A blog by runners. For runners.

Yoga for runners: hips

It wasn’t until I was going through all the Yoga for Runners posts that I realized there is one glaring omission — hips! Hips are often the tightest spot on runners and one of the areas runners complain about most. It’s crazy that I haven’t offered up some poses to alleviate tension and tightness in this area. Below are a couple of versions of pigeon pose, a favorite among yogis for opening up the hips.  Give them a try and feel the difference after just a few minutes in these poses.

One Legged King Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)
Pigeon is an amazingly restorative pose but for someone with tight hips it can feel like delicious agony. Pigeon is easily modified and there are variations that are easier on the knee than the first pose given. If you suffer from knee pain I suggest trying versions 2 or 3 instead.

Version 1: King Pigeon Pose

From downward facing dog lift the right leg behind you on an inhale. On your exhale draw the right foot toward your left wrist. If your hip is more open the right shin can be parallel to the front of your mat, otherwise, the shin can be at an angle. If your shin is parallel flex the right foot, the foot can remain soft otherwise.

Plant your hands on either side of the hips with the torso tall and the back leg extended long behind you with the top of the left foot on the ground. The back foot should not sickle in or out but point straight back. If the hips are tighter, place a block or rolled up blanket underneath the right hip. You can stay in this position with the torso lifted, or begin to lower down to your forearms, eventually allowing the head to come to the ground with arms extended. Wherever you are in this pose begin to move the left hip forward and the right hip back slightly. Stay in this posture for at least a minute, breathing into any tension surfacing in the hip. To come out of the pose, straighten the arms and lift the torso. Tuck the back toes under, lifting the back knee, then swing the right leg behind you for three legged down dog. Shake out the right leg, lower, then repeat with the left leg.

Version 2: Supine Figure Four

Lying on your back, bring the soles of both feet to the mat, bending the knees. On an inhale lift the right leg, on your exhale cross the right ankle over the left thigh, flexing the right foot. Extend the tailbone long down the mat. If this is enough you can stay right here. If you want a deeper stretch, begin to lift the left foot off the mat. Bring the right hand in between the legs and the left hand around the left leg, clasp you hands in front of the left shin or the back of the left thigh. Think of tracking your right knee further to the right as you continue to lengthen your tailbone. Stay for a minute then repeat with the left leg crossed over the right thigh.

Version 3:  Standing Pigeon

This pose can also be done standing. Firmly ground through your left leg, on an inhale lift your right leg, exhale and cross the right ankle over the left thigh, flex your right foot. With your hands on your hips, bend the left knee slightly and begin to lower your torso toward your legs. When your torso is parallel with the ground, release your hands toward the floor and straighten the left knee if desired. I personally find a better outer hip stretch with a slightly bent left knee. It is also okay for the hands to dangle. Stay for a minute. To come out of the pose bring your hands back to your hips. With a flat back lift your torso slowly to standing then uncross your legs and repeat on the second side.

There are plenty of hip poses that I will continue to share but I suggest trying each of these versions of pigeon to figure out which gives you the deepest stretch and feels best for your hips.

Related: Guide to Yoga for Runners


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