Aligned and Awake Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 5

Hip Hinge

50 min - Practice


We begin with a centering meditation before moving into a series of postures with keen focus and awareness on hip work. We play with inviting ease, space, and softness into our shapes.
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket (3), Block

About This Video

Jan 22, 2019
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Welcome back to our third practice this season. This practice will be focusing on hip work. We're going to be starting in Virasana to work on learning how to fold the pelvis over the thighs as opposed to normally in sitting and cross legs. This gives us a little easier access to that hip hinge. We'll start by reaching behind to pull the skin and muscle back a little bit so that we really can feel the buttock bones into the block. Stretch down through the buttock bones and raise up the trunk and we'll keep practicing all that wonderful chest opening we've been working on this season. Roll the shoulders back and feel the shoulder blades help open the chest. We'll bring the palms together and the thumbs of the sternum and gently press into the sternum with the thumbs and roll them up. Remember we want to feel the trapezius muscles relax and settle down the back. Before we close our eyes check to make sure that there's no gripping no hardening of the muscles around the hip joints here. Be soft there that the legs into the floor and then we'll close the eyes. Let your attention settle down away from the thinking into the spaciousness of the chest and the lift of the spine. More and more as we practice this opening the centering meditation and as we learn to lift and open the chest you might begin to notice that there's a gravity to that space that becomes attractive to the attention. It's like a warm welcome to drop out of thinking and into a quiet stillness.

And from that stillness I say namaste and again welcome to our practice. We're gonna start off in Adho Mukha Virasana. We won't need the block anymore. Setting that off to the side. Knees wide feet together and when I use the term hip hinge this is the area I'm talking about the folding of the pelvis over the thighs. I want to remind you if your hip knees don't like to fold this deeply take a folded blanket or two or three even if you need it and place it between your heels and your bottom so you're not worried about any discomfort in the knees as we practice here. Let's take the hands to the floor and before we go into the pose completely start to relax the thigh muscles relax around the hip joints allow those areas to settle down and then staying soft in those areas will slowly work our way out into the pose. Remember if you need a block or folded blanket for your forehead please don't be shy to take that. Then with our hands we're going to gently push our body line backward toward the toes and the feeling we're looking for here as we push the body back you can see it it's a subtle movement but you can see it. We're trying to cue that hip hinge to relax no tension around there at all very very soft muscles so that backward pressure gives that cue to let go. Relax the ankles relax behind the knees and what you're hunting for is a downward settling of the body towards your yoga mat. Every so often you might have to reset the hands so you get a gentle push it's not hard at all just a few pounds of pressure to press back and settle. That softening of the hips is going to be a major component of our practice and then we'll slowly walk up and come into a sitting position. We'll start out with a twist and hip hinge we'll call it the mermaid twist where our left shin is right out in front of us and the right leg is brought back. We're going to turn over to the left side and then stretch out along the line of the yoga mat. The left arm is going to remain bent and the right arm we're going to reach. So as I reach I turn my hips over as though down toward the floor. You come down as far as you like if you can rest the forehead on the floor you can if you want to bring a block or folded blanket to help you settle in you can do that as well. So in these poses we're not pushing we're not cranking or anything like that rather settle your attention around the hip the pelvis the low back and look for more of a softness a relaxing into. Remember the breath is a great way to start to feel what's happening in your body. Slowly unwind and come up and flip it to the other side. Right shin in front left shin around to the side we'll turn first I take my attention down there and settle any muscle tension that I don't need rolling the body over and remember that right arm stays bent it's kind of our prop as the left arm reaches. A few long slow breaths. Experience your body look for areas of course that feel good feel opening but other areas that might say it needs your attention it's not feeling integrated in the pose and then we'll unwind and come out. Here's another twist we'll take the left leg out and the right leg just behind we'll turn again and reaching out you'll let the left leg fall open and the pelvis to come over the knee will stay on the ground. Same use of the arms and all of this is going to serve to help us warm up the hips and bring the attention down to where we can really begin to see how our body is moving and later poses. We'll come up slow two legs out front this time the left leg brought back to basically a 90 degree angle will allow the right leg right foot to fall open and then we're coming down into the pose. Slow soft breaths as you feel into your body making adjustments and settling further into the pose with each passing breath and then we'll come out and make our way into a downward facing dog. In our downward dog let's raise up the heels nice and high again attention to those hips the hip hinge and look for a bit of softness in that hip hinge so there's not a lot of aggressive muscle work there at all we're trying to become a little bit more conscious and relaxing into that area and then I use the hands to help press the spine line and torso line upward towards the tailbone and deepening that hip hinge crease I'm going to pulse that a few times. There is a very special rolling of the legs it's called the inward spiral that helps this hip hinge further and that means we're gently rolling the fronts of the thighs inward toward the midline and the hamstrings outward away from the midline and then we'll relax the dog pose bring the left leg forward and just a classic lunge. Here again I'm gonna hunt for a way to let go of some of that tension around the left hip. In this particular lunge which is different from some of the other lunges I've shown we're gonna let the back leg actually drop a little bit down so that I feel that there's a turning of the pelvis over the left leg a softening into that hip joint. You can lift up a little again and again a softening a melting down and then we'll switch to the other side right leg forward lunge. Let's work the same practice unlocking some any muscle tension around that right hip and then letting the back leg the left leg sink a little to further cue our relaxing around the right hip. We can come up and try it again and again it does take practice to feel deeper and deeper in the body but it's remarkable how fast the body learns and it builds practice after practice you start finding new things you have no idea was there the last time you did the pose and that's just it's the fun in the miracle of practice. Step back dog pose first side again left leg forward we'll bring a little of that softness again into the left hip and we'll go into our lunge twist challenging to keep that softness we don't want to turn that into hardness around the left hip and we'll bring the arm up and release and second side right leg forward softening into the right hip we'll turn. Remember we're looking for space and come down just a brief pause in down dog and then we'll walk it forward to a ragdoll pose. Here we want to bend the knees quite a bit and it might take some exploration for you as you bend the knees your challenge is to bring your chest your lower ribs against your thighs and for some people it might be quite a bend almost even to 90 degrees before the chest will rest on the thighs so let's find out where you need to be with your knee bend to allow as much of your chest to rest on your thighs as possible and once you find that depth of bend we're going to hang out there and relax around the hip joints release the back muscles we can capture the elbows and hang down. The practice in this pose right now is relaxing around the hips releasing the spinal muscles relaxing the head and you may notice some heat building up in the thigh muscles and that's just part of the pose. Let's take a pause hands on knees let everything settle come up and we'll just pause there for a moment and we'll take a deeper look at this ragdoll pose again folding nice and softly over the hips into the hip hinge and letting into your pose relax the back muscles so we found that depth where chest and thighs are connected I'm gonna reach back and grab hold of the backs of the calves relaxing the head down here's the challenge press your heels down into the floor and begin to raise your sits bones up but without hardening at the hips and without letting your chest come away from the thighs you might get to straight legs you might not get to straight legs we're gonna do this in a pulsing way for five more times lift soften lift soften paying attention to the spinal muscles letting them stay long hanging down hips allowing that hinging to occur we'll do one more hands on the knees let's let everything settle for a few breaths hmm one more time hinge clasp relax and pulse one we'll do five two softening around the hips three spinal muscles relaxing letting the trunk down four and five hands on knees let everything settle and we'll come up to full standing our next pose is called malasana and I'd like to show the first round with the help of a block and one other prop the first step I'm gonna stand around the block and then come down to it now some people can take this pose no problem here if you'd like to go further you could try it without the block and come all the way down here now one challenge might be that the heels don't want to be down on the ground so the heels are up here's one way that you can work with that and that is you can take a folded blanket place just the heel bones on the blanket and this can be a wonderful way to access this great pose without the tension of the calf muscles and ankle so I'll take this first one with the blanket and we'll just work on it like this in this pose again I'm working on relaxing the hips to allow a deep hip hinge so I have to feel into there and I'm gonna work my body a little bit forward so I'll let the left knee open bring the left torso a little forward let the right knee open bring the right torso a little forward pause for a minute let's try a little again left and left torso right you see my hand helping right torso and we've got to allow those back muscles to relax into the pose okay and we'll come back up to standing I'll put my blanket away if you still need your blanket please you can keep it there once again malasana coming down malasana is garland pose and working into the hip hinge a little bit at a time but this time we get to add a twist I'll start by opening the right leg and helping the right torso around I'll bring the right hand just around notice my palm is up then pressing my arm against the leg to help turn but I'm looking for a very specific effect beyond the twist right at the base of the right hip as I press into the twist that area is allowed to come a little bit forward forward and to take it a little bit deeper if you'd like you can clasp right behind the back to work on the twist and deep right side hinge a few more of these pulses to feel and observe that hip work and we'll come out for a little rest relax the hips you can move them around and we'll do the second side last time malasana going for the left side hip I can push the knee open a little bit bring the left torso and especially the left side pelvis we want to bring that forward as we're turning okay and then once I feel I've got a good turn in place I'll take the hand behind left hand with the palm up I push the left hand against the leg and start my rotation remember what else I'm looking for I'm looking for the left lower hip to come forward and then we'll reach around to clasp if perhaps you need a strap to help with the clasp it's a wonderful thing to take because the clasp really helps get the attention into the hip joint and we'll do a few more and release and come up once again let's move the legs around a little bit and we'll go for a tree pose standing in tadasana we'll bring the left leg up first and I'll make a little space for my foot to attach there we go here we'll start with the arms down just to get a little bit of sense of the hip action the sacrum and tailbone we want to roll down towards the right heel that lifts the front of the body up that's all that wonderful chest work we've been doing sacrum and tailbone down to lift the front of the spine up then with that stability we'll take the arms all the way up and we can go palms together breathing into the pose it's more like a meditation this pose so quiet and then my steady release second side right leg comes up and we do want the right foot or the lifted foot to point straight vertical up and down that helps us really open up at the groin I'll take the sacrum and tailbone down remember when we do that we're looking for an uplifting feeling in the front of the body that's one one we're stable there we can take the arms up and if you have the room around the neck and shoulders to join the palms it brings a further inner lift to the body and then releasing our next pose will be crescent warrior and we'll take it into a hip hinge still we'll start with the arms out palms up and then turn it around to the right side take a nice big breath in and exhale your way into warrior pose and we're going up and down a little with the breath so that we can start to pulse into that right hip just a little deeper and like malasana I'm looking to descend the base of the right hip and then with a nice deep pose we'll come behind with the hands and interlock roll the shoulders back and then we're into humble warrior folding deeply pelvis over leg check in with that right hip can you soften some of the muscles around the hip for that deep hip hinge come up slow we'll relax the arms and come to the second side right toes turned in left out we'll take the arms up and then bending into the left leg and then I use my breath several times to help dropping in a little bit more deeply into the left hip I find a nice deep hold take the hands and interlace behind the back folding again my target here is the folding of the hip the left hip so I'm feeling right there can I soften and deepen that crease and we'll come up release the arms and turn to center walk the legs into Tadasan let's take a little pause and feel into the body and then we'll take our next pose powers Votanasana so I'll turn to the side left leg forward right leg back and for this pose three three and a half feet you don't need an excessively long stance for this I'll come down hands to the floor now if you need blocks to bring the floor up a little higher if you find your body is quite rounded going to the floor definitely use those blocks we'll come down but I'll have a slight bend in my front leg and I'm going to work on relaxing to allow the pelvis to turn over the left thigh and then my challenge is straightening the leg I'm not just going to push so that my spine goes right up I'm going to keep that hinge well folded and push the hips straight back we'll do it one more time bend the knee focusing on softness and then as I straighten the leg I keep that softness in the hip deepening this folding crease and I've got it then with that crease soft and deep I let the back down I'm focusing as I stay on the depth of that hip and the release of the spine down and then I'll come up and bend the knee and out of the pose right leg forward left leg back about three three and a half feet or so I will do this second side folding forward and we'll bend the right knee a little bit take some time to focus in on the right hip and looking for some softness as you press the right leg to straight remember we're going to move the sacrum and tailbone pelvis straight back on a horizontal line we don't want to feel the spine jump up around into the air I'm aiming towards straight now in the right leg and we'll do it one more time make any adjustments you need to make and again softness in the right hip right hamstring and then we're gonna go for straight and on this side for me in particular I've really got to take my time had an old injury in my right hip that it loves to tighten up and protect so I take my time and I go at its pace to feel that softening and then I can feel it's allowed me to open the leg now I'll take the pose and sometimes it just takes so much patience to move at the body's speed not the mind speed you know we're so eager sometimes to get into these poses but we blow by a lot of the signals and language of our body and then lifting up bend the knee and we'll come up out of the pose first side again left leg forward right leg back and we can take balance there we can take that depth in the hip a little further into rotated triangle pose so I'm gonna hinge right there working on the depth of that hip again we can even bend the knee a little soften in the hip I'll slide my right hand down holding into that depth of the left and begin to turn so again patience keeping the depth in that left hip as I slowly feel into it I can take rotated triangle pose but it takes that sensitivity developed practice by practice and then we'll release turning the chest down and you can bend the knee to come out let's do the second side three three and a half foot stance will fold forward we're paying attention to the right hip giving it the freedom to turn to turn to turn I'll slide both hands down as though I was going into the previous pose and I'm gonna patiently watch and feel for the depth of the right hip and then begin my turning each little turn I make I check into the hip and see if it'll allow me to go further and this way with this patient entry into the pose I don't overdo another part when the hip is telling me it won't let me go any further so I don't crank the spine I don't overdo it the shoulders and as you can see the breath calm steady and if it's available you can take the top arm up and then we'll come down and out of the pose we'll bring it together a moment in Tadasana to feel the body let the body settle let the blood flow back through and then our next pose will be eagle pose we'll start with the legs together and now that the hips have had that nice opening work we'll take it a little deeper with eagle pose we'll raise up the left leg first bring it up and over across the right and pause and if you need to use the arms you can reach down and just assist the hook of the left leg so for this one because we're just working really on the hips today in this class we won't do the arm interlock we'll use the classic Utkatasana and come out wonderful pose for the hips we'll do the second side come down feeling that hip hinge right leg comes up and over I'll use my hands to help get that interlock and then I roll this right leg around there's an internal rotation to it and I make the hook or I try there it is settle into the pose all right the legs are steady and I'll challenge the internal that organic lift that I'm aiming at in the pose that feeling of inner space and then coming out our final standing pose prasarita paratanasana wide legs toes turned in just a little bit push down through the heels you can see as soon as I do that that lift comes into the body and with that lift in place I'll fold forward and pause there we'll let the knees bend just like we've been doing in the previous poses and start to feel where that hip hinging is happening allowing the hip to hinge I'll slowly press the heels and begin to straighten the legs while keeping that hip hinge soft and deepening and you may be able to see as I do that with the legs my body is just just falls forward it does take practice you know to feel that depth in the hips and so I'm keeping that hip hinge soft aware I'm feeling if the body is telling me too deep or if there's more space to go and we'll just be in this pose for a little bit and then with the awareness in that hip hinge want to feel that it goes on getting deeper and deeper and contact and then we'll slowly come up out of the pose we're gonna heal toe the feet together and we'll come down into a kneeling position to pause and just feel the body let your eyes close and the awareness to trace through your body see how your practice is evolving from here let's come on down to a sitting position we'll extend the legs forward and start with some deeper hip work from this position I'll start with the left leg and bringing the leg up we'll just do a little swinging just like this and this is bringing the attention to the left hip and pelvis and then as you're able we're gonna slowly bring that left shin closer and closer to the chest if you can you can either grab with a forearm or possibly hook into the elbow just gonna adjust the sitting stance so that both the sitting bones are at the same position and then cradle the leg in before you just try to pull the leg into the chest take your attention to that left hip and soften soften soften then when you feel that softness you can start to bring the leg in and it's nice to just gently pull in and then release a little so each time you can feel there are more muscle fibers that you can begin to relax so this becomes more of a melting than a pulling and then we'll release and do the second side bring the right side in we'll start with just a little open and close we start to feel bring the attention and awareness down the right side hip and then I'll see if I can clasp bring it in and right around to the elbow but you go to the depth that you're able to go and I'll hang on to the shin I'm lifting up and at the same time I'm deepening that groove the hip hinge my pulse in a little into the softening that the hip is allowing and releasing and in and releasing and we'll let it go our next pose is Janusya shasana a little variation on that theme I'm gonna bring a block into play for this I'm gonna sit up on the block and this gives me a little extra space for my knee to fold so what I'm doing I'm bringing the foot underneath and my goal is the head of the knee that knee bone right there I want it to point straight down straight down into the floor other leg is out straight ahead as in classic Janusya shasana with the hip up like this it helps propel the pelvis more into a forward bend than if you're sitting on the ground and when you like you can try the difference between the two to feel this so as I come forward of course the hip hinge and I'm following that left hip over you can kind of see my waistband starting to fall forward into the pose so I'll take some time always feeling into the hip I'm pausing there and this knee I'm gonna push it straight down into the floor as though it propels me to help bring me a little bit more forward settling in slowly and then coming up we'll extend the left and work to the right once again the head of the knee pressing down to the floor and softening into the hip hinge of the left and working in at its pace and use the arms it's just a little gentle traction and then coming out we'll extend both legs and next is crown shasana I'm gonna be taking the left leg folded back like Virasana the right leg will just start by bending and get settled on the hips I'll draw back that right leg a few times getting that pulse getting my familiarity with the hip and I'm gonna catch that foot and start to bring it up now here I have to pay attention to that right hip so it stays soft and descending and I'll begin to press the leg toward the ceiling but all the while keeping that hip just like we've been practicing you pause pause whenever you need to and remember softening into the right hip we come up we can grab hold of the hands and work into that depth crown shasana and release and we'll do the second side left leg long right leg folded back in half of your asana half heroes pose and get the hips settled and bring the leg up and teach the left hip to settle and soften to deepen grab the foot paying attention to the left hip as I extend there we go my strong leg coming up can clasp the hands and then we'll ease out of the pose and come down we can put the block away and I have a challenge pose for you I'm gonna start with the legs out and now that we've warmed up and mobilized that hip quite a bit we can make a challenge I'm gonna take the right leg up give a few pulses to open up the hip hold it with the right left hand and bring the right arm through we're gonna do this several times get the right arm well tucked in remember that work we did on the hip this is all gonna play through in this pose see that hip moving forward here comes the challenge we're gonna pull this heel down towards the buttock and push this leg down into the floor to lift the bottom and then second leg and come down and rest what a pose a lot of abdominal strength and go to the second side lifting up bring the foot up do a few pulses just to cue the hip work that we've been doing right hand holds on so the left hand can come under we're gonna do just a little lift onto the shoulder and then I work that arm to begin getting that left hip work that we've been working throughout this practice session you can pause anywhere along these stages that we're doing wherever your body says that's its end point for the day I let go of the foot I'm gonna pull actively we use the hamstring and pull the foot down and push that leg into the floor I raise my bottom and then the second leg exhale and we're up and then come down and rest great work it's time for a good rest so we'll turn on to the mat and lie down and just let the body recover it's nice to cross the legs a little bit letting the lower back settle and doing this kind of hip work can bring a great piece to the nervous system and mind actually because there can be a lot of tension we hold around the hip muscles those hips have to stabilize us and hold us up right they're working a lot during the day so being able to calm those muscles down can help just calm the nervous system's relationship to those muscles everything starts to calm down we can bend the knees and just do a little bit of windshield wiper action it helps to mobilize the lower back remember feel into your body at this point is there tension is there discomfort anywhere did you overdo we want to listen to those signals and they're not wrong signals it's part of the learning process in yoga and it goes on and on learning like that but that is the gift of the practice because we get to grow our awareness and learn all about ourselves we're gonna finish with halasana that's plow pose and shoulder stand so I'll do the familiar three blankets set up and remember we do have the tutorial on shoulder stand and variations that you can do to build into that practice one two and three so we'll be going through plow pose first and then into shoulder stand I'll place the block for a little little hip support and notice I've got the three folded edges nice and neatly stacked here we go settle my hips up on the block and bring the shoulders down remember to adjust your shoulders just off the front line of the blankets so that your shoulders have a space to roll into and all set I'm gonna hold on to the mat for some stability to help me go over I take a breath in exhale and bring the legs up and over then holding on to the mat I can open the legs just a little bit tilt to the side bring my right arm under left side right side left side and I think it's a good point to make here as you're learning and practicing you don't want to be watching the the video as you're learning to do these kinds of poses because the neck is in a deeply flexed position it's better to watch and then follow through so you're safe with the neck I'll let go of the mat and bring my hands flat against the back to help lift me toward the ceiling a little bit more and we're in plow pose here again following through with this practice I'm allowing those hip sockets to be soft and then we'll take this up into full shoulder stand so I'll walk in my feet a little bit stretch one leg up and pull the other leg up with me and here we're unfurling those legs unfurling the hip joints reversing the blood flow at any point you feel that there's undue tension on the neck there's no reason to stay in this pose you can just take a supported bridge these inversions do take time and practice to feel comfortable in so please no rush no rush we have all of our lives to learn these poses and gain the benefits and really the learning experience as they say the journey is the destination that's really where it's at that's where we grow we'll just stay a short little while today and coming down you can use your one leg or both legs at the same time arms overhead and allow your body to gently roll out of plow pose the neck relax and touchdown we'll do a little wiggle so that our body upper body anyway most of our rib cage comes down to the floor let's let this be our little recovery pose and so what we're waiting for here is that the body is going to settle down the blood pressure a heart rate all of that is nice and slow again and then we'll take it to Shavasana and then we'll do a little turn to the side come on up and put the things away we'll use one blanket for Shavasana the other two we won't need all right a nice long spine coming down into the pose adjust the headside blanket so it's underneath the head and the neck we can lengthen out the back of the pelvis gentle tuck of the shoulders to support open the chest and then one leg at a time gently pressing the feet into the floor to help relax the groins that we've been working with all day all practice long and slowly take the energy out of the legs take your time take your time take your time same with the arms give them over to gravity with your arms and legs settled in the ground you're slowly drawing your awareness and attention away from the periphery and toward the center relaxing your facial muscles around the lips the nose the eyes the ears temples a good feeling is as though you're deflating all of those areas and we'll settle into the soft quietness of the chest you and as always if you'd like to stay longer please do we'll finish by resting the hands one on chest one of the tummy one leg at a time bend the knees and turn to your right side and we'll rest on the side for just a few breaths and then you can turn toward the floor and slowly press your way to sitting let's just take a quick second to rest in a sitting position let the eyes close your hands to rest on your thighs as always it's my pleasure to be here with you thank you so much for coming and we'll see you soon


4 people like this.
You have done it again! Thank you's a practice I'll be repeating often. Can't wait for your next video.
Thank you Lisa . If you ever have a question on these lessons please feel free to ask.
2 people like this.
Nice sequencing, Nathan! I really like the meditative focus you bring to this practice: )
2 people like this.
Beautiful practice Nathan thank you.... I love how you explain the alignment...
Janet, there will be much more in depth alignment classes coming soon. We’ll go beyond the muscle/joint alignment and start to understand how to move into the organs and stillness of the mind.
1 person likes this.
Thank you for another great practice Nathan.  I appreciate your in depth guidance.
Hoping for a Season Three even though I'm benefitting by repeating Seasons 1 and 2. 
Christel Thank you! We have something in the works right now :) Is there any particular area of practice you would like to see included?
1 person likes this.
Thank you for asking.  After years of doing asanas I've come to the place of wanting to know the finer details of proper alignment, which you do so nicely.  We want to be able to keep doing asanas as we age without hurting ourselves in the process. So focusing on the sacrum/pelvic girdle area seems to be important as well as all the other major joints.  I'd be interested in a talk about yoga as we get older.  (Patricia Sullivan's videos do this.) I just looked at your response to Janet and it sounds like you are planning some amazing classes.  
Christel, that’s a great request. Alignment and detail is what I love to teach. There will definitely be that element in these challenges. 
1 person likes this.
What a lovely practice. Thank you for reminding us to slow down and move into poses with attention and care to our bodes. 
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