I Did 7 Minutes of Hip Stretches Every Day; After 2 Weeks, My Body Felt Completely Different
During the early part of the pandemic last year, I stopped teaching yoga and didn't do any on my own because I didn't feel inspired to move in that way — doing sun salutations alone in my small basement home gym just didn't have the same serene vibe as breathing and moving in a heated room with beautiful lighting, wood floors, and full of smiley people.
Not doing yoga made me realize how much my body needs yoga! My shoulders, lower back, and hamstrings have felt tighter, and I developed this weird tension and pain in my left hip. Before going to see a chiropractor or physical therapist, I realized that it was probably the lack of yoga in my life making my body feel so inflexible and achy.
A Few Minutes of Daily Stretching
Since I couldn't pull off doing a full class on my own every day, I made a small goal to do a few minutes of daily stretching. I wanted to focus on my hips since that's where I felt the most tightness and discomfort. Keeping it simple was key, because I knew if it was just a few poses and a few minutes, I could commit to stretching daily.
I run or walk outside every morning or row for an hour, so when I got back home, I'd just get on the floor right away and do my four stretches for a minute each: Head to Knee, Pigeon, Double Pigeon (holding for a minute each on both sides), and Butterfly. If I waited and showered first, emptied the dishwasher, or started helping the kids with something, I knew I'd forget to do it.
How I Felt After 2 Weeks
Originally, I only planned to commit to daily stretching for one week, but it felt so good, and I noticed such a change in how my muscles felt after just one week, that I had to keep going. My hips and lower back felt more flexible and open, and that weird pain in my left hip started to diminish. My mind also felt calmer and I felt more grounded. Toward the end of my run, I would look forward to those seven minutes of stretching on my living room floor.
Some days my family was still asleep, and I'd get a few extra minutes of alone time to think about my day or finish listening to a podcast. And other times, everyone was up, and I'd chat with my kids in between their bites of breakfast. Either way, it made for a lovely new morning habit that I hope to stick with. Now I mix up the poses to target my feet and calves, my hamstrings and quads, my lower back and abs, or my chest and shoulders. I try to do around 10 minutes of stretching, but even if I only get in two, it still feels good!
Head to Knee
- Sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee, and pull the sole of your foot against your left inner thigh.
- Sitting with a tall spine, reach both hands to your left foot, and stack your torso on top of your left thigh. If you can't reach your hands to your foot, rest your hands on your shin or knee. Try not to round your back.
- Stay here for one minute, relaxing the shoulders away from the ears. Then do the other side.
- Sit with your right knee bent and your left leg extended behind you. Pull the right heel in toward your left hip, or if your hips are more open, inch your right foot away from you. Make sure your left hip is always pointing down toward the mat. If it begins to open up toward the ceiling, draw your right foot back in toward your body.
- Stay here with your hands resting on your right thigh or your hips, or walk your hands out in front of you, allowing your torso to rest over your right knee.
- Hold here, breathing into any areas of tightness and tension for one minute. Repeat this pose with the left knee bent.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your left knee, and place your knee, shin, and foot on the floor, so they're parallel with your pelvis. Bend your right knee, and place it on top, so your knees, shins, and ankles are stacked. You'll know you're doing it right when you gaze down and see that your legs make a little triangle.
- You may find your top knee to be high up toward the ceiling. It's OK, it just means that your hips are tight, so just stay where you are and breathe.
- To make this pose more intense, place your hands in front of your shins and walk them out as far as you can, folding your chest toward your legs.
- Stay here for one minute, slowly release, and then switch legs, so your left knee is on top.
- Sit on the ground, bend both knees, and bring your feet together. Using your hands, open your feet up like a book. Use your leg muscles to press your knees down toward the floor.
- Lengthen your spine, drawing your belly button inward. Relax your shoulders, and gaze either in front of you or toward your feet. Slowly fold forward, drawing your torso toward your legs. Remember to try to keep your spine straight.
- Rest your hands on your feet, pressing your knees down with your arms, or if you want more of a stretch, extend your arms out in front of you. Enjoy this stretch for one minute.