The word ‘hip’ or ‘hips’ technically refers to the region or specifically the joint where the upper and lower bodies meet. Often people think of the hips as merely one bone or collection of bones. A lot of people, when giving thought to the idea, can’t really even indentify what their ‘hips’ are. The reason for the confusion is simple: the hips comprise one of the most complex areas of the muscular body.
From a Jock Yoga perspective, the ‘hips’ refers to the entire pelvic area and the many muscles that surround it. Whether from running, squatting, hunching or being inactive, many people–and most men–suffer from tightness in the hip area—whether they know it or not. ‘Tips for tight hips’ refers to numerous stretches and movements that target the pelvic region and lengthen/open the hip flexors (front of the hip), the outer hip (glutes, IT band, outer thigh), and even the inner thigh.
The tips that follow are active and passive stretches for the hip flexors/front of the hip:
Exercise number one: Active lunge stretch for hip flexors
Step 1: Come to a low lunge on your mat with your front knee directly above the ankle, and your back knee a little further back on your mat than directly below the hip (if your back knee is sensitive you can double-roll your mat for comfort). Bring the hands to rest on the front knee. Take a deep breath in through the nose, and on the exhale sink forward with the entire pelvic area. Move back in space on your inhale, then sink forward again on your exhale. Repeat this action a few times (warming up the area), then settle in the ‘forward’ position. While in the forward position, pull your lowest belly in and up and try to articulate lifting through the centre of your chest (this will add length in the lower back, avoiding unwanted compression). Hold for as many deep breaths as you’d like. Repeat exercise on opposite side.
Step 2: To increase the stretch, you may release the hands from the front knee and with a deep inhale through the nose, sweep your arms forward and up. Like the first variation, as you sink your pelvic area forward, continue to lift through the belly and the chest, and this time also reaching through the fingertips. To intensify this variation, you may choose to reach up higher with the fingertips, and even slightly up and over—again avoiding compression in the low back by continuously lifting through the belly and chest. Repeat exercise on opposite side.
Exercise number two: Passive reclined stretch for hip flexors (psoas)
Step 1: Lay flat on your back, knees bent and feet on the mat. Have a yoga block or two handy (phonebook will suffice).
Step 2: Press down with your feet to lift the buttocks of the mat. Place one or both blocks (lowest height) under the sacrum (the sacrum is the flat, triangular bone at the base of the spine). Lower the weight of the body onto the block(s). If positioned correctly, this should be a sturdy pose and not uncomfortable.
Step 3: With your sacrum placed securely on the block(s), begin to extend the heels toward the corners of your mat, and let them rest with the toes turned outward. To intensify the stretch on the front of the hip, extend your arms over your head. You should feel a nice opening on the front of the hip area to either side of your lowest belly. Lay in this position as long as you’d like, allowing the entire body to be heavy and relaxed, and breathing deeply through your nose.
* Remember to be gentle when exiting the pose—bending the knees and bringing the feet back in and placing them down. Press into the feet to lift off of the block(s). Remove the block(s) and roll your spine down slowly. Be sure to hug your knees into your chest to lengthen the low back.