How to Do a Reclined Hip Stretch in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Reclined Hip Stretch

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Also Known As: Eye of the Needle Pose, Reclined Pigeon Pose

Targets: Hips, buttocks

Equipment Needed: Padded exercise mat

Level: Beginner

The Reclined Hip Stretch is a Pilates mat exercise that is one of the best stretching exercises for the outside of the hip. It looks like a pretzel move, but once you get it figured out, it feels great. It is easy and you can control how intense the stretch is. It is a good warm-up stretch, and you might use it as one of the stretches you do each morning, especially if you have tight hips.


This stretch targets the muscles and tendons at the outside of the hip and the buttocks. These include the tensor fascia latae and gluteals, which attach onto the iliotibial band. Runners may experience tightness in the outer hips and fascia, and the iliotibial band can be a big problem area.

Maintaining and restoring flexibility in the outer hip is important for performance. Some athletes and exercisers use a foam roller to release this area.

Step-by-Step Instructions

You will need an exercise mat or a firm but padded surface to lie on to do this stretch. You can perform this stretch at home, the gym, or the Pilates studio.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your spine can be neutral. You don't have to flatten your back.
  2. Bend your right knee until the thigh is perpendicular to the floor. The shin can drop—it doesn't have to be in table top position.
  3. Bring your left knee up, rotating your left leg outward at the hip so that you can rest your left ankle on your right thigh just above the knee.
  4. Take your right hand to the outside of the right thigh and thread your left hand through the opening your crossed left leg has made. Grasp your hands behind the right thigh.
  5. Press your left thigh open with your left elbow as you simultaneously pull your right thigh toward your chest with your hands. You will feel a good stretch along the outside of your left hip. Experiment with the intensity of the stretch.
  6. Breathe deeply into the stretch.
  7. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Common Mistakes

When you bring your knees up, concentrate on creating a deep crease at the hip and on leaving your tailbone grounded to the floor so that the hip doesn't ride up along with the knee. Knee folds are a good practice for this idea. Be sure to keep your shoulders and neck relaxed.

Modifications and Variations

This Pilates exercise is similar to the yoga pose Reclined Pigeon or Eye of the Needle. A variation of that pose is to extend the leg that isn't crossed over the other one.

Need a Modification?

You can also perform a variation of this stretch seated in a chair, which may be better tolerated if you have difficulty lying down.

Up for a Challenge?

You can deepen this stretch by bringing your forehead to your knee.

Safety and Precautions

This stretch is regarded as a beginner level stretch and you may find it recommended by your physical therapist. However, be sure that you do not continue the stretch if you feel any pain in your legs, hips, knees, or back.

If you have been told to avoid lying flat, you should not do this stretch.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

By Marguerite Ogle MS, RYT
Marguerite Ogle is a freelance writer and experienced natural wellness and life coach, who has been teaching Pilates for more than 35 years.