Good Moves

This Hip-Opening Yoga Flow Totally Unwinds the Largest Joint in Your Body in Just 20 Minutes

Kells McPhillips

The practice of yoga has a lot to offer in its bag of tricks, but some may say that the workout’s hip-opening poses are the best thing it has to offer. Pigeon pose alone deserves a gold star for working out all the kinks that crop up between your belly button and my upper-thighs, but this week’s Good Moves hip-opening yoga flow might just introduce you to a few moves not yet in your yoga playbook.

Designed by Sky Ting studio co-founders Krissy Jones and Chloe Kernaghan, the 20-minute sequence above packs in poses that will hit all 360 degrees of your hips so that you’ll feel like you’re working with a brand-new midsection by the time savasana rolls around. And Kernaghan says there’s a reason why your hip joints need even more TLC than the rest of your body. “We love working the hips because they’re the largest joint in your body, but for a lot us, they get a lot of stuff stuck in them,” says Kernaghan. “So we like to carve out, clear out, make space, and this sequence will make you feel really good.”

As Shakira once said, “hips don’t lie.” If you’re ready to hear what they’re telling you, grab your mat (and a pillow and pair of blocks—if you’ve got ’em) and let’s get yoga-ing.

Start up this 20-minute hip-opening yoga flow

1. Cross-legged circles: Sit on your mat and cross your legs. Place your hands on the floor or on your knees, and begin drawing wide circles with your upper body in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. Think of these like seated cat-cows. Switch the crossing of your legs and repeat the same circles on the opposite side.

2. Cross-legged stretch: With your lower body still in a criss-cross position, fold forward over your crossed legs. Switch the crossing of your legs and fold forward once more.

3. Cat-cow: Come to all fours: shoulders over wrists, hips over knees. On an inhale, arch your back press your chest forward, looking up at the ceiling. On an exhale, tuck your pelvis under, rounding your back and peeking at your belly button.

4. Extended leg hip circles: From all fours, straighten your right leg directly out to your right side. Make sure the weight is equally distributed in the right foot. Begin to circle the upper body clockwise, bring it forward—then to the right, back, and left. Complete the same movement going counterclockwise.

5. Child’s pose with extended leg: Without moving your legs, push your hips backward so that your left butt cheek is planted on your left heel. Fold your body over your upper thighs.

Repeat moves four and five on the left side. 

6. Downward facing dog: From all fours, lift your knees and push your hips up to move back into downward dog. Relax your neck so that you’re looking straight back at your thighs or at your belly button. Spin your biceps out and your triceps in.

7. Downward dog hip opener: Extend your right leg straight up, keeping your hips square. Bend the knee and hope the right hip while trying to keep your shoulders square to the front of your yoga mat.

8. Low lunge with hips circles: Re-extend the right leg and step the foot forward between your hands so that you’re in a low lunge. Release your left knee to the floor and scootch your right foot to the outside of your mat, bringing your right hand inside the knee so that your hands are side-by-side. Repeat the same hip circles from earlier, both clockwise and counterclockwise.

9. Lizard pose: Come back to center and, if possible, bring your forearms onto the ground to get deeper into your hips. If you can’t quite reach, place a block beneath your elbows to bring the floor up to you.

10. Lizard pose with a twist: Come back onto your hands and place your right palm on your right lower thigh. Gently press your thigh open to the right side and gaze that way, too.

11. Lizard pose with a quad stretch: If it’s accessible to you, reach your right arm straight back and bend your right knee so that you can grab it with your hand. Without forcing anything, bring your right knee closer to your glute to feel the stretch up and down your quad.

Push back into downward dog and repeat moves seven through 11 on the opposite side. 

12. Rolling cobra: From lizard, bring your left foot back into plank pose (shoulder over wrists, back in a straight line). Lower all the way to the ground. Tent your fingers on the outside of your mat and roll your chest upward, then back down to the ground.

13. Pigeon pose: Push back into downward facing dog and extend your right leg straight out to the ceiling. Bring your right knee forward, doing your best to keep your shin parallel to the front of your mat. If your hips lift off the ground, tuck the pillow between your right hip and the floor. Relax into the pose, and consider bringing block underneath your chest and forehead if you want even more prop support.

14. Double pigeon: Sweep your left leg forward and place your left shin directly above your right shin. With your feet flexed and your back as straight as possible, fold over your legs. If your forehead doesn’t quite touch the floor, enlist your block to provide a nice place for your forehead to rest.

Repeat poses 13 and 14 on the opposite side. 

15. Reclined butterfly: From downward dog, pull your body forward into plank and flip onto your back. bring the soles of your feet together so that your legs form a diamond shape. Tuck your pelvis under so that your lower back rests on the floor. For an extra dose of relaxation, place a block under each knee. Take your rest—your hips deserve it!

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