Top 5 Hip Stretches (External Rotation)

Reminder- You can perform each stretch statically, dynamically, and isometrically. Variety is key in functional fitness, so make sure you employ a variety of different ways in which you hold and perform each stretch. Although these are some of the best externally rotated hip stretches available, there are many more that you should also employ. Static holds are best held for a minimum of 30 seconds, and remember to breathe and listen to your body first and foremost. Always consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program.

1. Standing Half Lotus Stretch (Ardha Padmottanasana)

A challenging balance posture, so if the balance is at all challenging, it is highly suggested to put your glutes or a hand on a nearby wall or chair to mitigate the element of balance. Once you've found a comfortable place to practice, begin to balance on one leg and cross the foot or ankle of the  other leg up onto the thigh of the standing leg. If you have the flexibility, you can take the foot all the way into a half lotus position in the hip crease. From here, fold forward over the legs to achieve a great stretch in the hips. You can bend the standing leg knee, or keep it straight, and enjoy the varying sensations both provide.

2. Head to Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana A)

Take a seat, and extend both of your legs long in front of you. Bend one knee and allow it to fall out the side, drawing the foot of the bent leg up to the inner thigh of the still extended leg. Vary the distance you draw the foot up the thigh to stretch different musculature in the hip. Fold forward over the legs to enjoy a deep and satisfying stretch.

3. Leg Cradle + Glute Roll

From Head to Knee Pose, grasp the shin and foot of the bent leg and draw it up to your chest as if your shin and foot were a baby you were cradling in your arms. Rock the "baby" side to side and draw the foot up to the face, to the eyes, ears, lips and some of us may slip the foot behind the head if our hips and hamstrings allow. Once you have sufficiently rocked the leg side to side, it's time to roll out the glute. Keep the leg cradled with one arm, and take the arm on the same side as the leg you are rolling out down alongside you to balance the body. Roll onto the glute and make circles both directions to massage the trigger points that form in the glutes from sitting and various exercise modalities. This can be very intense for people with tight hips and glutes and people who are new to this exercise, so understand it may be quite intense and go slowly. If it is too intense, perform the glute rolls on a softer surface.

4. Half Lotus Forward Fold (Ardha Padma Paschimottanasana)

From Head to Knee Pose, slide the foot of the bent leg up onto the thigh of the extended leg. This is the seated version of the standing half lotus stretch, which means the balance aspect is eliminated and you can focus entirely on the hip releasing. Vary the placement of the foot as suits your needs, and then fold over the legs. If the knee of the bent leg does not come in contact with the earth, you can place a block, blanket or bolster under the knee to support it.

5. Pigeon Pose (Kapotasana)

Come onto hands and knees, a tabletop position, and then draw one knee up between your hands. Take the foot and shin of the leg you have drawn up between the hands out at a 45 degree angle towards the knee that is still on the ground behind. Extend the back leg straight, and allow the outside of the hip and glute of the bent leg to touch down on the earth. If you need a pillow, blanket or bolster under the hip please take some support. Once you have extended the back leg straight and got the hip of the bent leg down to the ground, lengthen the spine upright and then fold over the leg. To change the quality and location of where you feel the stretch, make sure to play with the angle at which you place the shin of the bent leg, and also fold over the leg at different angles. The most important aspect of this posture is having no discomfort in the knee. If the knee of the bent leg is in pain, stop, and modify the pose until you experience no discomfort. For some practitioners, this pose may not be suitable and may take some time to build towards.

Best of luck opening your hips,

-Andrew Morris