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Yoga is amazing for opening tight hips, but can also be problematic if you have joint problems. Here are some tips for safely doing yoga with FAI hip impingement
Hey, friends! It’s been a while since I posted about my FAI hip impingement, but I have been wanting to do a follow-up post for several months now. I’ve had quite a few blog comments and messages on social media asking about doing yoga with FAI hip impingement, so I decided it was time to write some more about how I modify my yoga to work with my hips.
Read my other blog post about staying fit with FAI
Eventually I would like to do a video to accompany this post, but I wanted to put this out there sooner rather than later, so no video with this one (yet!). When I do add video, it will be how I modify yoga poses for my hips. I’ll also work on adding more of my own photos to this post as well (with modifications) so you don’t have to go to so many other websites to see them 😉
If you have hip problems or FAI (femoro acetabular impingement), yoga can be tricky. On one hand, it is great for helping with mobility in the hips and other joints, but on the other hand, it can cause a ton of stress on the hip joint and increase pain if you have FAI and you’re not being careful with your yoga poses.
If you have FAI and choose not to have hip reconstruction surgery, you will have accept that not all yoga poses are going to be okay for you, and there are many that you should not be doing at all.
Once I accepted my physical limitations, I was able to enjoy yoga more within my ability level without stressing about the poses I couldn’t do. Choose to focus on what you can do and not on what you can’t do!
Camel pose is safe for hips, but keep tabs on your back
Modification and listening to your body in yoga is KEY if you have joint problems.
If a pose doesn’t feel comfortable, modify it or don’t do it at all. I can’t do happy baby pose the way my hips are. It’s physically impossible for me to do unless I decide to tear up my hip cartilage trying. BUT that’s okay, I don’t even try to do that pose anymore, and my hips are happier for it!
I modify my low lunges with a block to keep my hips happy. I can do low lunge without the block, but I choose to use it to make sure that my hips don’t start hurting again.
Tip: Don’t sink into your hip joints (or any joints) in yoga poses.
For example, in Warrior 3 (Virabhadrasana III), use the muscles in your legs and hips to keep your body from sinking or relaxing into the hip joint. It’s easy to let yourself just relax into those poses and “settle in” to your joints, but resist the urge and engage your muscles to protect your joints.
Another example of this with the shoulder joints is side plank pose: it is easy to sink into the shoulder joint, but to protect your shoulders, imagine that you are lifting up away from the floor so you aren’t sinking into that supporting joint. Engaged muscles = happy joints!
Make sure that you are practicing yoga with intention, attention, and focus!
Yoga poses to avoid or modify with FAI
Here’s a list of yoga poses that could potentially cause problems for people with FAI. Whether a pose bothers you or not is going to be highly individual, so this list may be different for everyone, but these are the poses that I have had to use caution with when my hips were bothering me (and I still have to avoid a few, like happy baby).
I also have a bone spur in my left hip, making some poses on my left side a little bit more difficult sometimes than on my right (particularly cow face pose and half lord of the fishes pose). If you have impingement only on one side or bone spurs on one side, keep that in mind when you’re doing your poses.
Generally, any yoga pose that puts your hip joints at a small angle could cause problems for your hips if you have FAI. If my knees are out to the side, I don’t have as many problems (like in seated butterfly).
Poses you may want to avoid:
This low lunge variation is also called lizard pose
Poses to use caution with (use modifications as needed):
- 3 point balance (modified version of a standing split)
- Single leg (one legged) down dog
- Pigeon (to comfort, listen to your hips in this one!)
- Right angle/side angle pose (I have to modify this one to keep my hips happy)
- Low lunge/also called high lunge in some circles
- Child’s pose (when my hips were inflamed, I modify this one by bringing my knees out wider)
- Cow face pose
- Humble warrior
- Revolved chair
- Half moon
- Warrior 3
- Seated butterfly (bound angle pose) – this one never bothers my hips because my knees are open, but it may be problematic for others
- Half lord of the fishes
- Frog pose (mandukasana specifically since there are several poses that go by frog pose)
- Lotus pose
Poses that are generally okay:
- Warrior 2
- Warrior 1 (to comfort)
- High lunge/crescent lunge (to comfort)
- Puppy pose
- Down dog
- Reverse Warrior
- Forward fold/standing forward bend
- Half lift/standing half forward bend
- Seated forward bend
- Staff pose
- Side plank
- Wild thing
- Standing half lotus
- Seated half lotus (can do this sitting upright for comfort)
- Gate pose
- Camel pose (shown higher in the post)
- …and more (there are many poses and pose variations out there, so this isn’t a comprehensive list)
Pyramid Stretch, you can modify this one by using a block under your hands or placing your hands on your shin (just don’t hyperextend your knee)
Disclaimer: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your medical professional, doctor, or physical therapist.
Sarah Jane Parker is the founder, recipe creator, and photographer behind The Fit Cookie. She’s a food allergy mom and healthy living blogger based in Wyoming. Sarah is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist