Hip Openers powerfully stimulate and balance the muladhara, or root and svadisthana, or sacral chakras.
By physically rooting our pelvic floor and the base of our spine into the Earth, we plug ourselves into the vibrational current of the planet.
When we open our hips we restore our reproductive organs, which at a base level represent the original creative force driving existence. Through creating balance in these chakras we can become grounded, comfortable within our own identity, and inherently creative.
Before you practice this sequence, sit in a meditative position and meditate on something you would like to let go of that you feel prevents you from expressing yourself fully. Do a few Chandra Namaskaras, or moon salutations of your choosing such as Shiva Rea’s Chandra Namaskara (look up “Moon Shine with Shiva Rea: Yoga at Home from Yoga Journal” on YouTube for a great demo of this sequence). Focus on mindful long deep breaths.
After you complete the sequence close with Savasana. Offer the practice towards releasing what you chose to focus on letting go of. Surrender the fruits of the practice to the Universal Current.
Honor the Supreme Self, and of course, have a green juice.
1. Tarasana (Star Pose):
Sit with the sole of the feet together. Allow the knees to drop open to each side. Use the hands to pull the flesh back from under the sitz bones. Your heels should be about two feet from your pelvic floor, but choose whatever distance feels the most comfortable to hold for an extended period. Tilt the torso forward and take a hold of the feet.
Inhale, elongate your spine. Exhale, roll the body forward effortlessly drawing the forehead towards the heels. Relax into this yin posture for two to five minutes. Allow the exhalation to be longer than the inhalation.
2. Wheel of Life Twist:
From Star Pose, keep the right leg in external rotation (with the knee falling open to the side). Rotate the left leg so it mirrors the right leg, with both feet pointing back and the knees at 90 degree angles. Begin to walk your hands to the right, allowing the spine to twist so the breastbone faces the floor. Strongly engage Mula Bandha.
As you inhale lengthen the spine, as you exhale, twist a little deeper. You might be able to rest your right forearm on the floor, fingers tucked under your straight left arm. Strongly spread the left palm open on the floor and energetically (without actually moving the hand) try to drag the hand towards the shoulder socket. This will traction your spine and stretch your quadratus lumborum muscle.
Change sides by slowly walking your hands back and unwinding out of the twist. Keep the legs as they are, place the hands behind the hips, and pivot on your feet until your knees now point to the left. Repeat the twist to the left.
3. Mandukasana (Frog Pose):
Love it or leave it, this is adductor heaven, or hell. From Wheel of Life twist, come onto hands and knees. Keeping your knees bent at a right angle, begin to open them out to each side.
Keep the heels in alignment with the knees and flex the feet gently. Keep the pelvis in alignment with the knees, the tendency is to come too far forward with the pelvis, if in doubt, rock the seat back a bit.
Attempt to get the knees wider than the outside of the mat. If you are comfortable release the forearms to the floor, keep pulling the front ribs up towards the spine and breathe. If you are very open in your adductors you can rest your stomach on the floor. Hold for one to five minutes. To release, gently walk the hands forward, and come onto the stomach. You might rock the hips side to side to release them.
4. Urdhva Muka Svanasa (Upward Facing Dog):
A must after Frog Pose! From prone (on the stomach) position, place the hands under the shoulders, press the tops of the feet into the floor. Inhale, leading with the heart, curl the upper body away from the floor, elongating the crown of the head up and possibly back.
Pull the upper arm bones back and counter this by lifting the chest forward and up. Allow the knees to come off the floor by pressing the tops of the feet down. Without moving the hands, energetically draw them back towards the hips. Notice how this propels your heart center up towards the ceiling. Keep the buttocks soft by activating mula bandha and gently pulling the navel in and up. Hold for ten breaths. Find Downward Facing Dog.
5. Prasarita Padottanasana Kriya (Standing Wide Angle Forward Bend Clearing):
From Downward Facing Dog, frog leap your feet around your hands. Open the feet so they are about 3 1/2-4 ft. apart. Let the toes point straight ahead and rock a little more weight into the heels. Keeping the weight in the heels, walk your hands forward as far as you are able to, so that your upper body mirrors Downward Facing Dog. Root your fingertips into the floor and notice how this allows you to engage your shoulder blades and draw them towards the spine gently.
With an exhale, keep the arms and legs in place and bend your knees, sinking the hips towards the floor, track the knees open, keeping the over the heels as much as possible. With an inhale, straighten the legs and return to the original position. Repeat five times. You may hold the positions as well after pulsing for ten breaths each. When complete, take a Vinyasa back into Downward Facing Dog.
6. Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (One Legged King Pigeon Pose):
From Downward Facing Dog, Inhale and place your left knee on the floor at the base of your left thumb. Open the foot towards the right hip and slide the right leg as far back as possible. Keep in the hips squared.
Gently press through the ball of the left foot, and perhaps slide the foot forward so the left shin is aligned with the front edge of the mat. Energetically keep trying to pull the left hip back and the right hip forward to create a rooted feeling into the Earth. Draw the navel towards the spine and inhale the hands back towards the hips, extending the spine up into a mini back bend. Hold for ten breaths.
Fold forward, extending the arms out in front of you and hold for another ten breaths. Gently release, Vinyasa through to the other side.
Think of this pose as plugging your tailbone into the current of the earth—on each inhale, visualize light energy from the earth being drawn into the root of the spine and up through the Sushumna Nadi to the crown of the head; on each exhale, allow the light energy to release back down the spine and into the earth.
Return to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the right side.
7. Hanumanasana (Monkey God Hanuman’s Pose):
I love this pose as it symbolizes taking a leap of faith into the unknown, trusting your heart to guide you along the way.
It is dedicated to Hanuman, who selflessly serving his dear friend Rama, leaped across the Indian Ocean from India to what is now Sri Lanka to locate Rama’s true love, Sita, from where she was being held captive, and also spy on her vicious demonic captors. The path was wrought with peril, but Lord Hanuman through his Devotional Love and Selfless Service came through victorious and found Sita.
As you do this asana, meditate on where you would like to make leaps and bounds in your own life. Visualize your self lovingly overcoming any ‘hurdles’ in your path. A good affirmation is, “I am moving forward with grace and ease.”
From Downward Facing Dog, on inhale, extend your left leg up. On exhale, curl the left knee towards the forehead, keeping the hips high. Gaze forward and lightly step the foot between the hands into a low lunge. Come onto your fingertips of blocks if you have tight hips.
Keep the heart lifted and a gentle bend in your left front knee. Continue to inch your right leg back until the length of your right back leg rests on the earth and the front knee is straight. The pelvic floor will eventually rest on the earth. Keep the top of the right back thigh on the floor by tucking the back toes under.
If you cannot do the full pose, keep a gentle bend in the front knee and rest the hands on blocks, align the blocks with the sides of your hips. Like Pigeon, energetically draw the front hip back and the back hip forward to keep the hips squared. On inhale, engage the core and lift the heart towards the sky. Hold for ten breaths.
Add a twist if you would like. If the left leg is in front, twist to the left, take a hold of the back leg with the left hand, and the front, outer thigh with the right hand. On inhale, lengthen from the base of the spine up through the crown of the head. On exhale, twist from the core a little deeper. Unwind from the twist slowly. Vinyasa, and repeat on the right side.
8. Uppavistha Konasa (Spread Wide Angle Forward Bend):
From Downward Facing Dog, lightly jump or step through to seated. Gently open the legs out to each respective side and flex the feet. Place one hand behind the hips, and the other in front of the pelvis and scoot the pelvis forward a bit, keeping the heels pressing into the floor, deepen the straddle an inch or two.
Keeping the toes pointing straight up, place the hands between the legs and begin to gently fold forward. Maybe you can get the forearms on the floor; in time, the entire torso will rest on the floor. Keep the sitz bones rooted into the floor by activating mula bandha and scooping the tailbone. Hold for one to three minutes.
To release, come up reverently and slowly. Once you are upright, scoop the hands under the backs of the knees from behind your legs, rock back onto your sitz bones. Inhale to draw the legs together (think Boat Pose). Vinyasa.
9. Setu Bhandasana (Supported Bridge Pose):
After the deep hip openers, it is nice to equalize the sacrum with a gentle back bend. From Downward Facing Dog jump or step through and lay on your back. Bend the knees and place the feet on the floor hip distance apart, about eight inches from your hips. Bend the elbows so the fingers point towards the ceiling and press the upper arms into the floor, drawing the shoulder blades into the back body.
On inhale, leading from the tailbone, roll the hips vertebrae by vertebrae off the floor. Be mindful and feel the unfolding of your spine. Notice if anywhere feels blocked. If possible, take a hold of the ankles from the outside and draw the chest towards the chin by lifting through the heart. Keep the knees directly over the heels, not forward of them.
If you struggle holding your ankles, wrap a strap around the front of your ankles and hold an end of the strap in each hand. Press the back of the head into the floor. Eventually you will be able to maintain your cervical curve in the pose, by pressing the shoulder blades and back of the head down, the base on the neck curves away from the floor. No strain please!
Hold for ten breaths. Repeat again or turn this into a restorative posture by placing a block under the sacrum and relaxing fully for one to five minutes. Release and hug the knees into the chest, rocking side to side to unwind the lower back.
10. Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall):
Set up your mat perpendicular to the wall, bring a bolster and two blankets with you. Place the bolster about six inches from the wall, so that the long end of the bolster is parallel to the wall. Roll the blanket up and place it where your neck will be once you are in the full position.
Sit on the bolster near the wall, and scoot one of your hips to the wall, so that you are sitting sideways to the wall.
Engage your core a bit as you lay down, and swing your legs up the wall, rolling onto your back so that the hips are near the wall, hanging off the edge of the bolster, the bolster is under the lower back. Adjust the blanket under your neck so you are supported as you lay on the floor.
I personally like to place the soles of my feet together, allowing the knees to fall open to each side, like Baddha Konasana. Use whatever leg variation feels most relaxing to you. Hold for five minutes. Roll off onto your side and sprawl into Savasana when you are ready.
Kristen Coyle is a yogini at heart and at 10 years into her yoga practice, she feels as if she has just scratched the surface of this incredible path. She is an E-RYT 500, Licensed Massage Therapist, and Reiki Practitioner. She is deeply inspired by Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra and travels to study with him whenever possible. Kristen’s classes are transformational, creative and fun. She weaves original vinyasa sequencing, eclectic music, yogic philosophy, pranayama, mantra and meditation into her offerings, often while gracefully helping you approach your edge in the postures and break through into the most liberated version of yourself possible within your practice. When she is not on the mat, you can catch her at the local hot spring, traveling to some exotic island (she currently lives in St.Lucia), or cooking gourmet vegan food for her loved ones. It is her highest honor to be able to share these teachings and this is a path she is dedicated to for a lifetime. Inhale like it is the first breath you have ever taken, and exhale as if it is the last breath you will ever take. Infinite Gratitude! You can contact Kristen via e-mail.
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Assistant Ed: Josie Huang/Kate Bartolotta