by: Yuri Elkaim

Yoga Hip Openers - 23 Simple Poses Most People Should Be Doing

We tend to live life with our hips locked up – and that’s not a good thing when it comes to pain, mobility, or even our emotions.

Nearly everything you do closes up your hip muscles: sitting at your desk, driving, watching TV, reading, and even working out.

Too much sitting in particular shortens the hip flexors, which limits your range of motion and contributes to low back pain and bad posture.

But that’s not all.

According to the tenets of yoga, tight hips can also affect your mind and emotional state. The hips are believed to be the holding place for negative emotions such as fear and sadness.

The yogic solution to both problems – physical and emotional – is to move prana, or energy, through the hips.

As a side effect, the hips are loosened, resulting in improved mobility, spinal flexibility, and possibly even improved mood.

Below is an extensive list of some of the best yoga hip-opening poses, so you can feel the difference having flexible hips will have on your mind and body.

23 of the Best Yoga Hip Openers

Note: some of these poses may require yoga blocks and/or a yoga strap, so make sure you’re stocked up before you hit the mat.

Gentle Level of Intensity:

1. Child’s Pose

Yoga Hip Openers: Child's Pose

Intensity: Gentle

  • Come into child’s pose by kneeling on your mat, touching your big toes together. Sit on your heels and widen your knees so that they’re hip-width apart.
  • Exhale and lower your chest toward the ground between your thighs. Extend your arms in front of you.
  • Feel the stretch through your quads, low back, hips, and shoulders as you rest here for 30 to 60 seconds.

Modifications: If you find your knees are hurting during this pose, or that the tops of your feet are uncomfortable, try rolling up a towel and placing it beneath the top of your ankles (this will keep their natural bend).

2. Cobbler’s Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Cobbler's Pose

Intensity: Gentle

  • Begin seated on your mat, spine straight. Exhale and bend your knees, drawing them toward your groin.
  • Let your knees fall to the side and press the soles of your feet together. Feel the stretch throughout your hips and inner thighs.
  • If you can go further, draw in your feet even closer to your groin by clasping your ankles and/or your big toe.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Modifications: Sit on a folded blanket or mat beneath your groin and/or keep your ankles extended further away from you (yet still touching).

3. Happy Baby Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Happy Baby Pose

Intensity: Gentle

  • Begin by lying face-up on your mat, drawing in your knees toward your chest.
  • Press your lower back into the floor and grasp your feet along your outer soles. Gently pull down on your feet toward your armpits, widening your knees.
  • Hold for one minute (and smile!).

Modifications: Try coming into Half Happy Baby by bringing up only one leg and grasping the outer sole of your foot, while leaving the other extended. You can also clasp your ankles instead of the outer edges of your soles.

4. Reclining Goddess Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Reclined Goddess Pose

Photo Credit: Global Yoga Academy

Intensity: Gentle

  • Begin lying on your back on your mat, legs extended in front of you. Draw both knees up so that your feet are just behind your hips, then let your knees fall to either side.
  • Keep your soles pressed together as you hold for one minute.

Modifications: Place blocks or rolled up towels beneath your outer thighs for support.

5. Eye of the Needle

Yoga Hip Openers - Eye of the Needle

Intensity: Gentle 

  • Begin on your back on your mat, knees bent and feet hip-width apart.
  • Draw up your right knee and place your right ankle across your left knee. Let your right knee relax to the side as you exhale and draw your left knee toward your chest.
  • Now reach up with your arms (keep you head on the map) and grasp your left thigh, pulling it toward your chest to deepen the stretch.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Modifications: If you’re unable to grasp your bottom thigh, try using a yoga strap (wrap the strap around your thigh and use it to gently pull it toward your chest). You can also extend your lower leg further from your body, or even keep it touching the ground.

6. Warrior II

Yoga Hip Openers - Warrior 2

Photo Credit: Yoga Journal

Intensity: Gentle

  • Begin standing tall on your mat with your feet hip-width apart. Turn to one side and widen your stance by about 4 feet, making sure your feet are in alignment.
  • Turn your leading foot so that your toes are facing the front of your mat, while also turning in your other foot slightly (about 45 degrees).
  • Extend your arms out to parallel, palms facing down. Engage your core and bend your leading knee to a 90-degree angle. Be sure to keep your back foot on the floor.
  • Look out over your leading arm in front of you (finding a focal point helps with balance) and hold for 30 seconds before switching sides.

Modifications: Shorten your stance and avoid bending as deep into this pose until you increase your flexibility.

7. Modified Garland Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Modified Garland Pose

Photo Credit: Yoga Lily

Intensity: Gentle

  • Begin standing tall with your feet roughly as wide as your mat. Bend your knees and sink into your hips, coming into a squat.
  • Widen your thighs so that they are wider than your torso, but keep your feet grounded (you can place a towel beneath your heels if they lift). Lean forward slightly and press your elbows along the inside of your knees.
  • Bring your palms into prayer position and draw them to your heart. Keep your head up and spine lengthened.
  • Hold for 10 to 20 seconds, feeling the stretch in your hips as your elbows gently press against your inner thighs.

Modifications: Modify this pose even more by simply sinking into a wide squat and resting your elbows on your upper thighs. Sink lower as your flexibility increases, working toward getting your hands in prayer position at your heart center.

8. Downward-Facing Frog Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Downward-Facing Frog Pose

Photo Credit: Yoga Basics

Intensity: Gentle

  • Begin on all fours on your mat. Walk your knees out to your sides and turn your feet out to either side.
  • Lower to your elbows with your forearms and palms flat against the floor. Exhale and press your hips back slightly until you feel a stretch deep in your groin and hips.
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then rock forward and straighten your arms to bring your legs out of this pose.

Modifications: Walk your knees in until you’re comfortable and place towels beneath them to help with support.

9. Extended Leg Squat Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Extended Leg Squat Pose

Photo Credit: Global Yoga Academy

Intensity: Gentle

  • Begin by coming into a wide squat, feet turned out at a 45-degree angle. Press your hips down toward your heels and walk your feet out until your torso isn’t resting against your thighs.
  • Keeping your hands on the floor, extend your right leg to the side, letting your hips sink toward your left heel. If you can, lift your hands into prayer position at your heart and hold for 3 to 4 breaths.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Modifications: Rest your hands on the floor for support, or modify further by placing yoga blocks beneath your hands.

10. Crescent Lunge Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Crescent Pose

Photo Credit: Love My Yoga

Intensity: Gentle

  • Begin standing tall on your mat. Step one foot forward and come into a lunge, bending your knee 90 degrees and keeping it directly over your toes.
  • With both feet pointed forward, lift your back heel off the floor as you sink into the lunge. Raise your arms over your head and gently press your hips forward, keeping them squared.
  • Hold for one minute, then come out of this by pressing through your front heel. repeat on the other side.

Modifications: Come into the low lunge version of this pose by lowering your back knee to your mat.

Moderate Level of Intensity:

11. Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Reclined Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose

Intensity: Moderate

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended in front of you, your yoga strap at the ready. Draw one knee in toward your chest and loop the strap around the ball of your foot.
  • Holding the band with both hands, gently straighten your leg, keeping the band as taut as needed.
  • Keep your feet flexed and both of your hips on the floor. At this point, for a deeper stretch, you can open your extended leg to the side.
  • Hold for one minute, then switch legs.

Modifications: At first, you may not be able to straighten your leg up to vertical. Keep it lower to make this pose easier. In addition, you can also bend your other extended leg.

12. Lizard Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Lizard Pose

Photo Credit: Gaia

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin by coming into a lunge, your leading knee directly over your toe. Lower your back knee to the floor.
  • Sink into your hips and lower your forearms to the ground on the inside of your leading knee. Keep your head and chest raised.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Modifications: Stay in a low lunge, resting your hands on your leading knee. Alternatively, you can use a block to rest your arms on as your make your way closer to the ground.

13. Fire Log Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Fire Log

Photo Credit: Strong Fitness Mag

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin seated on your mat. Place your left foot on top of your right knee, sliding your right foot forward until it is directly beneath the left knee.
  • Press your hips down, keeping your chest open and spine straight. You can stop here or exhale and lean your torso forward to deepen the pose.
  • Hold for one minute, then switch legs.

Modifications: Prop your top ankle on a yoga block and/or rest your top knee on another block.

14. Downward Dog Split

Yoga Hip Openers - Downward Dog Split

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin by coming into Downward Facing Dog from all fours. You spine should be in a straight line from your head to your tailbone as you push your hips up and draw your belly in.
  • Spread your fingers and lift one leg, extending it up and behind you. Bend your knee and let your foot drape over your glute. Your outer hip will open slightly as your hip stretches open.
  • Hold for 5 to 6 breaths, then return to Downward Facing Dog. Repeat on the other side.

Modifications: If you’re having trouble with this pose, focus on maintaining proper alignment in Downward Dog and building up your flexibility with one of the more gentle hip openers above.

15. Half Split

Yoga Hip Openers - Half Split

Photo Credit: Yoga Journal

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin by stepping into a low lunge with your right foot forward, toes directly beneath your knee. Lower your left knee to the ground.
  • Shift your weight from your right foot as you sit your hips back over your left knee.
  • Keeping your hips squared forward, lower your chest toward your right knee as far as you feel comfortable.
  • Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other leg.

Modifications: Place yoga blocks beneath your hands on either side of your hips, or feel the stretch without extending your chest toward your knee.

16. Lizard Lunge Twist

Yoga Hip Openers - Lizard Lunge Twist

Photo Credit: Yoga Journal

Intensity: Moderate

  • Step your right foot forward and come into a low lunge, dropping your left knee to the ground. Make sure your right knee stays behind your foot.
  • Grab your left foot by propping yourself up with your right hand and rotating toward your right leg. Gently continue to pull your foot toward you as you sink into your hips and the rotation. Look up to the sky.
  • Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Modifications: Place a block beneath the hand that touches the floor, and/or use a strap to pull your back foot toward you if your quads are tight.

17. Half Chair Ankle-To-Knee

Yoga Hip Openers - Half Chair Ankle-To-Knee

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin standing tall, feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and sit your hips back, as if you were about to sit in a chair. Lift your arms over your head to help with your balance.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg and draw your right leg up toward your chest, crossing your right ankle over your left knee.
  • Let your right knee fall open naturally as you hold this pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other leg.

Modifications: If you’re having trouble balancing here, focus on practicing one-legged Chair pose (simply lift and extend one leg slightly of the ground in front of you during Chair pose). If your hips are too tight to perform this pose, try performing Eye of the Needle pose (above) on the floor until you feel comfortable.

18. Half Moon Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Triangle Pose

Photo Credit: Yoga Journal

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin by taking a wide stance on your mat. Rotate your right foot forward toward the front of the mat and turn in your left foot slightly.
  • Extend your arms out to your sides to shoulder height. Now reach and extend forward over your right leg, letting your right hand rest on the floor or your ankle. Be sure your shoulders are stacked on top of one another. Look up toward your left palm.
  • You can stay here in Triangle pose, or shift your weight and place your right hand on the floor slightly in front of your right leg. Begin to lift your left leg, keeping your foot flexed, until it is in alignment with your top shoulder.
  • Stack your hips and open your torso, keeping your gaze skyward and chest open.
  • Hold here for 5 to 6 breaths, then lower and repeat on the other side.

Modifications: Rest your hand on a block if you can’t quite reach the floor during this pose. You can also do this pose with your foot in reach of a wall; let your soles touch the wall to help with balance if you need it.

19. Modified Cow Face Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Modified Cow Face Pose

Photo Credit: Fitness Goals

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin seated with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your knees and bring your left foot beneath your right knee, sliding it to the outside of your right hip.
  • Hold here, or, instead of coming into the arm portion of this pose, try deepening the hip stretch by placing your palms on either side of your legs and leaning forward slightly.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Modifications: Prop your hips up on a towel to make the stretch through the hips less intense.

20. Seated Wide-Legged Forward Bend

Yoga Hip Openers - Seated Wide-Legged Forward Bend

Photo Credit: Yoga Newsletter

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin seated on your mat, legs extended in front of you. Now, open your legs as wide as you feel comfortable.
  • Keeping your kneecaps and toes pointed toward the ceiling, press your legs into the floor. Begin to walk your fingers on in front of you, keeping your head and chest lifted. Only go as far as you feel comfortable.
  • If your flexibility allows, walk your fingers out until you can grasp your big toes.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Modifications: Keep your legs closer together and/or hold this stretch without lowering your chest toward the floor.

21. Camel Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Camel Pose

Photo Credit: Yoga Journal

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin kneeling on your mat, knees hip-width apart. Press the tops of your feet and shins to the floor.
  • Rest your hands on the back of your hips and slowly lean back, keeping your chin slightly tucked. Think about pressing your hips forward while keeping your glutes squeezed to protect your low back.
  • You can stay here or reach back and take hold of both heels. Be sure to lift upward and avoid pressing into your lower back. If you feel compression here, stop and perform the modification.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

Modifications: Hold this pose with your hands on the back of your hips. Alternatively, you can rest your hands on blocks on either side of your hips.

22. Pigeon Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Pigeon Pose

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin on your hands and knees on your mat. Draw your right knee up between your hands while extending your left leg behind you, the top of your foot and shin pressing into the floor
  • Lift your chest toward the sky and keep your spine straight. Focus on squaring your hips forward and lowering your tailbone toward the floor.
  • Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Modifications: Place a block or folded towel beneath the hip of your front leg for support if your can lower all the way to the floor.

23. Full Lotus Pose

Yoga Hip Openers - Lotus Pose

Photo Credit: Yoga Journal

Intensity: Moderate

  • Begin sitting tall on your mat. Draw your right knee in toward your chest and bring your right ankle into the crease in your left hip. Make sure your sole is facing skyward.
  • Now bend your left knee, crossing your left ankle over your right shin. Rest your ankle in your other hip crease.
  • Draw your knees together and press your hips into the floor. Rest your hands on your knees, palms facing the sky.
  • Hold for one minute, then slowly come out of this pose and repeat with the opposite foot on top.

Modifications: Place a towel or blanket beneath both of your knees if they don’t quite reach the floor.

Consistent Practice Equals Open Hips

Add several of these poses into your weekly asanas, or even just as an addition to your workout routine.

You’ll notice an increase in flexibility and mobility during even simple movements, such as lunges, once your hip flexibility increases.

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Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.