Flex Your Butt Core: Build Hip Strength With These Yoga Poses
Tight hips? Tight muscles are usually weak muscles. A stronger butt creates looser, healthier hips. Here's are some “butt core” yoga poses to strengthen your hips.
Yoga is often prescribed for lower back pain and all kinds of other mobility problems, largely because it opens the hips. That’s usually a good thing. Most of us have very tight hips from sitting at our desks all the time.
But, of course, there’s a catch. Tight muscles are almost always also weak muscles. Most yoga programs involve lots of hip opening, but they don’t involve much hip strengthening. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost 25 years, and I always wondered why I have chronic issues with my SI joints—a notorious problem among yoga teachers and longtime yoga practitioners.
After several rounds of physiotherapy and exploring different modes of movement for my body, I’ve learned about a little secret I can’t stop sharing: what I like to call “butt core.”
Butt Core Yoga for Hip Strengthening
These exercises focus on hip mobility and strength. Like abdominal core work (at least the good kind of ab work), they focus on smaller, stabilizing muscles rather than major, superficial muscles. Also, like ab core practices, they are a bit uncomfortable, especially if you’re new to them. Power through because they make you feel so much better when you do them regularly.
Much of the core and glute work you’ll find in fitness classes is focused on activating the superficial muscles for a certain external look—which isn’t bad or wrong. Sometimes we need to activate those for sure! But abdominal and butt core are more about getting into those deeper, more sustaining layers that help you to walk and move pain-free your whole life. I don’t care what you look like, but I do care that you feel good.
Yoga for Glute Strength and Hip Stability
Butt core mostly involves the gluteus medius. Butt core does two things not often done in yoga: It internally rotates your thigh and pulls your leg away from your midline. Strengthening the gluteus medius balances your hips, supports your SI joint, stabilizes your pelvis when you are balancing, and takes some of the pressure off your constantly working pelvic floor.
So, in addition to the hip opening poses that are so popular in yoga classes, I’ve started incorporating movements that strengthen the gluteus medius and the other even smaller hip stabilizer muscles.
Three Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Hips
Hip Wings. On hands and knees, engage your core to stabilize your back. Wing your right knee open to the right, trying not to change anything else about your pelvis (abduction). Repeat 5-10 times, then switch sides.
Hip Circles. On hands and knees or in Downward Dog posture, stabilize the core, again trying to move only from the right hip. Bring the right knee in toward the chest, then open to the right, then back up into the sky. Repeat 3-5 times, then switch sides.
The Jane Fonda. Lie on your right side. Bend your bottom knee in slightly, and let your left leg float straight. With your core gently engaged, keep a natural curve in your lower back. Flex the foot and turn it slightly down toward the earth (internal rotation). Then lift the leg up to the sky and lower it back down. Add challenge by making small circles with your pointed toe (which includes more of the small stabilizing muscles) and/or by angling the leg further in front of you (which adds weight to the muscles). Repeat 6-10 times, then switch sides.
My practice has changed a lot over the course of 25 years, and I’m sure it will change again. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that we need balance: Our muscles always need both strengthening and release, and these exercises have been making me feel more balanced and experience less pain. Try a little butt core and see if it makes you feel better too!