Tight hips are one of the most common things I see as a yoga teacher.
Many people, however, don’t even know they have tight hips…
…that is, until they try to move into a simple pose that is surprisingly difficult thanks to their tight hips.
What surprises most people about tight hips is that they can affect a wide range of poses, not just a basic butterfly stretch or lunge.
That’s because the hips contain a network of muscles that connect throughout your body to your legs, back and glutes.
So tight hips can impact a major portion of your body, from your rib cage all the way down to Your knees.
Not sure if you have tight hips? Take this short quiz for tight hips to find out if tight hips might be to blame for some of your pain.
What Causes Tight Hips, Anyway?
There are a lot of different factors at play here, but it mainly comes down to lifestyle.
Too much sitting is one of the biggest causes I see in my yoga classes.
Most people live sedentary lifestyles, working at a desk all day and neglecting exercise. Too much sitting can affect your body negatively in a lot of ways, especially in your hips.
When you sit, the muscles in the hips are shortened. If they aren’t being stretched properly, they will stay in that shortened and tight position.
The shortened muscles and ligaments can cause other joints to compensate and will eventually lead to other problems.
And if you do exercise, then you may have tight hips too.
A very active lifestyle could also be to blame for tight hips.
Basically, anything that is repeatedly putting your muscles in a shortened position will ultimately lead to tightness. This includes exercise.
Long distance running can be just as detrimental to sitting all day if you are not taking time to stretch. So too will deadlifts in CrossFit and your favorite moves in your gym’s aerobics class.
Luckily, if you’ve got tight hips, whether it’s from sitting too much or exercising regularly, there are lots of yoga moves that you can do.
In yoga, there’s an entire family of poses called ‘hip openers.’ Some hip openers work by stretching the hip flexor and increasing the rotation of the femur bone in the hip socket. Other poses work by lengthening the psoas muscle.
I’ll break them both down for you here.
Tight Hip Flexors
The hips flexors are a group of muscles around the top of your thighs. There is one on each side of your body and it runs from the hipbone to the kneecap.
In fact, tight hip flexor are a common cause of ‘runner’s knee’, which is a common pain underneath the kneecap. The IT band that connects the knee to the hip is shortened as tight hip flexors pull up on it.
That pull on the IT band also pulls on the kneecap, shifting it a little and causing pain in the knee.
Long periods of sitting are also a major culprit for tight hip flexors, especially today when most people work at a desk all day.
Even if you don’t do anything at all, it takes a conscious effort to stretch and counteract all of the sitting that we do.
Shortness and tightness in the hip flexors can really impact your range of motion and the ability to move your legs easily. This not only makes yoga difficult, but also makes everyday movement difficult as well. It can also cause pain, which is why yoga for hip pain is so powerful.
The Psoas Muscle
The psoas muscle may be the most important muscle in the body.
There, I said it!
Without it, we wouldn’t be able to walk or even get out of bed in the morning.
The psoas originates in the lumbar spine and wraps around to the top of the femur bone. It is a connective muscle, but it also works to stabilize the spine. This large muscle is an important part of our hips as well as our core.
Tightness in the psoas can cause a lot of other issues. Knee and low back pain, poor posture and even constipation can be a result of the constant contraction of this muscle.
Learning to release the psoas muscle is not as straightforward as it is with the hip flexors. It takes an internal awareness to release this muscle.
It’s usually an ongoing process that is incorporated into your entire yoga practice, not just a few targeted yoga poses. Not only that, but there are also energy points located along this muscle.
This is why you often hear that many students feel emotions arise when doing some hip openers.
The psoas is one of the deepest muscles in the human body, which makes it the hardest to stretch and strengthen. If you’d like to work on stretching your psoas, then try incorporating some of these poses into your daily practice.
You might also like: Yoga For Runners: 7 Poses That Will Help You In The Long Run