Hip Pain in Yoga

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A few years ago, I thought tight hips were limiting me from certain movements, so I chose Vinyasa yoga to increase my flexibility. What I didn’t realize then was that most yoga classes require external rotation of the hip, such as Warrior 2, Triangle, Extended Side Angle, Pigeon, etc. The yoga practice I chose was overworking the muscles that externally rotated my hip and weakened my already underactive inner thigh muscles and hip adductors. This consistent overuse of external rotation was creating an imbalance in my body and I had no idea. I was overstretching my muscles, degenerating tissues, and causing instability in my body. Over time, when my hip flexibility started to increase, so did my yoga hip pain.

It was a dull pain on the right side of my hip that worked its way down the upper front portion of my leg. The sensation originated near the gluteus medius and traveled towards the Tensor fasciae latae, iliotibial band, sartorious and part of the rectus femoris. For a while I ignored it, still being aware of the sensation every time I performed a physical activity.

Instead of harnessing my critical thinking skills to identify the areas of my body that needed to be strengthened, lengthened, and mobilized, I stretched one area of my hip instead. It wasn’t until I began learning about Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model Method® several years ago that I learned how much harm I was doing by focusing on too much of one thing. I now understand that in order to “open up” the hips, we must move the ball and socket joint and its connective tissues in external and internal rotation, flexion, extension, circumduction, adduction, and abduction.

Here are the exercises for hip pain relief that helped me ease discomfort in my hip and regain the natural mobility of the joint, which in turn increased the flexibility I was looking for.

I perform Adductor Slides to strengthen the adductor magnus and Half Happy Baby Mini Vini to mobilize the hip socket. I make sure to find balance by strengthening my inner quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, adductors, and psoas as well.

In my previous posts, I discussed how inactivity due to Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV) ignited my old hip pain. Thankfully Yoga Tune Up® techniques have eased my pain and discomfort.

Liked this article? Read Teaching Yoga Tune Up Flow Using Direction of Movement

Lauren Cap

After years of being told to stand up straight and relax, Lauren decided to take her first yoga class. She fell in love with the practice and knew it would always be a part of her life. She received her Vinyasa Yoga Certification from Prana Power Yoga NYC and found teaching others to be just as rewarding as her own personal practice. She gravitated towards Yoga Tune Up® as a way to expand her anatomy knowledge and learn personal techniques to live a longer, healthier life. She is thankful to Jill Miller's Yoga Tune Up® teachings for showing her that the truly advanced always know when to modify.

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Mary

Good info. I think we all experience hip issues at some point. Good video.

Véronique Lamothe

Dynamic stretching and PNF. The results are impressive. Thanks for this article.

Denitsa Lilova

Hello Lauren and thank you for your post! It is really not easy to put all connections and interactions together in our body, but you’re very simply emphasizing on why and how to be aware of hip /leg adductors was really helpful for me!!!

Martha Keller

I went to see a therapist for my right hip. The person put her fingers or whatever in the hip joint and have a hurting body today
Any help

Alicia

I used to suffer from frequent hip pain due to overuse and overstretching in yoga so I related quite a bit to this article. I personally found my way out of the pain was to strengthen my glutes and hamstrings. Good old fashioned clamshells with a resistance band and working out with a kettle bell has worked wonders. I also started incorporating more hamstring strengtheners into my yoga practice — purvotonasana has become one of my favorite poses after years of avoiding it!

Karine H

Somehow, strenghtening the inner thigh muscles is not something I am naturally interested in doing in my regular yoga practice. Lately, I’ve developed a sensitivity in my right knee when putting pressure on it (kneeling on the floor). I wonder if working on building inner thigh resilience could potentially help…I’m willing to give it a shot!

kaoline

I had similar experience. In addition to my back issue, years of vinyasa practice enhanced the imbalance in my hip joint and muscles around it. Thanks for the article. It seems this is exactly what i need now.

Lucy Beiler

My past includes numerous joint surgeries, both elbows, both knees, and abdominal surgery that included a partial hysterectomy with meshing to support my bladder and vagina. After working with a pelvic floor physiotherapist I understood how important it is to maintain overall supple strength. Attending YTU/Roll Model classes for the past 4 years and committing to daily rolling and poses, I am pain free. Three cheers for YTU Adductor slides and Half Happy Baby Mini Vini.!!

Pattie M

Love how this points out and address a Yoga blind spot, especially for those of us who teach or practice a Vinyasa flow style of practice. I am so grateful to be aware and to understand these blind spots and am looking forward to seeing how my own practice and my students practice will begin to transform with a more balanced and conscious approach to practicing and sequencing. Thank you Lauren and YTU!

Maxine

Excellent blog! Finding the cause to pain is so critical to treating it and prevent further injury. Good job! The hip is complicated because it moves in so many directions with many muscles involved, but you did it and feel better!

Ksenia

Absolutely agreed on overstretching the muscle, especially when we talk about hips. I was blaming my hips for not being “open” enough when i injured my knee. We always emphasize on external rotation and abduction practicing asanas such as Vrikshasana (tree) or all the variations of triangles, side angles etc. But we forget to strengthen the muscle before lengthen it. And then we find that our adductors are weak. By performing Adductor Slides you strengthen the adductor group( add. magnus,longus,brevis, pectineus,gracilis) which gives so much support for the knee and helps to stabilize the joint. It’s definitely not the easiest… Read more »

Alyssa

Thanks so much for this. I’ve been aware that the constant external rotation is becoming a hot topic in the cutting edge / functional movement minded yoga community – but the combo of the write up / illustration and video helped it finally gel. I kept thinking if I cued “draw the thigh bones towards each other like scissors” in poses like warrior 2 that I could counter some of this over stretching – but this brings the exploration of the full ROM into light.

Christina Klein

Half happy baby definitely gets me into recesses of my hip that I have not been able to get to in pidgeon or figure four. This movement allows for opening of external and internal rotation as well as centration in the hip joint as well as decentration which the hip needs to do both in order to stay healthy and not overly compress when walking or sitting.

Anne-marie

A couple of years ago I started having knee pain because of weak adductors as well. It was so empowering to be able to relieve the pain myself with some attention to movement.

Lezanne Swart

So true Lauren, there are these areas in the body which are overstretched and utilized in the same way in yoga. YTU is such an amazing practice to start to correct this imbalance. Thank you for sharing your insight on this.

Lorraine Gaston

Hi Lauren, great article thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve also been through this same cycle of discovery with my left hip. I’m still working on strengthening the glute medius and the TFL (where I’m weakest) and keeping it all mobile. I’m trying to forget about the lack of flexibility for now but sometimes ego gets in the way! Lorraine

Elaine

I definitely need to work on my internal rotators too. That Half Happy Baby Mini Vini is a game changer for sure. Being able to get your hips flowing through that many directions of movement so efficiently is crazy.

Paula

Yes, unfortunately something as healing as yoga can sometimes be another source overuse for some parts of the body. A great hint as to why we should change up our practice/sequence and even “style” of practice often.

Marsela Suteja

I’ve recently came to this realization that the joints and the muscles move together. I used to think of poses in isolated, myopic view. For a lot of people, adductor muscles are very weak from underutilizing them. However, they’re a part of a lot of physical activities that we do.

Angelique

As a former dancer I have experienced the foibles of extreme external rotation for prolonged periods of time and came to yoga with some skepticism – not about the practice of the poses but rather on my body’s ability to facilitate the movement properly. I was pleased that through steady practice over time, I was able to achieve more mobility and strength. However, I still feel there is more to go, of course. Adductor slides are a fantastic exercise for me as try identify my inherent weakness but also provide me with a way to condition the default that I… Read more »

Sun Kim

At some point my body started refusing all the hip external rotating yoga poses such as Warrior2 , horsestand, straddle…etc And only wanted to do the adducting! I also have hip pain (not sciatica but more in my glute mid & around sijoint) – But haven’t yet figured out how deal with it yet! You article motivates me to start doing the strength trainings!

Nina T

I am absolutely guilty of spending too much time focusing on external rotation of the hips. I spend very little time on internal rotation. Thank you for the reminder. I am going to try your recommended exercises this evening!

Nina Traylor

I am completely of guilty of focusing too much on one thing and especially the external rotation of my hips. I never even considered internal rotation to relieve pain. Thank you for the at home exercises! Internal rotation!

Beth

Thank you for your concise article and for including the videos of the exercises. As practitioners, it is so important that we understand that “overstretching” might increase flexibility but also cause more problems such as degenerating tissues. So thankful for Yoga Tune Up and blog contributors like YOU!

Jenna Mitchell

I love adductor slides they have been really helping me balance my hip strength as well.

Katrina Sukola

I am also guilty of focusing too much on one thing. I have spent much of life in external rotation from ballet and now yoga, and have noticed an increase in hip pain. This article is great reminder to incorporate more internally rotated poses (or at least movement in all directions) into my practice and teaching and strengthening as well.

Jamie Saltmarsh

I have been looking for ways to target the adductors. These exercises provide a great way to strengthen these muscles, and increase flexibility and mobility.

natalie greene

great write up and explanation of the need to build stability around flexibility and overstretch; as a hyper mobile person building strength around the hip joints has changed my practice from being in my joints to being in my muscles with mobility

Audrey Snowdon

Thank you for the reminder to work those adductors. Did some frog crawls today on the blanket and the adductors are still talking about it. 🙂

Judi

Unfortunately many yoga classes overuse external rotation. As a long-time yoga student and teacher, I especially see the effects of this practice. This article is great — lots of information delivered succinctly.

Louise leGouis

Very useful post truly. Nature had a great way of finding ways to get to balance. Best to help her along rather than to fight her (:^)

Carolyn

Thanks for the post! As a yoga teacher and massage therapist I have a lot of clients who complain about their hips being tight and want to focus on stretching and loosening the lateral rotators and glutes without considering the antagonists. This looks like a great, accessible way for people to strengthen weak adductors!

Carolyn S

Thanks for the post! As a yoga teacher and a massage therapist, I have lots of clients who complain their hips are tight and want to focus on stretching and opening up the lateral rotators without considering the antagonists. This looks like a great, accessible way to address weakness in the adductor group! Can’t wait to try it!

Margaret

As I read this article on day 4 of YTU Level one it makes way more sense to understand how to truly open my hips! I need to have everything going on: internal and external rotation, flexion, extension and circumduction – wOW- I need to restructure my yoga practice

Lisa Uz

I am so grateful to have found the yoga tune up for my imbances and learning how to correctly strengthen , lengthened and mobilize! After working my hips with the Yoga tune up method my hips had never felt happier.

Taylor

This blog post resonated deeply with me. As a 25 year old I struggle with hip pain and have for almost 10 years. I had some more juvenile “Athletic Therapists” make quick assumptions and conclusions that I had a leg length discrepancy, which they decided I needed to treat with a heel lift in my shoe. I wore this heel life for over two months. I then went away to University in Virginia and the medical team and doctors at the school were incredible. The first thing they had me doing was strengthening my core and my glutes. At first… Read more »

Margaret

Lauren, I find your article very interesting as I have been doing a lot of lateral hip flexion in my yoga practice and have noticed left hip pain increasing even when I’m not moving. I will try your adductor slides suggestions and see if it helps my condition

Isabel

Hi, I heard your story on J.Brown podcast and identified so much with your experience. However, now I afraid to do Yoga. Not sure if I’ve been hurting myself all this time. I have hip pain, etc. I also teach yoga a bit. Are you saying that traditional Triangle, side Angle, etc are harmful. I’m so confused. Where do I go from here????

Miriam

Hi, in addition to the two videos, you write that you also strengthen “inner quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, adductors, and psoas”. Could you also provide links to videos that will show how to do that? I had terrible pain in my legs that is now better by making the hips a lot more flexible but I now have terrible hip pain and can’t sleep on my side. I have a feeling I am in a similar situation and need the right exercises… many thanks!

Kammy Fung

In the yoga world, we always want to “open my hips” or “open my heart”. How to define OPEN hips? Does that mean how width my leg split look like or how well I can do the locust pose? A lot of time, until I overuse/ underuse a part of the body and “pain” as a symptom to tell me I did something wrong. Thanks yoga turn up provide me new tools to study my body.

Duygu (Dee) Ozkan

Thank you for the article Laueren. Uderstanding the importance of mobility at the hip joints was one of the milestones of my practice and teaching. Externally rotated yoga poses are too deep for most of the students and when they try to get into the pose without hip mobility it easily cause injuries or sacrificing somebody parts from the alignment. Happy baby mini vini( also with strap) is suitable for most of the body types to gain hip mobility.

Loren Altura

Outstanding, Lauren! Thanks for pointing out the pitfalls of excessive external rotationfor Yoginis and dancers alike, and what we can t strengthen our inner thighs and adductor muscle groups.

Charlene Lowe

This is great info as a yogini. My practice is Ashtanga Mysore and many poses require extreme external rotation. I like this healthy overall approach to the hips to continue to practice with intelligence over time.

Alyse

Thanks for sharing the videos! It is a great reminder to avoid overdoing any single stretch or action to the point of creating imbalance.

Paige Clark

Hello,

This is so interesting.
When I was consistently riding horses, I had no hip pain from yoga.
I realize this was likely because you are constantly adducting your hips and inner thighs while riding which is a perfect antagonist for external rotation of the hip –giving the support the hip needs while rotated.
Thank you for your tip and I will continue to do Jill’s minivini as well.
Namaste,
Paige

Megan

Great post! I had no idea how little I worked my adductors until I tried warrior 2 with the back foot on a blanket. Scratch and eye opening. Thanks for all the helpful exercises!

Stephanie Steinke

Hi Lauren,
thanks for sharing this blog post. I´m struggeling for quite some time with the focus on streching bodyparts without strengthen them to support the stability. It´s also quite usefull, that you´ve listed some asanas that are basing on the same direction of movement (external rotation). I´ve never thought of that and it will help me to rethink my personal practice and the development for my students practices.

Donna Layton

Having experienced hip pain myself I found this extremely helpful! Thanks!

Haley Bevers

I understand this completely. I have had the same issues over the years and really need to strengthen all the muscles around my hips.

Toni

Lauren, I can totally relate to your hip issue. As a trained ballet dancer we are in external rotation much of our practice. Once I started focusing on balancing my body with strengthening of the adductors and internal rotators in my fitness training, using the Yoga tune up methods, my hip is so much happier.