Anyone who has been on the road for any length of time knows that driving can take a toll. From a sore back to tight hips, it can wreak havoc on our body. Through yoga, we can lengthen and strength the affected areas – which can not only help relieve pain, but potentially prevent future pain. Here are some poses that focus on strengthening and lengthening the hips. As always, listen to your body, do only what works for your unique set of bones and muscles, and remember to breathe!
This can be done with feet at hip’s width distance or with the feet together. The important thing is that the toes are facing forward. How much or how little you bend your knees will be determined by how far back you sink your hips (think sitting back in an invisible chair). Always listen to your knees in this pose. If it bothers the shoulders to have the arms raised, one can always have their hands on their hips or by their heart.
To come into runner’s lunge, I recommend starting in a gentle forward fold and stepping one foot back. How the runner’s lunge looks will depend on what is going on with your body. The hands can be planted on the floor, on blocks, or on something like the back of a chair. The back knee can be up or down. The important thing is to keep the front foot completely on the floor and the front knee in line with the ankle. The farther past the ankle the knee goes, the more strain we’ll put on the knee.
This can be done directly from runner’s lunge: if the back knee is lifted in runner’s lunge, gently lower it down. Turn the back leg in towards the center of the mat until the hips can comfortably open. From here, start to straighten the front leg (please keep in mind: the leg does not need to be completely straightened!), walking the hands back as much as needed. If it is comfortable, you can reach the hand opposite the straight leg to the sky. Be very careful not to lock out or hyperextend the front knee.
From a seated position, bring the heels of the feet together. Adjust the heels so that the knees are comfortable. For some, it might help to support the knees/inner thighs by placing pillows, folded blankets, or blocks under the thighs. If we feel we have further to go, we can start folding forward. If we feel any pinching in our hips, we must ease out.
If we’d like to add in a twist, we can secure one hand to the floor or body while drawing the opposite elbow behind us (think an archer drawing back a bow). We can always stay there, or extend out the opposite arm.
While laying down, bring the feet comfortably close to the hips. The next two steps are crucial: we want to press the feet directly down into the floor while using our abdominal muscles to lift up the hips. There’s a tendency to clench up the backside to get into this pose: this puts unnecessary pressure on the lower back and prevents us from using our core (or what we generally consider our “core” muscles to be) from bringing us up. The pressing of the feet directly down might help engage leg muscles and reduce strain on the knees.
Two further variations are shown below.