yoga teacher trainingBy Gopi Rao

After completing my third yoga teacher training course, one student raised her hand and asked, “Now that you know everything, who has more tension in the hips – men or women?” My answer was, and still is, “I don’t know it all, but both genders have a lot of tension and tightness in the hips.”

Whether we’re commuting to work or sitting at our desks, many of us have sedentary lifestyles. When we remain in any one position for too long, our muscles contract, creating imbalances in our musculoskeletal systems. One of the most common of these is in the muscles that move the hips.

What Causes Imbalanced Muscles?

The cycle begins with some kind of trauma, often caused by repetitive use, injury, structural imbalance or poor posture. Inflammation from trauma leads to muscle spasms, knots and scar tissue. Unless the process is interrupted, the condition gets progressively worse and affects the entire body.

Which Muscles Move the Hip?

• The hamstrings run along the backs of the thighs. When the hamstrings are too tight, the back rounds forward.

• The hip flexors consist of the psoas and the iliacus muscles. The psoas attaches the femur to the lower back, and the iliacus connects the femur to the hip. Sitting, running and pregnancy contribute to tight hip flexors. Activities, such as tennis or golf, that require a one-sided stance also tighten these muscles.

• The hip rotators include the piriformis, which runs along the back and side of the hips and connects the thighbone to the sacrum, and the gluteus maximus, which joins the pelvis to the thighbones. Tight hip rotators pull the pelvis out of alignment and limit range-of-motion.

How Does Yoga Help?

Hip-opening stretches reduce discomfort in the shoulders, back and knees. Yoga poses may also lower the risk of diseases related to sedentary lifestyles, prevent arthritis caused by overused joints and guard against osteoporosis.

Because imbalances in the lower body vary, depending on type of trauma and individual fitness, it is always a good idea to consult a teacher with a good knowledge of anatomy and therapeutic Yoga before undertaking a new exercise regimen.

Which Poses Open the Hips?

• Warrior Pose 1

• Reclining Hero Pose

• Pigeon Pose

• Cow Face Pose

• Bound Angle Pose

• Downward-Facing Dog

The damage to the body and the discomfort caused by tight muscles create a spiral effect that gets worse with time. Yoga, on the other hand, relaxes muscles and calms the nervous system, both of which help to alleviate tight muscles and encourage general well-being. The hips benefit, but so does the rest of the body.


No matter how many Yoga certifications you have, please don’t lead your students to believe you know everything. Our egos and our hips are works in progress.

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