Hippie Yoga: 4 Simple Poses to Stretch & Strengthen Hips


Your hips don’t lie! And because of that (and a plethora of other reasons) you should treat them with respect, love, and proper yoga pampering.

Those hips of yours are the single most important factor in your posture, and play a huge role in your ability to balance. One of the major goals of any yoga practice is to extend the range of motion in your hips, and this is accomplished by doing a dichotomy of exercises: on one hand, building strength and stability, and on the other, stretching.

Last Thursday evening I had the pleasure of trying out Crunch Gym‘s extremely popular “Hippie Yoga” class with instructor Ilaria Cutolo (Union Square NYC location), who’s been teaching the class for over two years now. No, this isn’t a flower power hour of Beatles music and bell-bottoms, it’s a yoga class that revolves around that all-important pivotal point located in your body’s ultimate intersection.

The moves we did in Hippie Yoga were fairly similar to the ones I do in my regular Monday yoga classes – it’s amazing how so much of yoga really does focus on your hips. In this class, additional moves and poses were included to target the glutes, quadriceps, and surrounding areas.

After class I chatted with Ilaria, who shared some of the best reasons to take your hip flexors seriously: For New Yorkers (or ANYONE who’s doing a lot of walking!), you’re over-strengthening and not doing enough stretching. For anyone who works at a desk and sits for long periods of time, your hip flexors are in a state of mild contraction which warrant stretching to balance it out. I absolutely love half pigeon pose – nothing opens up my hips quite like it and I can feel a dramatic change in my body afterwards. You BET yoga can also benefit the elderly who are quite prone to breaking their hips, which sadly often leads to a rapid decline in overall health.

How should you go about treating your hips right? It’s all about striking a balance of strengthening and stretching for ultimate hippie health. But – be mindful when stretching to MOVE SLOWLY and be very aware of all your joints. If you feel strain on your knees, adjust your position. As we were reminded by The New York Times’ “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” story, pushing yourself too hard can be harmful.

Ilaria Cutolo’s 4 Simple Poses to Stretch & Strengthen Hip Region

Two yoga poses for stabilizing and strengthening: The side plank (left) is great for upper body strength, but the focus here is really on the glutes and waist. Balance for as long as you can. At right, the “Jane Fonda” leg lift targets the outer hips. Try 20 pointing your toes followed by 20 flexing your feet on each side.

For stretching, here are two very straightforward poses you can do to target your outer hips (left), and your inner thigh (right). There’s a very good chance that you may have to physically cut your body in half to achieve a split like Ilaria. Only split and lean forward as much as your body will allow!

PS. Ilaria just had a baby a few months ago – would you believe it? Which brings me to one more super benefit of yoga: sweating it out and dropping lbs for a less hippie figure. It all comes full circle.

PPS. You can get a FREE week at Crunch and try out Hippie Yoga class when you buy and of the spa deals on TheRightDeal.com throughout the month of January!

How The NY Times Can (TRY TO) Wreck Yoga

Beautiful girl meditating in yoga pose

The New York Times has started a war. The most peaceful, zen-like war to ever transpire, but still.

As an avid yet fairly casual yogi, I was caught way off guard after reading their recent viral “sensation” entitled: “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” Every Monday I do my down dogging at Yoga To The People on St Marks in NYC, and last night I checked out “Hippie Yoga” at Crunch Gym, focusing on stretching and strengthening the hips, which I’ll be doing a blog post on soon. Now, this Times story reveals that some over-yogi’d instructor degenerated her hips so much that she had to have a hip replacement. Seriously?

Yogis new and guru’d across the Internet have soared to the defense of their beloved practice. Why not publish “How Running Can Wreck Your Knees?” or “How Moving A Refrigerator Can Crush Your Toes, Break Your Back, and Rip Your Rotator Cuff?” (Thanks Paul Raeburn.) This seems to be a pattern in our society – anything that sounds good has to be bad. Antibacterial gel can make you immune to antibiotics, tuna is healthy but too much will poison you with mercury, and sunscreen is bad for you! The truth is, there’s no fail-safe sport, activity or product on the planet. However, in this 5 page article, William J. Broad decided to collect every example of negative yoga experiences (fishing back to random incidents from nearly half a century) and jolt the 20 million Americans who have turned to yoga for fitness, mind/body renewal, and inner peace.

The ridiculous mocking photo with flannel and clown flowers is only half excusable because it’s the cast of Godspell. If those were just any old models, forget it! Many people in the yoga community look to the spirituality of yoga in an almost religious sense. If there are health risks associated with it, let’s keep that separate from the aptitude of the people who practice it.

The Times article certainly makes a lot of sense and is rooted in medical truths. Standing on your head for long periods of time for many years, what did you think was going to happen? The article should be taken seriously and remind you to take caution should you notice any strenuous moves, in yoga or any sport or workout you pursue. But do not let it discourage you from enjoying your yoga practice and reaping the many benefits of it. I, for one, look forward to continuing my Monday routine without hesitation.

Here are some general guidelines to follow to keep your yoga practice safe:

  • A good yoga instructor will not “push” you like a personal trainer does. He or she will make it very clear throughout your practice that you should be doing what feels good for you at that moment. If you find yourself in a class with a pushy instructor, leave.
  • If you have a particular joint problem or have had an injury, check with a physical therapist before practicing yoga regularly. Some look at yoga as therapy to heal injuries, but should always be at a doctor’s advisement.
  • If you are new to yoga, invest in a few very intimate classes or one-on-one instruction to make sure you get off to a good start doing the positions correctly. If you do start with a larger class, sit up front and be sure to tell the instructor that you are new and are looking for any and all guidance they can provide.
  • Be mindful of any pain or discomfort you may feel. Yoga is about balance and strength of mind as well as body, and that includes acknowledging what your body can handle. If something feels funny or awkward, take yourself a Child’s Pose.