When it comes to hip stretches that really get in there and sort things out, the 90-90 stretch is where it’s at. This move not only feels amazing, but it also helps increase the flexibility and mobility of your hips over time — which is great if your joints are feeling tight, creaky, and crunchy.
The 90-90 hip stretch targets your hips, as well as your glutes, hamstrings, external rotators, and hip abductor muscles, says Karina Blackwood, a registered yoga teacher and certified Pilates instructor. “It’s often performed in yoga, physical therapy, and various fitness routines,” she tells Bustle, so chances are you’ve seen it before.
The move positions both of your legs at right angles — hence the name — which happens to be the ideal position to open up your hip joints. During the 90-90, “one leg will be moving into internal rotation whilst the other goes into external rotation,” explains Helen O'Leary, a physiotherapist and director at Complete Pilates. Practicing this regularly can help you maintain your hip mobility, she says, while also relieving lower back pain.
As a variation of the pigeon pose, this stretch feels extra good if you’ve been sitting for a while, says Aisha Dixon-Peters, Psy.D., RYT-200, a yoga teacher and psychologist. Not only will you feel better physically, but the stretch might also touch a nerve emotionally. “Though people often site the mobility benefits, which are abundant with this stretch, the emotional benefits are significant as well,” Dixon-Peters tells Bustle. “Hips tend to be an area in which people hold tension and emotions due to stress, anxiety, trauma, and even from sitting in chairs. So hip openers can be a wonderful way of realigning, releasing, and healing.”
Ahead, everything to know about the 90-90 stretch so you can try it for yourself.
How To Do The 90-90 Hip Stretch
Here, Blackwood shares how to do the stretch with perfect form.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you.
- Bend your right leg and bring your knee toward your chest.
- Rotate your leg outward so that your right foot is placed on the floor beside your left leg.
- Slide your right foot backward until your right knee is bent at a 90-degree angle and your right shin is parallel to the front of your body.
- Your right thigh should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Bend your left leg and rotate it outward, placing your left foot on the floor so that your left shin is parallel to the front of your body and your left thigh is perpendicular to the floor.
- Your left knee should be bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Adjust your position so that your hips are square and both knees are at a 90-degree angle.
- Slowly lean forward, keeping your back straight and hinging at the hips.
- Feel a stretch in the outer hip and glute of the leg that is rotated outward.
- Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds while taking deep breaths.
- Release the stretch and repeat on the other side by switching the positions of your legs.
The goal with this stretch is to slowly melt into it, so don’t try to force your legs to bend, and definitely don’t move too fast. “Pain counteracts the benefits of the pose,” Dixon-Peters says. “If you find you’re holding your breath, ease out of the pose a bit and focus on your breath.”
You can also make small adjustments to feel more comfortable. O’Leary suggests placing a yoga block or a pillow under your hands to help you stay upright or under your hips or knees for added support. Sitting on one of these props reduces the amount of hip flexion going on. “As you feel looser you can reduce the heights,” she says.
To go deeper into the stretch, push more into that forward lean and/or press your front knee down towards the floor. “This creates additional resistance and deepens the stretch,” Blackwood says. “Ensure that the pressure is gentle and within your comfort level to avoid straining or overstretching.” If you like, you can also shift your legs back and forth for a dynamic stretch.
Hip Stretch Mistakes To Avoid
When doing the 90-90 stretch, try to keep your back straight the entire time. “Avoid hunching forward or rounding the shoulders, as this can limit the stretch's effectiveness and potentially strain the lower back,” Blackwood says. While you’re at it, make sure your hips stay level and aligned. “This ensures that the stretch is evenly distributed and targets the intended hip muscles,” she adds.
Of course, it’s super important that your legs are actually forming 90-degree angles since that can impact the effectiveness of the stretch, and it’s a good idea to do the stretch on both sides — even if only one hip feels tight. “Neglecting one side can create muscle imbalances and potentially exacerbate any existing issues,” Blackwood says.
To make it extra relaxing, take deep breaths and slowly ease into the move. “It's common to unintentionally hold your breath while stretching,” Blackwood explains. “Remember to maintain steady, deep breathing to promote relaxation and enhance the effectiveness of the stretch.” Your hips will thank you afterwards.
Hatefi, M. (2021). The effect of static stretching exercises on hip range of motion, pain, and disability in patients with non-specific low back pain. J Exp Orthop. doi: 10.1186/s40634-021-00371-w.
Konrad, A. (2021). The Influence of Stretching the Hip Flexor Muscles on Performance Parameters. A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18041936.
Karina Blackwood, a registered yoga teacher and certified Pilates instructor
Aisha Dixon-Peters, Psy.D., CCTP, CIMHP, RYT-200, yoga teacher, psychologist
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