Strong Hips = Happy Yogis: Five Poses for Strong Hips

by Steph Creaturo

Yep, I wrote that. Not open hips, but strong hips.  Imbalances in the hips can cause all sorts of havoc on our bodies – achy knees in particular.

Don’t despair! Yoga is great to balance out the strength and flexibility needed for healthy hips. While this post could have been titled, “Fifty things you can do to strengthen your hips,” let’s start with these five sure-fire hip strengtheners.  Commit to doing this sequence three times a week, especially if you’re running, and see how your lower body responds.  I’d love to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!

Strong Hips - Tree Pose #1

Tree Pose #1

Strong Hips - Tree Pose #2

Tree Pose #2

Strong Hips - Tree Pose #3

Tree Pose #3

Strong Hips - Tree Pose #4

Tree Pose #4

Strong Hips - Tree Pose #5

Tree Pose #5

1. Tree sequence on the floor:  This version of tree isolates the gluteus medius, a hip abductor and stabilizer, and strengthens the overall core.  By experiencing a familiar pose in an unfamiliar way, new information is sent to your body and brain – which is great for building concentration and using different muscles then when the pose is right side up.

How to:

  • Lie on your right side in mountain pose. Now you may feel like a Weeble – totally cool. Engage your core and support your neck.

  • Roll the top hip forward in space. If you roll the pelvis backwards, you immediately cheat the actions and can overwork other hip abductors (or, muscles that move the leg away from the body).

  • Place your hand on your left hip to get a sense of where your body is in space.

  • Lift the left leg straight towards the sky. Now slide your left palm down to your outer thigh. Press down to provide your own gentle resistance. Hold this for five breaths.

  • Bend the knee, externally rotate the leg at the pelvis, and place your left foot on the inner right calf for tree. Press the outer right leg into the floor.

  • For an added challenge, lift your left arm up.  Need more support? Put your left hand on the floor in front of your ribs.

  • Hold for 10 breaths, keep the core engaged as you release. Change sides.

Strong Hips - Bridge with Blocks Under the Feet

Bridge with Blocks Under the Feet

2. Bridge with feet on the blocks: There are 108 million ways to do bridge pose. In this version, lead with the glutes and hamstrings to strengthen the back of the hips. Strong glutes and hamstrings prevent the pelvis from seesawing in space, which creates stronger support at the body’s center. In turn, the low back and knees are then more aligned.

How to:

  • Lie your spine on the floor, with the knees bent and feet hip-distance apart. Place two yoga blocks at the wall on which to ground your feet.

  • Inhale, engage your glutes, then press your feet down into the blocks to lift your hips. Think about pinning your sitting bones to the backs of the knees as your pelvis comes into position.

  • The hips stay lifted and glutes strong for five breaths, then release on the exhale, staying engaged through the glutes as you release.

  • Start with three sets, work up to five sets with a eight-breath hold at the top of each bridge.

Strong Hips - High Lunge

High Lunge

Strong Hips - High Lunge with Front Leg Straight

High Lunge with Front Leg Straight

3. Lunge Variation: Bend/straighten front leg AND back leg. Lunges are great “bang for your buck” poses. They work the hips, glutes, calves, and thighs all at the same time. The caveat here: “straight” is relative to your hamstrings!  Tip: Getting – and keeping – a good press through the big toe mound of your front foot can create more stability in lunges.

How to: Bend/straighten the front leg

  • Place your left heel at the wall and press evenly through the inner and outer heel.

  • Your right leg is in a lunge position. Make sure your right knee does not migrate beyond your front ankle or wobble to/away from your midline.

  • Inhale, straighten the right leg. Zipper your right hip crease back in space. Keep the back leg taut and the back glutes engaged.

  • Exhale, and return the right leg to lunge position.

  • Repeat five times, working up to 10, then switch sides.

Strong Hips - High Lunge

High Lunge

Strong Hips - High Lunge with Back Leg Bent

High Lunge with Back Leg Bent

How to: Bend/straighten back leg

    • The back heel is off the wall for this variation.

    • Stay in lunge position.  Now bend the back knee towards, but not all the way to, the floor. Then straighten it.

    • Watch your pelvis doesn’t tip forward. Imagine there’s a cup of tea in the middle of your pelvis and you don’t want to spill that tea as you bend your back knee. Keep a slight engagement of your abdomen to prevent this.

    • Your front knee stays perched on top of the front ankle the whole time.

    • Repeat five times, working up to 10.

Strong Hips - Wall Squat

Awkard Chair at the Wall

4. Awkward chair at the wall: Also known as a “wall squat.” This pose ups the ante in terms of sensation in the quads. But, given how big those muscles are, and how strong we want them to be, this is supposed to be uncomfortable!

How to:

  • Lean against a wall ever so lightly –  don’t hold the wall up with all of your body weight.

  • Aim for a right angle between your thighs and the floor.

  • Squeeze a block between your knees.

  • Hold for thirty seconds, then release. Do two more times, working up to holds of 60 and 90 seconds.

Strong Hips - Upside Down Bound Angle Pose

Upside Down Bound Angle Pose

5. Upside-down bound angle pose: Turn this familiar pose upside down to awaken and strengthen your deep hip muscles (think Piriformis, aka the muscle you feel in pigeon). It also awakens the connection between your feet and hips, as the feet to stay together to protect the knees and low back.

How to:

  • Lie on your abdomen, with your forehead resting on stacked hands.

  • Create a good seal between your hip points, pubic bone and floor by pressing down and toning your abdomen towards the spine.

  • Take the legs to the width of your yoga mat, bend your knees and bring the bottoms of your feet together. The feet can be way off the floor – that’s fine.

  • Inhale, press the bottoms of the feet together while keeping the front of your pelvis sealed to the floor.

  • Hold for 30 seconds, release on an exhale, then repeat three to five times.


About The Mala Yoga Blog

We are a Brooklyn-based studio that focuses on alignment, balance and community. Have a read, try one of our Practice Podcasts, or come in and say "hi" in person!
This entry was posted in MORE WITH: STEPH, YOGA FOR RUNNERS and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Strong Hips = Happy Yogis: Five Poses for Strong Hips

  1. Pingback: Building Hip Stability | MALA YOGA

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