Yoga Hip Opener Pose Library

Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana)
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The hips are a complicated area, anatomically speaking. We often talk about poses that open or stretch the hips in yoga, but what does that really mean? Generally, when talking about opening the hips, it's referring to the muscles around the pelvis, legs, lower spine, and sacrum.

These include big muscle groups like the hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, adductors (inner thighs), abductors (outer thighs), and many smaller, deeper muscles, including the piriformis and the psoas.

People think hip openers are poses like pigeon, where the femur is externally rotated, but something like the eagle, where the leg is internally rotated, is also a hip stretch.

In other words, almost any yoga pose can be thought of as a hip opener since we are using the muscles around the hips in many different ways. The poses below offer a variety of approaches to stretching the hips that go beyond basic external rotation.

How Hip Openers Can Help

Many people find that their "hips" are tight due to spending a lot of time sitting, both at work and in cars. This tightness, which can cause back pain and sciatica and affect mobility, is really in all the muscles surrounding the pelvis.

Beginners' Poses

The following poses are typically suitable for people new to yoga.

  • Child's Pose - Balasana: Child's pose is an excellent place to start an exploration into the hips. Spread your knees as wide as is comfortable while keeping your toes touching. Let your torso drape between your legs and allow gravity to do its work. This is a pose worth staying in for several minutes since you can really feel it deepen during that time. 
  • Cobbler's Pose - Baddha Konasana: If you find your knees are sticking up high in this posture, a few props can help. Sitting upon a folded blanket helps the knees to drop. Placing a block (or block hack) under each knee will allow for a more passive stretch in the inner thigh.
  • Eye of the Needle Pose - Sucirandhrasana: A reclined version of pigeon (see below) is a good option for warming up the hips or if the pigeon is too intense. 
  • Garland Pose - Malasana: There is nothing like a deep squat to get into the hips and counteract the effects of chair sitting. You need to have your feet flat on the floor so you can relax down in this pose. If your heels don't come to the floor, roll up a blanket and put it under them. Make sure you have weight in your heels, not just in the balls of your feet. 
  • Happy Baby Pose - Ananada Balasana: This pose often feels good at the end of yoga practice when you can take advantage of your warm muscles to get a nice stretch. Be sure to separate your knees wide as you pull them toward your armpits.
  • Reclined Goddess Pose - Supta Baddha Konasana: The reclined version of the cobbler's pose (above) can also benefit from the use of props under your knees. 
  • Seated Wide-Legged Straddle - Upavistha Konasana: Just as in cobbler's pose, a folded blanket or two under the sit bones can go a long way in making this position more comfortable. Try the blankets if you have trouble keeping your spine erect in this position. Keep the spine long and straight if you're coming into a forward bend. Stop forward bending when you begin to feel rounding in your spine.
  • Standing Straddle Forward Bend - Prasarita Padottanasana: This is the same stretch as upavistha konasana (above) but in a standing position. As you forward bend, imagine your pelvis as a bowl with water spilling forward. Use a block under your hands if they don't reach the floor.
  • Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II: In warrior II, the hips points are set up facing the long edge of your mat. Both thighs externally rotate as the front knee tracks over the middle of the front foot.


The following hip opening poses are suitable for intermediate yogis who have a few months' experience.

  • Cow Face Pose – Gomukhasana: An excellent stretch for the outer thighs and hips. You can sit upon a blanket here to make the pose more manageable.
  • Eagle Pose - Garudasana: Continuing the outer thigh stretches with the eagle. Standing on one leg adds to the challenge here. You can use your top leg as a kickstand to help you balance or even do this pose in a chair if necessary.
  • Goddess Pose - Utkata Konasana: Opening the knees wide and keeping them aligned over your feet is the challenge for this pose. Then it's a case of "how low can you go" as you inch the thighs parallel with the floor.
  • Half Moon Pose - Ardha Chandrasana: Half moon retains the alignment of warrior II with the hips open. As you lift your upper leg, think about stacking the hip points to maintain that openness. A block under your hand helps with balance.
  • Knee to Ankle Pose - Agnistambhasana: This pose is also called fire log posture because the shins are stacked like wood in a fireplace. This means that your shins should be parallel with the ankles on top of the opposing knees. If this is difficult, use a prop like a blanket to fill the spaces between knee and ankle.
  • Pigeon Prep: What is generally thought of as pigeon pose is a preparation for full pigeon (see below). This is a classic hip stretch that targets the piriformis, among other muscles. Using a prop under your butt on the side of the forward leg can help you stay level.

Pigeon Prep Help

The biggest problem with this pose is a tendency to let yourself rock to the side with the leg forward. This may feel like you're going deeper, but you're losing the integrity of the pose. Try to keep the two sides of your pelvis level, even if it feels like you can't come down as low.


And for more advanced yogis, here is a list of poses to add to your repertoire.

  • Lotus Pose - Padmasana: Full lotus is a pretty intense pose for most people. Try half-lotus if you are not quite there yet.
  • Lizard Pose - Utthan Pristhasana: A deep stretch laterally and from front to back. There are numerous ways to adapt this pose, including using blocks under your elbows, dropping the back knee, and staying up on the hands instead of lowering to the elbows.
  • One-Legged King Pigeon Pose – Eka Pada Rajakapotasana: The full version of the pigeon adds a quad stretch and backbends and requires open shoulders.
  • Side Lunge - Skandasana: A half squat/half lunge incorporates the hamstrings.

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.