(To skip my “hip” story, scroll to the bottom for postures…)
9 Postures For Happy Hips & Open Hearts
You know that old Chinese proverb, the one that goes, “Happy hips ensure a happy life”… no? Doesn’t ring a bell? Well, in my life- there was a period in time where happy hips would in fact correlate strongly with a happy life. Rewind 10 years ago, I walked permanently with a limp, felt shooting pains with every step that I took- and survived that way for 2 years before I ever figured out what was actually wrong. My parents, although literally the two most loving and compassionate people I know, told me to “stretch more!”
I know they still feel remorse, but it wasn’t until I was 14, calling home from school because I threw up from nausea from the pain in my hip, that we then discovered I had avascular necrosis in my right hip.
That’s doctor talk for ‘for some reason, unknown to us, the blood supply has ceased to exist in your right hip, your cartilage has deteriorated away and now your hip joint and socket is crashing into one another, bone on bone’. It didn’t feel great, let me tell you. But now there was a reason for my, “Mari Limp”.
So, I had a total hip replacement when I was 15.
Honestly, I was never scared or bummed- in fact I was excited- a life without hip pain?! That’s what I was getting out of this pretty invasive surgery? It wasn’t hard to sell me on that idea. It was a long recovery, with some setbacks that were unforeseen, but I now live a life of almost complete and total normalcy. I am able to do most of the activities that I love. My only “setback” is if I am hiking, running, or walking, my hip starts to get sore around the 6-7 mile mark. I clearly wasn’t born to be a marathon runner- and that was fine by me.
I was lucky enough to be very active and that my sports’ of choice at the time were pretty low impact- which really helped my recovery. I swam competitively and was a 3-Day Eventer (horseback riding wasn’t recommended, due to chance of falling- but that wasn’t something I was willing to give up). But beyond swimming and riding, I slowly, over the course of a few years in college, started to get into yoga.
Yoga didn’t hook me right away.
I never viewed it as a tough workout, which was all I craved for a good portion of my life. I didn’t feel patient enough, and I definitely wasn’t flexible enough (which I would later learn were the exact reasons I needed it in my life). But I couldn’t argue that it was working wonders on my bodies ability to recover. Yoga was the perfect supplement to my active lifestyle, and without all the sentimental feelings I now have about yoga, it did in fact, change my life. This quest for happy hips, instead, opened my heart to a new lifestyle. 8 years post hip replacement, I became 200 hr YTT certified- and now consider my yoga mat my second home.
That was the “long story short” version of what led me to yoga: A rogue hip with a mind of its own, and all along, it just needed a little extra love. I am now the person that enters every yoga class and answers the teachers question of, “Any requests?” and I immediately shoot my hand up and says, “Hips, please!”
It has become clear over time that many others also crave hip opening. Although, my day job allows me to walk and stand most of the day (you’d be a fool to be a middle school teacher and sit at your desk all day….) I understand that many peoples’ jobs require long hours of sitting at a desk, which tightens your hip flexor muscles.
So below I have listed my top 9 favorite hip openers. Wherever you fall in the sliding categories from “stubborn old hips” to “I can fold in half no problem- I have no bones in my body”- I hope you find your sweet spot of, “this hurts so good- more please!”
Last reminder: Please honor any side discrepancy between your body- it is natural for your body to have favorite sides.
Supta Baddha Konasana– Reclining Bound Angle
Allow your feet to touch and support your knees to open.
You may use a block under your lower thigh for more support.
Balasana- Child’s Pose
Bring your big toes to touch and let your knees open to a spot that feels comfortable in your body. Reach your hands forward to elongate your spine. If accesible, allow your forehead to rest on the mat, as you stretch your tailbone back in space.
Sukhasana (Easy Seat or- better known as- Criss Cross Applesauce)
Cross one ankle over the other, sit tall in your body. For added support, place a block underneath you. This will allow more space for your hips to open.
Standing Figure Four- Half Chair with Ankle to Knee
Bring one ankle over your other knee and sit back, as if your lowering your body into a chair. Keep your chest open. This is both a strengthening and opening posture.
Anjaneyasana- Low Lunge (with a lowered knee)
Bring one foot to the front of your mat and keep your back knee lowered. Your front knee should be mostly in line with your front foot. Allow your hip flexor to stretch forward, keeping your hips square.
Utthan Pristhasana- Lizard (lowered knee & raised knee)
Similar to a low lunge, except this time bring your front foot to the outer edge of your mat and your hands and shoulders to the inside of your front foot. Feel free to either use a block for more support, or if comfortable, lower to your forearms.
Starting in plank, keep one of your back legs long, bring your other knee up to your tricep. Lower your front knee to the ground, squaring your hips forward. For added support, place a block under your front upper thigh. For more depth, lower your upper body to the ground.
Supta Matsyendrasana- Eagle Leg Supine Twist
On your back, bring both feet to the ground, knees up, and hips square. Cross one leg over the other knee and slowly lower both legs so that your top knee cascades to the ground, creating a spinal twist. For most support, place a block under your knee.
Supported Hip Flexor, Knee To Chest, Feels Damn Good- Aka.. I have no name for this- any yogi’s wanna help me out?
Place a block under your sacrum. Bring one knee in towards your chest as you kick the heel of your lengthened leg out. Keep hips square and core engaged.