Hip Pain and Injury in Yoga

Hips are vital in all body movements because the body’s centre of gravity is located in the hip area, about 4 finger-widths below the navel or belly-button. Healthy hips are also the key to a pain-free lower back and knees.

Flexibility in the hips is determined by strength and overstretching the hips in an effort to make them flexible will instead make the hips weak and dysfunctional. Muscle imbalances in the hips also lead to inflexibility in the legs – it’s common for people with hip problems on one side to have one flexible leg and one that is inflexible.

When hips become painful in yoga practice, it is usually time to consult a Biokineticist, because hip muscle imbalances need specific corrective exercises, based on an assessment of your hip-function. If hips are left untreated, pain often spreads into the lower back and the neck and shoulder area. It is very easy to develop hip-muscle imbalances with yoga, as a result of:

Strength differences between the left and right hip occurs naturally because most of us have a dominant hand that we use. Hand movements are stabilised by the shoulders, which are in turn stabilised by the diagonally opposite hip. Therefore, people who use their right hand usually have a stronger left hip. Left-handed people often have more balanced bodies because many of the objects that they use in their day-to-day lives are designed for right-handed users, so they are forced to use both hands. Hip injury and dysfunction tends to occur in the weaker hip and so right-handed yogis tend to have problems with their right hip, because it is naturally their weaker hip.

When you have a strength or structural difference between the left and right hips, the pelvis tends to tilt to one side – it is higher on the weaker side, this will affect the body’s alignment and is one cause of lower-back and neck pain. This is referred to as lateral pelvic tilt.

Although asana practice is usually equal on both sides of the body, it can be helpful to pay more attention to the weaker side, because practising asanas equally will not correct any existing left-right imbalance, but will perpetuate it instead.

I will look at other the other factors which contribute to hip problems in separate posts.

Reading sources:
Kendall, McCreary, Provance, 1993, Muscles, Testing and Function

4 thoughts on “Hip Pain and Injury in Yoga

    • Hi Wendy
      You should be concerned if you have persistent pain. How to fix it depends on what has gone wrong and is impossible to diagnose over the internet without a physical assessment. I recommend that you make an appointment to see a physiotherapist who deals with sports-related injuries.
      In the meantime, take a rest from yoga and try to determine exactly where in your hips you feel pain, which movements provoke the pain and which movements (if any) are soothing to help the physiotherapist make a diagnosis. Once you know what the problem is, perhaps I could make some comments on how your yoga practice may be contributing to it.

      Best wishes


  1. Hi Wendy, I was a dedicated yoga practitioner for 20 years and eventually developed hip pain which got worse and didn’t resolve with rest. After 4 years of going to many physiotherapists and chiropractors, massage therapists who meant well but are not doctors and so cannot diagnose, I finally went to a sports physician who sent me for an MRI and x ray and it was found that I had a torn labrum and pincer impingement. I would suggest to you that if your pain doesn’t resolve with rest for you to get a referral for some scans. It may save you years of misdiagnosis!


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