8 stretches to ease tight hips
Achy, tight hip flexors are a common problem, especially if you have a desk job. Get relief with these stretches
Reclining Pigeon Pose
Technique: Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Cross your right foot over your left knee, with your right knee sticking out to the side. Keep your right foot flexed to maintain the integrity of the knee. Reach behind the hamstring on your left leg and hug it toward your chest as you open your right knee. Hold from 30 seconds to two minutes on each side depending on flexibility. Tip: Keep your head flat on the floor by tucking your chin down.
Office Hip Stretch
Technique: Sitting at your desk, cross your right foot over your left knee, extending the left leg out a little if necessary. Keeping your right foot flexed to protect the ankle, lift the upper body tall, then hinge forward at the hips with a flat back. Hold the stretch for several deep breaths, lengthening the outer hip muscles. Repeat on the other side.
IT Band Stretch
Technique: Lie on your left side. Bend your right leg back while also reaching behind to pull your right heel against your bottom. Drop right knee toward the floor. Keep your spine neutral; don’t “bounce” that leg-it should feel like a gentle pull. Next, place your left foot on top of your right knee as shown, and gently press it toward the floor. Hold for seven deep breaths. Switch sides and repeat.
If you have severe tightness, you should see a specialist to get the tissue massaged.
Dynamic Side Lunge
Technique: This side lunge stretches the adductors, and works the abductors (outer thighs) and glutes. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet facing forward. Lunge to the right, bending knee to a 90-degree angle. Sink (don’t bounce) into the right side and straighten the left leg-but be careful that the right knee does not move farther forward than the toes. Place hands on the right thigh, keeping back straight, and hold for a few seconds. Straighten up and press off the right foot back to standing position. Repeat on the other side, then move side to side with the lunges five to 10 times, pausing for a few seconds each time. Do this stretch before and after your workout.
Dynamic Low Lunge
Technique: Legs: Step right leg back into a lunge, keeping the front (left) knee directly above the ankle. Drop right knee to the ground, pause, then lift that knee so right leg is straight-lift both hips up as you press them slightly forward. Inhale, then drop the right knee back down again, and exhale as you straighten that leg. Hold the position for 15-30 seconds.
Arms: For beginners, keep both arms down; intermediate and advanced exercisers can reach both arms up. Repeat on the other leg.
Technique: Start with feet more than shoulder-width apart, toes angled out at 45 degrees. Bend forward at the waist, and squat so knees are bent and thighs are parallel with the floor. Place elbows between knees; press palms together. Drop hips to the ground, keeping chest lifted. Take a deep breath, and try to maintain a flat back as you push hips back, with heels on the floor, until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings and groin. Tip: To make the stretch easier, place a folded towel underneath your heels. “If you have knee problems, place a chair behind you and do hovering squats-if you lose your balance, the chair is there to catch you,” says John Stanton, founder of the Running Room and the Walking Room, and author of eight books on running.
Technique: Start on your hands and knees on a mat. Bring your right knee forward, and sweep your right foot across the floor so your leg is now bent in front of you with the outside of your right knee touching the mat. As you bring this leg forward, straighten out your left leg behind you, dropping your pelvis down toward the mat. The top of your left thigh should be on the floor, and your hips should be square to the mat. Once stable, slowly lean your pelvis forward even more and feel the stretch through your right side, along your hips, glutes and quadriceps. It should be a comfortable stretch that shouldn’t hurt. Hold here for 30 seconds. Then lean to the right and bring your legs together; switch legs.
Lunge Quad Stretch
Technique: Step forward with your left foot and lunge down, so your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Hold for 20 seconds. Rest your back (right) knee on the floor and grasp your right foot with your right hand. If you need to, rest your left hand on a wall for balance. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side. “It’s important to stay upright with an open chest,” says Miles Faber, a So You Think You Can Dance Canada finalist and professional dancer in movies such as Harriet the Spy and Score: A Hockey Musical. “You don’t want to be hunched over. You want your shoulders back and down.” Give it a go!