"There are many reasons to feel tightness or stiffness, such as sitting for a long time or just not being as active as usual, where many of us are right now," says Wardwell. "It's particularly important to keep your hips flexible and mobile, because they support the weight of our upper limbs and trunk, distribute that weight into our legs, and transmit forces from the legs into the spine and trunk." She explains that as we get older, this becomes even more critical, because it will help our hips to be able to support us in daily tasks, like tying our shoes or picking something up off of the ground.
Enter: The cradle stretch."Doing the cradle incorporates many different muscles and structures in one stretch, and can be a great way to open up the hips in general and give you that emotional release, tapping into the area where people tend to hold stress," says Wardwell. The move lengthens your piriformis, which helps to relieve pressure on your sciatic nerve, while also stretching your posterior muscles, glutes, hamstrings, and adductors. It has a one-up on the Pigeon Pose—which is well known for targeting these same areas—because it gives you more control over the intensity and puts less strain on your knees, says Wardwell. She's also a fan of the move because it requires you to sit up tall and activate your back muscles. "This increases the active component of the stretch which is valuable because you’re not only stretching the muscles around the hips but are strengthening the postural muscles, which can help to support mobility in the hips," she says.
To properly perform a cradle stretch, start in a seated, cross-legged position and hug the top leg so that the outside in the foot is in the pit of your opposite elbow (Wardwell notes that it can be helpful to flex your foot). Then, wrap your other arm around your knee, and try to interlace your hands around your shin. Sit up tall and pull your leg toward your chest—you'll start to feel the stretch on the outside of your hip. If this feels like too much, try the supine figure four stretch, which involves laying on your back, crossing your ankle over your opposite knee, and pulling the shape toward you. Either way, you'll have oiled up hips in no time.
Hips need a little more love? This yoga flow will help open them right up.
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