Why it is great
You rely on your deep hip muscles for nearly every activity. When they're weak or overworked (possible even from sitting too long) they can tighten up, making your knees, hips and back feel stiff and even causing lower-back pain. This move helps reduce that stiffness, which can limit your ability to walk, bike, swim or climb stairs with ease and agility. It also helps strengthen and tone those gluteal and hamstring muscles that contribute to overall hip strength and stability.
• Sit on the floor or a mat, knees bent and feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Place your hands on the floor behind your hips with elbows straight (but not locked) and fingers pointing forward. Cross your left leg over your right, resting your left ankle on top of your right thigh (A).
• Turn your left knee out by rotating outward at your hip; flex your left foot to protect your knee. Lean back slightly, maintaining a straight spine. Keep your elbows slightly bent to support your body through your arms. (If you can't do the exercise from a sitting position, lie on the floor with your knees bent to perform it.)
• Push through both arms and lift your hips up off the floor until they are as high as you can get them; exhale (B). As you breathe in, squeeze your glutes to help open your hips farther.
• Exhale and lower your hips down to the floor; pause and breathe.
• Repeat; move your hips closer to your right heel for a greater stretch.
• Hold the lift for 10 to 20 seconds. Return to starting position and switch legs to repeat.
• Perform the sequence two to three times on each side; hold longer if possible on the side that feels more resistant. Perform at least every other day.
What not to do
Do not force the stretch if you feel any discomfort around the knee on the stretch side.
Do not allow the side of your foot to rest on your thigh.
Do not bend your elbows and lean back or round your shoulders forward.
• Gluteals maximus. medius, minimus
• Inner hip rotators: Piriformis, Tensor fascia lata
To help release tension in your hips, breathe slowly and deeply in and out through your nose. Deep mindful breathing is a great stress-buster for the muscles and the mind.
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