The hip flexors aren't always the tightest muscle for everyone, according to Jeff Brannigan, program director at New York City's Stretch'd, but it's one of the most common areas for tightness and discomfort. "Not only are the hip flexors used in almost every type of physical activity, but they're also under tremendous stress when we sit at our desks for hours on end," he says. "During long hours of inactivity, these muscles are tightening up which, over time, will end up compromising the blood flow to the area and exacerbate the problem."
The hip flexors are used for any movement "in which the leg is elevated forward in front of the body, like kicking," Brannigan says. Consistent hip flexor tightness can lead to a long list of problems. You could experience misaligned a pelvis, compromised movement when exercising (which could lead to injury), and pain in your hips, low back, and knees.
"In order to properly deal with tight hip flexors, we need to not only lengthen the area, but also pump blood into the muscle so inflammation can be reduced. The best way to do this is through an active stretch," Brannigan explains. "At Stretch'd, we use a method that promotes blood flow and allows the targeted muscle for each stretch to be relaxed. This is a more effective and natural way to stretch and is hard to accomplish if a stretch is weight-bearing or held for an extended period of time, which is what most people tend to do."
To get the Stretch'd treatment right in the comfort of your own home—and finally loosen hip flexor tightness once and for all—try this quadriceps stretch. You'll be comfortably sitting in sukhasana soon enough without the assistance of yoga blocks.
How to properly fix hip flexor tightness
Note: Stretches should be done in 2 to 3 second repetitions with 10 to 12 reps as a set.
1. Lie on your side with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
2. Place the foot of your bottom leg inside the loop of your yoga strap and grasp the other end of the strap with that same hand. Place the other hand around the ankle of your top foot. Contract your abdominal muscles to keep from rolling.
3. Keep your knee bent and your leg parallel to the surface on which you are lying. Contract your hamstrings and gluteus maximus and move that upper leg back as far as you can. You may use your hand to give a gentle assist at the end of the stretch.
For even more feel-good stretches, you can try this calf-stretching guide that's way better than a leg massage. And maybe add in these stretches for your feet too, while you're at it.
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