On average, we sit for about 12 hours every day. “Yikes” is right. “Whether it’s at a desk or in the car, when people sit for most of the day, they may develop tight hip flexors. These muscles attach to the lumbar spine and could create lower-back pain when they are shortened,” explains physical therapist Erica Anne Meloe, owner of Velocity Physiotherapy in New York City and author of Why Do I Hurt?
So what can you do to help those suffering hip muscles? First, make sure you’re getting up and walking around throughout the day—researchers suggest at least once every 30 minutes. But to further help, try this hip-opening sequence created specifically for Health readers by Peloton yoga instructor Kristin McGee. “These poses take a 360-degree approach, helping to stretch and strengthen the hips from all angles—front, side, and back,” says McGee.
Run through them three to four times a week, and you’ll feel so much looser.
Cow Face pose
Get onto all fours. Cross right leg over left, then sit back down between your heels or on a block, with knees stacked. Extend left arm toward ceiling, then bend left elbow, bringing palm to touch the center of upper back; then bend right arm behind back, trying to grasp fingers of left hand. Stay here for 5–8 breaths, breathing evenly; then switch sides and repeat. To make it more comfortable, you can also sit on a blanket instead of a block.
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From Cow Face pose, slide right leg forward onto the floor, placing right shin parallel to the front of the mat, and slide left knee on floor behind you. Lower left thigh to mat with top of left foot facing down. Stay upright, with torso over hips and hips square to the front of the mat. Remain here for 5–8 full breaths, then bring left foot toward right and repeat on opposite side.
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Bound Angle pose
Sit on mat with soles of feet together and knees bent out to sides. Interlace fingers around feet. Inhaling, press knees down toward mat while sitting up tall; bow forward slightly to get a deeper stretch. Stay here for 8–10 breaths.
Ankle to Knee pose
From Bound Angle pose, cross right knee over left ankle and bring bottom leg in so right ankle is over left knee, with shins stacked. Bring both palms to floor in front of you, leaning forward slightly. Hold here for 5–8 breaths.
Half Reclining Hero’s pose
Kneel on mat with knees together. Sit back on heels, and then extend right leg straight out in front of you. Slide left foot slightly wider than knee with the top of left foot on the floor and big toe angled in, allowing butt to rest on floor. Then place hands on floor behind you and lean back, bringing elbows and forearms to floor behind you. From here, continue to lower all the way to the floor or as far as you can go without pain or discomfort; cross elbows overhead. Stay here for 5–8 breaths.
Begin in Downward Dog with hands on floor in front of shoulders, legs extended, and hips lifted in an inverted V. Step right foot to the outside of right hand, then lower both elbows to mat, keeping right knee next to right side. Keep left leg active, pressing back with left heel, and hips level, without allowing them to sag. Stay here for 8–10 breaths, then step right foot back. Lift hips to ceiling as a break, and repeat on left side.
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