Pooch, muffin tops, spare tire, beer belly–whatever you call it, it all boils down to belly fat…or does it? We’ve been programmed to think that pitching the pooch has as much to do with what you store in that stomach as it does with the number of crunches you cram in each day. And while there is truth to that theory, your pudge may have more to do with your posture than what you put in your mouth. That’s right–even the slenderest woman may still battle the bulge if her hips aren’t in the right place.
See for yourself. Stand sideways in front of a mirror and take a peek at your booty and lower back. If your butt sticks up and your lower back is arched, you most likely have a case of “anterior pelvic tilt.” That just means the front of your pelvis tips down while the back of your pelvis pops up–a likely effect of too much sitting. Now try tucking your rear beneath you (you might feel your abs tug up and inward) so that the lower lumbar curve decreases. Take a look at the tummy. Notice a difference? If you do, you could look like you lost inches just by trying a few daily hip opening stretches.
- Cat/Cow Pose: Cat/Cow is a yoga pose that is a gentle way to begin any stretching routine. On the floor with your hands in line with your shoulders and knees beneath your hips, make a tabletop with your back. On the inhale, lift your head and tailbone so that the lower back and belly sinks. On the exhale, round the back and tuck the tailbone under while releasing the neck. Repeat for at least ten full breaths.
- Padded Knee Quad Wall Stretch: With a towel or mat for padding, place one knee on the padding in front of a wall so that your heel touches your butt and your shin is against the wall (move away from the wall a few inches if the stretch is too intense). Place the foot of the other leg on the ground about 12 inches or so from the wall, making sure that your foot is directly below your knee. Focus on keeping your hips tipped in a neutral position–similar to the bum tucking you did in the mirror. Hold this position for 30 seconds and switch to legs. Repeat two or three times on each leg.
- Thomas Stretch: Using a table or your bed, lie on your back so that your thighs hang midway off. Pull one leg to your chest while focusing on keeping your arch out of your lower back. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat two or three times on each leg.
- Stacked Legs Seat: On a mat on the floor, sit with one shin parallel to the front of the mat and stack the other right on top of and in line with it. Keep your lower spine neutral with no curve. To intensify the stretch bend forward at the hips, always remembering to keep a neutral spine. Hold this for position for ten deep breaths before switching legs. Repeat on the opposite side.
- Kneeling Lunge: Placing one knee on a towel or mat, lunge forward and position the forward foot beneath the knee. If you feel no stretch in your hip, widen your stance while keeping your knee above your foot. Put your hands on your hips and gently thrust your pelvis forward. Hold for ten seconds and back off for one breath, before lunging again for 20 seconds. Repeat on both legs twice.
- Resting Butterfly Stretch: Place a foam roller, bolster, yoga block, or rolled up blanket on the floor. Lie back so that the prop used is between your shoulder blades, stopping just above your lower back. Bring the bottoms of your feet together letting your knees fall open to the side. To increase the intensity, scoot your heels closer to your pelvis. Move the opposite way for less stretch. Allow your arms to open to the side, for a bonus chest opener.
As part of your regular mobility routine, you can help open your hips, shift your pelvis back toward neutral, and send your pooch packing all with these six stretches. Have a favorite hip opener? Add it to your routine, and be sure to share it so that everyone can join in the flexibility fun.