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Hip Openers with Blocks


OCT, 2016


The hip joint is one of the most mobile in the body. It’s a “ball and socket” joint, which means the rounded head of the upper leg bone (femur) rolls around smoothly in the hip socket (acetabulum). This makes it possible for our leg to move in all sorts of directions at the hip.

To mobilize this joint, we need to approach it from all angles. Here are four juicy ways to do just that, using two blocks:

  • Hip Hike 
  • Hamstring Pulse + side stretch
  • Supine Stretchy Twist
  • Supported Bridge

Hip Hike: Find cat pose (all fours) with one shin on the block. You can have your hands on the ground or place them on your other block. Without moving your inner thighs apart, lift your outside knee (not the block one) as high as you can. This will hike your hip up off kilter. Lower back to start position and repeat about 12 times per side. You’ll feel the work happening in your supporting hip – the one over the block. This action helps to warm up, lubricate, and smooth out movement in the hip joint.

Cork blocks are more sturdy. Foam blocks are more cushy. Both are great options for these poses.

Hamstring Pulse + Side Stretch : Find Ottanasana (Forward Fold) with left foot on the block, right foot on the floor next to the block, and the hands on the other block for support. Bend and straighten your left knee – the one over the block. Notice a deep hamstring stretch as you straighten your knee, releasing when you re-bend. Only find the very edge of that stretch, don’t get too extreme here. After about 10 to 12 pulses between bent and straight, keep your left knee straight (extended), bring your torso and block towards the right for a deep side stretch. Hold for about 5 breaths. This one can be very intense, so let yourself out earlier if you need to.

Supported Bridge: Find bridge pose, using the block (at any height) to support the hips. Best placement is right on the sacrum – letting the glute muscles relax and hang over the edge of the block. Breathe deeply here for 10 breaths.

Supine Stretchy Twist: Lying on your back, twist your legs to stack your left hip over your right. Reach your left leg out straight in front of your body. Find about a 90 degree bend at the left hip, and place your left foot on a block. The right leg extends straight down the mat. Roll your upper body towards the left, trying to root both shoulders down, but don’t worry if your left shoulder wants to lift a bit (do what feels best in this pose). Breathe deeply for about 5 breaths. If you notice your left hip rolling up towards your ribcage, tack your left hip down towards your right foot.

Finish with rest: Find a few minutes to rest in stillness (savasana), allowing the benefits of your hip-opening practice today to intgrate into your body.

Extra Credit:  When the surfaces of the hip joint don’t articulate smoothly, with even pressure all around, certain points can wear or catch. This can sometimes lead to hip replacements (which are magical things when needed!). Help your hips (real or replaced) by practicing good alignment, and mobilizing often and well!