Tuesday morning classes at Purple Yoga studio are always jam-packed. Presided over by the Assistant Director of Teaching Alex Roberts, who often leads yoga retreats in exotic destinations like Bali, a room of regulars make their way back week after week. After you take a class with the yoga teacher-slash-guru, it’s easy to see why Alex has an Instagram-following nearing 14,000.
Now, you can take a peek inside one of Alex’s classes; he was kind enough to share and model the following five yoga postures that promote seriously happy hips. We’re talking poses that provide major support to the “stabilizers” of your body, along with the detailed instructions from the student-beloved instructor.
In case you’re wondering why hip-openers are a good idea, Psychology Today points to the trusty mind-body connection. They quote the late neuropharmacologist, Candace Pert, who stated: “[The] body is your subconscious mind … [u]nexpressed emotions are literally lodged in the body.” All we can say is: Yup! Holistically minded practitioners of alternative healing modalities have long described the phenomenon of how we store emotional stress in our bodies somatically — particularly, in our hips.
Make it a point to set aside time for a little T.L.C. for your hips — you know, to really get the blood flowing. You’ll be doing more for your overall well-being than you can ever know.
Check out Alex Roberts’ Top 5 yoga postures for hips that’ll be seriously happy even before you say “namaste.”
5.) Triangle Pose aka Trikonasana
Triangle pose is a great place to start in terms of yoga postures for hips, whether you’re a seasoned yogi or a beginner. Bikram (hot) yoga incorporates it into the 26 comprehensive postures that make up its rigorous high-intensity curriculum. It’s even been called a “master pose” because of its high degree of bodily activation, which builds strength while promoting flexibility all over the body.
Alex describes how to enter the posture: “Triangle posture blends effort and ease to lift your mood and provide much-needed attention to tight hips. Emphasize stability by pressing down the corners of your feet and recruiting strong calf and thigh muscles. Tilt your hips sideways ‘laterally’ and create a long diagonal line from the top of your head to the heel of your back foot. Use your abdominals and obliques to keep all four sides of your spine long and comfortable. Pay attention to your breath; keep it smooth and steady, in and out through your nose. Please do not tolerate pain in your front knee, outer front hip or lower back.”
Do You Yoga points out that you’ll work your legs, knees and ankles all the way to your chest and arms when you practice the “ideal combination of opening, elongating, stretching and challenging the body.” It’s fab for releasing stress of all kinds; plus, as it strengthens your core muscles and gives your spine much-needed stretch, this yoga staple also brings you into both physical and emotional alignment.
4.) Wide Leg Forward Fold aka Prasarita Padottanasana
Yoga Journal explains that your ultimate goal here is to give your hamstrings a nice, deep stretch without straining your back. With enough practice over time, it can even help you build bodily awareness of how to keep your back safe from injury in the future.
In Alex’s words, “This pose allows you to lengthen your hamstrings and inner thigh muscles while providing a balance between back stretching and strengthening. Firmly press down the balls of your feet and recruit strong calf and thigh muscles. Bend your elbows out wide and move your shoulder blades towards your butt, then press your shoulder blades firmly into your back. Imagine you have a coat hanger in your shirt, keeping your upper body broad and [your] neck long. More important than straight legs is having a long spine, so if you need to bend your knees, please do so.”
Even though it looks like you’re trying to bend in half, focusing on the lengthening sensation throughout your body and neck is how to get the maximum benefit.
3.) Revolved Lizard
These types of twists are like a glass of water for your spine — totally refreshing. Plus, this pose could hold the key to unlocking your stubborn hips. It’s normal for each side to feel different; not to mention, the more you warm up, the deeper you can go. But don’t rush the process! Yoga is all about meeting your body where it’s at, day-after-day, and tuning in to what feels best in each moment. It’s all about the journey, not the destination.
“Revolved Lizard helps to balance the strains of sitting throughout the day by lengthening your hip flexors, opening your chest, and twisting your spine,” Alex says. “Place your front foot wider than hip width, so that both hands can be on the floor inside your foot. Carefully reach back and grab the back foot with your opposite hand. It is your upper body that turns, not your hips; imagine that you are doing a side plank with your chest. Lift your chest off the bottom arm bone and turn towards the front leg. Take caution; make sure that when you are bringing your back leg in, that you pull the heel directly towards the butt cheek. DO NOT TWIST YOUR BACK KNEE!”
2.) Shoe Lace Posture
Bear in mind that when it comes to our bodies, slow and steady wins the race. Always pay careful attention to your alignment throughout the process. As your muscles warm up and open, expect the sensations to change! Your only job is to observe them, breathe and cultivate patience and compassion for yourself and your practice.
“Shoe lace posture stretches your outer hips and creates a spacious environment for your back to breathe. Wrap your thighs at the knee and bring your heels as close to your outer hips as comfortable. If you are tight or tender, place a block, blanket or pillow under your hips. Sit up tall or bow forward while maintaining a long spine.
“One key to having a happy hip-to-lower back relationship is to create a sense of balance in the tissues around them. Use these four postures to observe the areas around your hips and how they relate to your lower back. Notice where you feel tight or loose, notice what you feel emotionally, and how it feels to breathe. Try to observe with compassion and honesty, without needing to judge or control. Give yourself time to explore by moving around slowly and gently, then make space to ‘arrive’ in each posture.”
1.) Daily Gratitude Practice
Finally, don’t forget that wellness is a lifestyle. You can derive benefits from the yogi’s mindset at any point throughout the day — all you have to do is set aside a few minutes of your time. Die-hard yogis love delving into the state of grounded clarity that yoga imparts. Never underestimate the power of your intention to make your “mind on yoga” a part of your everyday state of mind.
Alex has a few suggestions for doing so: “Take time to think of a few simple things in your life that you are grateful for. Let that thought turn into a feeling, then let that feeling move throughout your body until it becomes overwhelming. Just like anything else, letting gratitude into your life can be a skill. If you consciously take time to practice letting positive emotions flow through your body, you may just find that you are more receptive to them on a moment-to-moment basis throughout the day. [From the word ‘namaste’] ‘Names’ means ‘to bow’ or ‘to adore.’ ‘Te’ means ‘you.’ It is a sign of shared respect and passion, thank you. Namaste.”
*All photos by Amy Goalen Photography
Did these yoga postures for hips open you up? What are some other types of yoga poses you’d like to learn more about? Let us know in the comments below!
Speaking of hot yoga … here are some ways bikram yoga can melt away your stress as well as it warms you up.