Relief for Tight Hip Flexors (Iliopsoas)!

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Nancy Nelson

Good afternoon, yin friends!

First of all, THIS WEEK I’ll be posting a very exciting announcement this week on how you can practice with me in form of yoga classes, workshops and meditation from the comfort of your own home fo FREE! So stay tuned for that announcement as I’m excited to connect with those of you who follow my blog in a more personal way.

I’m excited to share a few poses with you today that have been helpful for me personally when it comes to opening up/releasing the hip flexors. The muscles that make up the “hip flexors” are often combined and called the iliopsoas muscle. Individually, these muscles are called Iliacus and psoas and they run across the front of your hips and connect in the low back. The purpose of these muscles might be kind of obvious – but it is hip FLEXION, which allows us to bend over/forward from the hips. I’m attaching a photo below for a visual aid of the location.

Source: http://lchsreunion.info/iliopsoas-muscle.html

These muscles get very tight from all the hip flexion we do – sitting, driving, bending over to pick up kids, etc. SO much relief is available to you through the following poses if you experience tension and pain in these areas and these stretches will help restore balance in the body. It’s also a very important muscle group to have flexibility in for backbends (extension) in your yoga practice.

Supported Bridge – Start here to begin the process of opening these uber tight muscles slowly and gently.  Begin on your back with the knees bent. Slowly press into the feet and place the block under the sacrum. Once you are sure the block is secure (not wobbly), you can play aroundwith extending one leg forward

Hip Flexor Stretches - Bridge Pose

Lizard – This is a common pose in the yoga practice (and in yin – called “Dragon”). It’s a great pose without anything fancy added to it for release in these muscles. You can simply step one foot to the outside of the hands and extend the other leg back until you start to feel a nice stretch dropping the hips down and forward. If you keep your back toes tucked and drop your head, focusing your breath into the front of the hip it’s even deeper.

Hip Flexor Stretches - Lizard lunge

The next level of this pose is to bend the back knee lifting the toes upward. That might be plenty! If you want more sensation grab for the foot and lift your hips up and back until your heel connects with the glute. Maintaining the heel to glute connection – slowly drop the hips back down and forward and you should feel a SUPA nice stretch in the iliopsoas.

Half Hero – Another common pose in the practice (in yin, it’s called “Half Saddle”). I like this half hero variation because of how it allows me to focus on one side of my hips and really experiment with deepening the stretch.

Hip Flexor Stretches - Half Hero or Saddle Pose

Begin in dandasana with the legs extended forward. Lean to the right to bend the left knee and turn the toes toward the space behind you as you come onto the top of the foot. If you feel a pinch in your hips, gently lift them up and scoot the “cushion” forward so you can lengthen out your low back. You can sit onto a block or blanket if the hips cannot sit evenly on the floor. Stay here or begin to lean back onto the hands or forearms. If you are on a prop, do not go any further. If you don’t have a prop underneath you, you are welcome to come all the way back onto your spine. To deepen further, you can bend into the right knee, perhaps even drawing it in toward the chest (I like to use a strap for this when I’m really tight). Make sure you do the other side for an equal amount of time.

Reclined deer – This is a similar variation to the previous pose. Start in deer pose with one shin parallel to the space in front of you and draw the other leg into half hero position. Same rules apply for reclining/props, etc to the previous pose. If you are all the way reclined and craving more sensation, gently shimmy the torso over to the opposite side of the half hero leg to laterally stretch the hip flexors as well.

Hip Flexor Stretches - Reclined Deer

Hero Pose – For the full variation of yin’s “Saddle” pose, begin in table top and slowly nestle your hips back and in between the heels with the toes untucked. Gently roll the calves out if they are tucked closely to the outer hips. You can sit onto a prop here as well and explore reclining to the hands, forearms, or all the way back. This pose will deeply stretch through both sides of the hip flexors and provide a nice release for the low back as well.

Hip Flexor Stretches - Hero Pose

Let me know if you have any questions about these and I’ll be happy to help as I can!


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Nancy Nelson
Nancy Nelson
Nancy is the fearless leader here at Nancy Nelson Yoga! She has been instructing yoga since 2012 and is certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) with Yoga Alliance. She loves guiding yoga classes in all forms – from sweaty vinyasa flows, to slow mindful movement - but her favorite style to practice and teach is yin yoga. She attended a formal 50-hour Yin Yoga training with Bernie Clark and Diana Batts in the fall of 2018 and it truly propelled her into developing her yin focused website, webinars and trainings.

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