toes untucked and your knee on the ground. Slowly lift your torso and rest your hands lightly on your right thigh. Lean your hips forward slightly, keeping your right knee behind your toes, and feel the stretch in the left hip flexor. Hold here, or for a deeper stretch, raise your arms overhead with your biceps by your ears. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.

10 Crescent Lunge
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Target: Hip flexors
Level: Moderate

Start in a low lunge, then straighten your back leg, coming onto the ball of your back foot. Reach your hands high with your pinkies turned slightly in. Hold here for at least 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite side.

11 Camel Pose
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Hip flexors
Level: Intense

Start kneeling on your mat with your knees hip-width apart and hips directly over your knees. Press your shins and the tops of your feet into the mat. Bring your hands to your low back with your fingers pointing down, and rest your palms above your glutes. Inhale and lift your chest, and then slowly start to lean your torso back. From here, bring your right hand to rest on your right heel and then your left hand to your left heel. (If you can't reach your heels, turn your toes under; it will be easier to reach your heels in this modification.) Press your thighs forward so they are perpendicular to the floor. Keep your head in a relatively neutral position or, if it doesn't strain your neck, drop it back. Hold for 30 seconds. To come out of the pose, bring your hands to your hips and slowly, leading with your chest, lift your torso as you press the thighs down toward the floor.

12 Dancer’s Pose
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Target: Hip flexors
Level: Intense

This yoga-based move opens your chest and shoulders and improves your balance while stretching your hips. To do it, stand on one foot, then lift and bend the other into a hamstring curl. Grip the raised foot from the inside (palm facing out) with the same-side hand. Hinge forward as you press the top of your foot firmly into your palm and lift up. The higher you lift, the deeper the stretch will feel.

13 Supported Back Bend
hip opening yoga   supported backbend
AJ_WattGetty Images

Target: Hip flexors
Level: Intense

This exercise strengthens your lower back as you open your hips. Because the head falls backward, it is not recommended to try this move if you have low blood pressure. (Also note, if you have high blood pressure and take medication, you could experience dizziness coming out of this pose and may want to avoid it.)Kneel with a wall or pillar behind you with your knees hips-width apart and toes touching the wall. Arch your back to lean back while keeping your hips stacked over your knees. Take your arms overhead and touch your palms into the wall behind you. This bend does not need to be extremely deep to feel a great stretch in the hips and strength in the lower back.

14 Supported Bridge
BROOK BENTEN JIMENEZ

Target: Hip flexors
Level: Intense

This move uses the bones in your forearms to prop your hips up. If you need even more leverage, prop a couple of pillows under your elbows or place a block under your sacrum. To do it, lay supine (belly up) on the ground with your knees bent and feet grounded, about hips-width apart. Lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Place your hands at your lower back, just above your butt, and keep your elbows grounded. Relax your body weight on your hands to sink into this hips stretch while gently strengthening the lower back.

15 Hip Pry
BROOK BENTEN JIMENEZ

Target: Hip flexors
Level: Intense

Like the name suggests, this move uses the weight of your body to keep all other parts hunkered down while you pry a tight hip open on one side (then repeat on the other). To do it, lay prone (belly down) on the ground with your arms out at shoulder height, palms facing down. (Keeping your arms out will help to glue your body to the ground as you twist. Lift one leg, bend your knee, and reach that foot towards the outside of your hip on the other side.

16 Hero Pose With Block
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Internal Rotation
Level: Gentle

Kneel on your mat with thighs perpendicular to the floor and the tops of of your feet facing down. Place a yoga block between your feet. Bring your inner knees together. Slide your feet apart so they are slightly wider than your hips, and press the tops of your feet evenly into the mat. Slowly sit down on the yoga block. Use your hands to turn the top of your thighs inward. Allow the backs of your hands to rest on your thighs. Hold for at least 30 seconds. For a moderate variation, simply remove the block.

17 Reclining Hero Pose
Ryan Hulvat

Target: Internal Rotation
Level: Intense

Kneel on your mat with your thighs perpendicular to the floor and tops of your feet facing down. Bring your inner knees together. Slide your feet apart so they are slightly wider than your hips and press the tops of your feet evenly into the mat. Slowly sit down between your feet. Use your hands to turn the top of your thighs inward. Then, lean back onto your forearms and slowly lower torso to floor. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

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