I was recently asked by an athletics competitor how he could increase the flexibility in his hips. I gave him the following exercises in stages and as he incorporated each into his practice he noticed an improvement, not only in his hip flexibility but also his performance on the track.
Start the stretch in downward facing dog. Stretch your heels towards the floor, making sure your quads and abs are firm and strong:
Bring your right leg forward so the leg is bent in front of the hips (as shown in the picture):
Next, bend the knee of your left leg so your foot lifts into the air. You will then be able to grab the foot. Slowly slide the foot up your left arm until it reaches the elbow. You will then be able to hold the foot in place with the crease of your elbow:
Once you increase the flexibility in the hips you will be able to bring your left arm fully around the left foot. Take your right arm over your left and grab the left hand. This will open the hips, stretch the quads, increase lower back flexibility and open the chest:
Repeat the posture with the left leg in front of you.
As always, take it slowly when practicing new postures. Flexibility takes time and if you injury yourself it will take even longer!! If you feel any twinges in the hips, legs or back then you are pushing yourself too hard and that is not good! This is a stretch to aid you, not hinder you.
Enjoy it! Let me know if it works for you.