For some with hip bursitis, yoga can be a safe, practical, and effective way to alleviate pain. Hip bursitis is an uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating condition, particularly when it is chronic. Studies have shown that yoga can help with mobility, managing pain, and reducing stress, which makes it an excellent option for hip bursitis. But first, it’s important to understand which yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis, which yoga techniques can help, and how to safely get started.
If you’ve seen a doctor, rested your hip, and perhaps even tried medications or injections as prescribed to no avail, it may be time to give yoga a try. I’m Brandt Passalacqua, a certified yoga therapist and co-founder of the Breathing Deeply Yoga Therapy school. My mission is to help others heal with yoga, which is why I’m here to explain everything you need to know about yoga for hip bursitis.
Keep reading to learn more or contact us to work with a yoga therapist for your hip bursitis.
Table of Contents:
How Yoga Helps Hip Bursitis
Finding holistic approaches to improving mobility and reducing pain is a common goal among those with hip bursitis. Yoga can provide this type of approach thanks to its large variety of hip-focused poses that reduce stiffness, expand range of motion, strengthen muscles that support the hips, and minimize discomfort while moving.
Those suffering from hip bursitis may benefit from yoga in 5 main ways:
- Greater flexibility and range of motion
- Muscle development
- Stress, pain, and tension relief
- Better posture
- Improved circulation and blood flow
To better support and stabilize the hip joint, many yoga poses work to strengthen the muscles in and around it. These include the glutes, the outer hip muscles, and the quadriceps. This not only promotes healthy posture and alignment, but also reduces muscular imbalances that can cause pain and limit mobility.
Yoga’s emphasis on self-awareness, deep breathing, and other relaxation methods makes it an effective tool for combating stress. This can make it easier to manage pain when it does occur.
By knowing which yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis and which ones may work best, it’s possible to increase blood flow directly in and around the hip area. Increased blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients to working muscles, reduces inflammation, and benefits the hips as a whole.
Yoga Poses to Avoid with Hip Bursitis
Always pay attention to how your body reacts to different movements or holds, and stay away from poses that feel too strenuous. In general, avoid anything that irritates the hip, which usually involves the ends of your range of motion.
Some of the most common yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis are:
- Pigeon Pose: As a hip-opening pose, Pigeon Pose can potentially push your range of motion too far. It can stress your hips in both flexion and extension.
- Triangle Pose: Triangle Pose involves folding at the hips, potentially stressing your hips in extension and causing hip internal rotation. Similarly, Extended Triangle Pose requires extensive stretching and may be too taxing on the hip sockets.
- Downward Dog Pose: With your hips raised into the air, this pose puts weight onto your hips that can be too much for those with hip bursitis, straining the hips in flexion.
- Fire Log Pose: Stacking your shins in Fire Log Pose may put pressure on your hip joints and make your hip bursitis worse.
- Forward Fold: By bending at the hips, Forward Folds can put strain on your hips and stress them in flexion. Even in a Seated Forward Bend, your hip joints may feel strain because it still requires you to sit with yourself bent forward.
- Happy Baby Pose: By pulling your thighs up toward your chest, you can strain your hips in flexion with this pose.
- Lotus Pose: The significant external rotation required by the Lotus Pose might aggravate existing bursitis in the hips.
- Warrior 1 and 2 Poses: Both Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 involve lunging. If you lunge too deeply, you can reach extremes for your hips in extension.
- Seated Twist: Sitting cross-legged and twisting from your spine can put your hip in higher adduction as well as stress it in flexion.
- Crescent Lunge: As with other lunges, stretching too deeply can push your hips to the extreme in extension.
- Half Moon Pose: This pose involves bending at the hip and holding one leg parallel to the floor, which can put strain on your hips and cause hip internal rotation.
- Eagle Pose: As you cross your legs at the thighs and balance on one leg, you open up your hips. But Eagle Pose can create too much hip internal rotation for those with hip bursitis and put your hip in higher adduction.
This is not an exhaustive or exclusive list. When determining which yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis for yourself, keep the following advice in mind:
- Be careful with deep lunges or squats.
- Avoid bearing weight on your hip.
- Don’t stretch your hips too deeply or for too long.
- Avoid repetitive hip movements.
- If you have pain on one side of your hips, avoid irritating that side.
- Don’t try to push through the pain.
Another way to safeguard your hips during yoga is by consulting with a certified yoga therapist or healthcare practitioner who is familiar with your condition. Comfort and safety should always come first. A yoga therapist can teach you about appropriate adjustments and alternative poses that work well for those with hip bursitis.
Modifying Yoga Poses for Hip Bursitis
Now that you know which yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis, we can turn our attention to what you can do instead. People who suffer from hip bursitis can easily adapt a variety of different yoga poses to their specific needs.
The key to using yoga for hip bursitis is to avoid movements that cause pain, avoid repetitive hip movements, and avoid pushing yourself too far when stretching. Even if you don’t feel pain in the moment from repetitive movements or deep stretches, your hip will probably hurt later. Stretching can release chemicals in your brain that can even make it feel good, but if you’re irritating the burse, you’re going to feel it later.
Be sure to really rest your hip long enough for it to get better. Even if you only recently got hip bursitis, you can still move and be active, but take care to let your hip rest and heal.
To help you modify yoga poses safely and effectively, use these additional tips:
- Support yourself with cushions, blankets, or bolsters to ease the pressure on your hips. For instance, using a cushion to raise your hips can make seated yoga poses more comfortable.
- Don’t go too deep. To avoid hip discomfort, come into a pose at a shallower depth. With a Forward Fold, for instance, you can reduce the strain on your hip flexors by bending your knees slightly.
- Use a chair in your yoga sequence to provide you with the balance and support you need. For standing postures like Warrior I and II, for instance, modifying the poses with a chair can increase your stability and lessen the strain on your hips.
- Take care with twists. Twisting postures can cause hip pain if held for too long. Focus on keeping your spine neutral and your core engaged instead of extending twists.
3 Yoga Poses to Consider for Hip Bursitis
By increasing circulation to the hip area and loosening up the hip flexors, certain yoga poses can offer relief to those with hip bursitis. Poses that gently stretch and strengthen the muscles around your hips (such as the glutes, outer hip muscles, and quadriceps) tend to be especially beneficial.
When using yoga therapeutically, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. By its very nature, yoga therapy takes into account an individual’s specific health conditions, history, lifestyle, and desired outcomes to determine which yoga techniques to use and how to apply them.
For this reason, I can’t say there are certain yoga poses that will work well for everyone with hip bursitis. But there are some poses that may be more likely to help and avoid common contraindications.
1. Half Locust Pose
Half Locust Pose is a pose performed while lying prone on your stomach. It involves lifting one leg up behind you while keeping the rest of your limbs on the floor. By targeting a single leg at a time, it focuses on strengthening the hamstrings and glutes. The glutes are often weak in those with hip bursitis, contributing to poor usage of the hip joint.
Rather than simply holding this pose, I recommend lifting the leg, pausing, lowering it, and repeating several times on the same leg before switching to the other side. This will help build up greater strength in the glutes, supporting good hip function.
2. Reclining Big Toe Pose
By gradually stretching the hip flexors, you can increase your flexibility and mobility with the Reclining Big Toe Pose. While lying on your back, you’ll keep one leg extended on the mat and the other extended toward the ceiling, held in place by your fingers. This stretch relieves stress on the hip joints by lengthening the groin muscle.
Controlling your movement in this pose is key for those who suffer from hip discomfort, as it enables you to tailor the intensity of the stretch to your unique needs. This kind of gentle and controlled stretching increases blood flow to the hip region as well.
3. Supine Figure-Four Pose
To practice Figure-Four Pose (also known as One-Legged Chair Pose, Half Chair Pose, and Whooping Crane Pose), you bring one foot over the knee of the other leg while bending slightly at the hips, as if sitting in the air. For the supine version that I recommend, you practice this position while lying on your back instead of standing. The result is a good hip stretch that especially benefits the hip flexors and external rotators.
This stretch can help loosen up stiff hips and improve mobility. It can also be easily adjusted to the appropriate depth by moving your hips and torso lower or higher as needed. To hold this position, you’ll need to use your glutes and external rotators, among other hip muscles, building on their strength.
Additional Yoga Techniques for Hip Bursitis
So far, our focus has been on yoga poses to avoid with hip bursitis and ones to consider instead. But yoga offers more techniques than just asanas, or yoga poses.
Pranayama, or breathing techniques, can be used as pain management tools for hip bursitis. Breath work can reduce stress, instill a sense of calm, reduce pain, and boost general health and happiness. Two types of breathing exercises in particular to consider for dealing with stress and pain are diaphragmatic breathing and alternate nostril breathing.
Yoga nidra is a practice that brings you into a relaxed state between wakefulness and sleep. Most often, a professional guides you through yoga nidra while you lie down. One of its chief benefits is that it is similar to meditation but requires less skill to achieve results.
Hip flexors are only one muscle group that benefits from yoga nidra’s methodical approach to restfulness. Yoga nidra can help induce healing brainwave states, which can potentially help you heal faster. It can also improve your sleep, which can improve healing too.
Yoga nidra can change how you experience pain, anxiety, or trauma. It helps you to regulate your responses, feel calmer, and change your perspective.
How to Get Help with Yoga
Yoga can bring a wide variety of benefits to your life, including increased happiness, less pain, more mobility, and better overall health. To get the best results from doing yoga, it’s helpful to work with a professional yoga instructor or yoga therapist.
When to Do Group Yoga Classes
Because of the uplifting atmosphere and sense of community they foster, many people believe that yoga classes are a great option for those who learn best in a social setting. Those interested in broader health and well-being, as well as a more general yoga experience, will find that group classes provide the best of both worlds.
Yoga classes are led by a trained instructor. The variety of classes available for groups makes it possible to delve into different styles of yoga that may be of interest to you.
When taking part in group yoga, keep in mind that you won’t receive as much individualized attention. As a result, the class may practice some yoga poses you should avoid with hip bursitis. Because of this, it’s best to find a class that moves at a slower speed that allows you to make necessary modifications. But you must be responsible for practicing yoga safely with hip bursitis.
When to Do Yoga Therapy Sessions
Yoga therapy sessions work well for those seeking help with a specific condition, illness, or injury, like hip bursitis. Your yoga therapist will evaluate your mental, physical, and emotional health to create a holistic approach that addresses your condition therapeutically.
Private yoga therapy sessions take your unique circumstances into account, resulting in better health outcomes. Yoga therapy is targeted to your goals and health, unlike group yoga classes.
If you have chronic hip bursitis, a yoga therapist can teach you techniques to even out your musculature and create an environment in which you are less likely to get hip bursitis again. Best of all, you are empowered to practice these techniques on your own. Like physical therapy, yoga therapy sessions are not intended to go on indefinitely.
Work with Our Yoga Therapists
Have you been dealing with hip bursitis for weeks? Or hip bursitis that keeps coming back? Yoga therapy may be able to help relieve your pain and prevent it from returning.
I’m pleased to be able to offer private, one-on-one yoga therapy sessions with myself and several other certified yoga therapists via Zoom. Learn more about our private sessions and fill out the contact form on the bottom of the page today to get started.