how to practice yin yoga to mobilize the hips in Pigeon Pose (Sanskrit name: Kapotasana)

5 Yin Yoga Poses to Mobilize Your Hips

By: 
Leah Sugerman, E-RYT 500, YACEP

Who doesn’t love Yin Yoga? It’s firm but gentle, soft but strong, and physical but introspective. It creates a perfect balance between lengthening and strengthening our tissues, and invites silent meditative space into our practice.

Yin Yoga is fantastic for many parts of the body, but it definitely targets a release of the hips. Many say that Yin is a return to more “traditional” styles of yoga, because similar to many poses found in the ancient text The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Yin Yoga mainly focuses on seated hip-releasing poses to prepare the body to sit comfortably for longer periods in meditation.

Needless to say, if your hips are tight or excessively tense, then Yin Yoga is an excellent practice for you. 

Be aware that all our hip joints are formed differently. Depending on the shape, placement, and orientation of your hip sockets, and the shape of your femur bones, your hip joints may or may not externally rotate easily. Agnisthambasana (Fire Log Pose) and Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose), in particular, require a substantial amount of external rotation. If the seated versions of these poses are uncomfortable or feel unattainable, practice the supine versions instead. This will allow you to let go of struggle so that you benefit from the meditative aspect of Yin Yoga.

A Yin Yoga Sequence to Release Your Tense Outer Hips

The following sequence is designed to help unwind and release tension in your outer hips while also inviting deep breathing into your practice. As you move through this sequence, follow your own pace and find your own “edge” in the different shapes so that each pose feels appropriate for your own body and is also sustainable for a period of time.

For this practice, you may wish to have two blocks, a bolster, and a strap.

Cow Face or Shoelace Pose (Gomukhasana)

Yin yoga student experiencing the benefits of yin yoga for mobile hips in Shoelace Pose

This posture targets the outer hips to release any built-up tension. 

  1. Start on all fours in a Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose).

  2. Slide your right knee forward between your hands and draw your right foot toward the left side of your mat. 

  3. Draw your left foot toward the right side of your mat.

  4. Slide your knees toward each other so that your right knee crosses in front of your left. 

  5. Slowly release your seat back between your heels. You may wish to place your blocks, a folded yoga blanket, or a yoga bolster underneath your sit bones to elevate your seat.

  6. If your bottom knee feels at all uncomfortable, straighten the leg out onto the floor.

  7. Lengthen your spine upward and relax the weight of your sit bones into the floor.

  8. You have the option to stay exactly as you are or slowly round your spine and fold forward over your legs. You may wish to use a prop to support the weight of your head and/or torso as you fold forward.

  9. Wherever you choose to be, stay and hold for about 2 to 4 minutes. Then, slowly release and unwind to return back to all fours. 

  10. Move in whatever way feels appropriate for you to release your body before practicing the same steps on the opposite side.

Note that if you feel any discomfort in this shape, you can always practice this lying down on your back and configuring your legs in the same way.

Fire Log or Square Pose (Agnisthambasana)

Yoga student experiencing the benefits of yin yoga for hip mobility in Square Pose

This posture intensifies the external rotation in your outer hips to create an even deeper opening there. 

  1. Start seated in a cross-legged position facing the top of your mat. You may wish to elevate your hips by sitting on a yoga block or bolster.

  2. Stretch your left leg straight forward in front of you.

  3. Draw your right shin roughly parallel to the short edge of your mat and stack your right ankle over your left thigh, just above your knee.

  4. Either choose to stay as you are or bend your left knee and draw your left shin roughly parallel to the short edge of your mat underneath your right shin. Aim to stack your ankles over your knees.

  5. You have the option to stay here or, if it feels appropriate, slowly round your back and fold forward over your legs. You may wish to use a prop to support the weight of your head and/or torso as you fold.

  6. Hold wherever you are for about 2 to 4 minutes, slowly release and unwind, and repeat on the opposite side.

Note that if you feel any discomfort in this shape, you can always practice this lying down on your back and taking the same configuration in your legs.

Deer Pose (Mrigiasana)

How to practice bolster variation of Deer Pose for hip mobility in yin yoga

This twisted posture gently helps to stretch and release the tissues of your outer hips. 

  1. Start seated facing the long edge of your mat.

  2. Bend your knees, place your feet on the mat, and walk your feet out slightly wider than hip-distance apart.

  3. Slowly release both knees toward your right so that your right shin lands roughly parallel to the short edge of your mat and your left lands roughly parallel to the long edge of your mat. 

  4. Lengthen and extend your spine toward the sky.

  5. Place your right fingertips behind your right hip and your left hand on your right knee and gently spiral your torso to twist toward the right.

  6. You have the option to stay here or gently rotate your torso further toward the right as you lower your forearms and/or torso to props (such as your bolster or blocks) or the floor.

  7. Hold wherever you are for about 3 to 5 minutes, slowly unwind, and repeat on the other side.

Pigeon or Sleeping Swan Pose (Kapotasana)

Beginner yin yoga student practicing Sleeping Swan Pose with bolster for improved hip mobility

This posture, also known as Pigeon Pose, is well-known for its ability to release the outer hips. 

  1. Start on all fours in Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose).

  2. Slide your right knee to the outer edge of your right wrist.

  3. Draw your right ankle toward your left wrist as far as your body will comfortably allow.

  4. Tuck your left toes under and slowly tiptoe your left foot toward the back of your mat as you lower your hips toward the floor. You may wish to place props underneath your hips for support.

  5. Untuck your back toes and soften the weight of your hips toward your props or the floor.

  6. Slowly release the weight of your torso over your front leg toward a prop (such as your bolster) or the floor.

  7. Surrender your full body weight into whatever is supporting you and hold for about 3 to 5 minutes.

  8. When you’re ready, slowly release back out the way you came in, take any organic movements that you’d like, and then repeat on the other side.

Note that if you feel any discomfort in this shape, you can always practice this lying down on your back and taking a “figure-4” configuration in your legs.

Revolved Belly Pose (Jathara Parivrttanasana)

How to practice yin yoga to mobilize the hips in Reclining Twist Pose

This variation of a reclining twist slowly releases the tissues of the outer hips with the help of gravity and time.

  1. Start lying flat on your back.

  2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.

  3. Lift your hips, scoot them an inch or two toward the right side of your mat, and release them back down again.

  4. Hug both knees toward your chest.

  5. Release your arms out into a T-shape and soften your shoulders toward the floor.

  6. Slowly lower both knees toward your left. You may wish to place them onto a prop (like a yoga block or bolster) and/or place a prop between your knees.

  7. Soften the weight of both shoulders down to the mat and soften the weight of both knees toward the floor.

  8. Relax into the shape for about 4 to 7 minutes. Then unwind and repeat on the other side.

The Power of Yin Yoga to Mobilize Your Hips

In our sitting-centered world, we tend to have excessively tight hips and Yin Yoga can be a powerful practice to release that tension and tightness in the hips.

Try this sequence for outer hip release as a whole or practice the postures individually to create a gentle opening and release in your outer hips. 

 

Lynn Crimando, MA, C-IAYT, certified personal trainer, board-certified wellness coach, YogaUOnline Teacher

 

Leah SugermanLeah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless schools and traditions of the practice. She teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings, both internationally and online. For more information, visit www.leahsugerman.com.