Hips Opener Extraordinary!
If you have ever done yoga, you have heard of Sun Salutations—the ultimate opener of the body. Even if you don’t want to be a yogi or practice yoga regularly, I would highly recommend adding this simple exercise into your daily routine. At least once a day, but you can do it as many times as you want or your body needs.
Sun Salutations are an awesome awakener of your body and mind. I like to do four cycles early in the morning to loosen up my body. You can also add a few rounds before your tennis game or your other workouts. Later in the day, or in the evening, a few cycles may calm you down, and again, loosen up your body that got tight through the day.
A big part of this hips opener exercise is a strong focus on breathing. Coordinate all the movements with a deep, slow breath. The deep breathing brings a lot of oxygen to all your muscles, and you will feel energized and relaxed. The series will improve the strength and flexibility of most of your muscles (hamstrings, hip-flexors, shoulders, calves, back, abs), joints and the entire spine.
Start the sequence of twelve poses leading with the right leg first, and then repeat the entire series leading with the left leg. Complete at least three or four cycles. Your body will be filled with oxygen, feeling energetic and rejuvenated. Depending on how slow you go (deeper breathing, holding the poses longer), the cycle of four rounds takes about 6 minutes. Anybody can find 6 minutes in their day to feel good.
Hips Opener Extraordinary
1. Stand straight with your feet hip-wide and parallel. Keep your head up and your palms together in prayer position in front of your chest. Exhale.
2. Inhale. Raise your arms overhead, keeping your palms together and gently arch your back as far as feels comfortable and safe.
3. Exhale. Bend forward and put your hands on the sides of your feet. Bring your head and chest close to your legs. Bend your knees if your hamstrings are not flexible enough to reach the ground.
4. Inhale. Step the right leg backward, into a lunge, arch your back and lift your chin.
5. Exhale. Step the left leg back to your right leg and into plank position. Keep your spine and legs in a straight line and support your weight on hands and feet. Keep your core engaged, don’t let the hips drop.
6. Keep exhaling. Lower your chest to the ground, keeping your body in straight line. Keep your elbows tucked into the sides of your body. Your chin, chest, and hips should touch the ground at the same time.
7. Inhale. Stretch your chest forward through your arms and up. Look up to the sky and lean back. Keep your arms straight, feet together, and hips close to the ground. Point your toes and relax your feet. Roll the shoulders back and down, away from the ears.
8. Exhale. Curl your toes under and push your glutes up to the sky while pressing down into your heels. Push your shoulder backward, toward your feet, so you feel a good stretch in them.
9. Inhale. Step your right leg forward into a lunge and put the right foot between your hands on the ground. Lift your chin and chest. Feel the stretch in the left hip-flexor.
10. Exhale. Bring your left leg forward to your right leg and lift your hips high up, while keeping your hands on the ground. Bend your upper body forward and relax your head. Again, if your hamstrings are too tight, feel free to bend the knees a little.
11. Inhale. Lift your upper body and stretch your arms forward and over your head. Slowly bend backward from the waist.
12. Exhale. In a slow sweeping motion lower your arms to the sides and then gently come back to the original standing position with hands in front of your chest.
This sequence is a half-cycle. Repeat the same starting with the other (left) leg. Repeat the full cycle 3–4 times, or more if you enjoy it so much.
Always perform this hips opener sequence slowly, flowing smoothly from one posture to another while breathing deeply. If your flexibility is not where it should be (yet), you may not be able to do all the poses perfectly, and that is ok for now. Continue practicing the sequence regularly, and you will improve over time. Enjoy the process. You will see benefits soon, and thanks to increased flexibility, coordination, and calmer mind, your tennis game will improve as well.
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