Functional Hip Strength and Flexibility
Hips, Strength, Flexibility
This hip opening sequence is great for mobility and flexibility, while also throwing in some strength and balancing.
Hip CAR (Controlled Articular Rotation), Pt. 1
Begin in mountain pose. The goal of the first four movements is to actively move the hip through its entire range of motion. To begin, lift the right leg up so the hip comes to a 90-degree ankle. Then externally rotate the leg so that the foot moves to the left while the knee moves to the right. The thigh should simply rotate clockwise, while not moving right or left in space. Once you’ve found the furthest rotation you can, hold for one breath before moving on.
Hip CAR (Controlled Articular Rotation), Pt. 2
Slowly begin to bring your externally rotated leg out towards the right, to open the hip. Continue moving the leg until the right knee is pointing directly towards the right side of the mat and the leg can move no further without losing its external rotation.
From here, begin to internally rotate the leg, meaning the knee will move forward and down, while the heel moves backwards and up. Another way to think of this is as the thigh moving in a counter clockwise direction (opposite of before). Continue this rotation through your full range of motion.
Hip CAR (Controlled Articular Rotation), Pt. 3
Hip CAR (Controlled Articular Rotation), Pt. 4
Once you’re leg is internally rotated, begin to move it in an arc until it is behind the body. During this movement, you want to keep the lifted knee pointing as high as possible. Imagine you’re making a big circle with the leg. Avoid simply relaxing the leg into place. Instead, lift the knee up and back at the same time, squeezing the glute. Once the thighs are in line with another, push actively through the back heel while simultaneously tucking the tailbone forward. Remeber, the goal is to move through your complete range of hip motion.
Single Leg Squat (Variation)
Remaining balanced on the left leg, bring the knees next to one another and grab the right foot with your right hand. Begin bending into the left leg until the right knee brushes the floor (or comes as close as possible). Then stand back up. Move as slowly and with as much control as possible.
Crescent Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
Reach the right leg straight back behind you and bring it to the ground at the back of your mat. Contract the core and find a slight posterior pelvic tilt (bottom of the pelvis tucks forward). Lengthen up through the spine and reach the arms upwards. Find an external rotation with the arms (elbow bones move to face the front of the mat). Maintaining this posture and the pelvic tilt, feel free to bend slightly deeper into the front leg.
Crescent Lunge 90/90 Variation
Slowly begin to bend into your right (back) knee until it comes down to the mat. Adjust both legs so that they come to 90-degree angles at both knees. This will basically just look like your kneeling on one knee. Now, engage the core pulling the navel to the spine and actively tuck the hips forward. Feel the opening in your left hip flexor, realizing that for most, it’s not necessary to shift the body weight very far forward to get an intense hip flexor stretch.
Standing Knee to Chest
From here, press weight into the grounded (left) foot, lean the body forward, and come all the way up to a standing position with the right knee bending into the chest. Feel free to grab the right shin with the right hand if you like, pulling it up and in.
Figure 4 (Eka Pada Utkatasana)
From Standing Knee to Chest, cross the right ankle over the opposite knee and begin sitting the hips backward until the supporting leg is bent towards a 90-degree angle. Flex actively through the top leg to protect the right knee. Bring the hands to prayer (Anjali Mudra) in front of the chest and lengthen up through the spine. If comfortable here, begin to lean the upper body forward and allow the hands to reach downward towards the ground. Once the hands ground down, begin to straighten the bottom leg.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Slowly release the folded leg and come to standing at the top of your mat. Root down firmly through the balls of the feet and heels. Stack the knees over the ankles and the hips over the knees. Shine the chest forward and let the shoulder blades fall down the back. Allow the hands to come to prayer position (Anjali Mudra) for one deep breath before switching to the other side.