The butterfly stretch is a seated hip opener that has immense benefits and is perfect for all levels, including beginners. It’s effective in relieving tightness in your hips and enhancing flexibility, especially after strenuous workouts, repetitive movements, or prolonged sitting.
Warm up your body before doing the butterfly stretch, especially in cold weather and in the early morning or at the start of your day.
To do the butterfly stretch:
- Sit on the floor or a prop with the soles of your feet pressing into each other.
- To deepen the intensity, move your feet closer in toward your hips.
- Root down into your legs and sitting bones.
- Elongate and straighten your spine, tucking your chin in toward your chest.
- With each inhale, lengthen your spine and feel the line of energy extending out through the top of your head.
- With each exhale, fall heavy into the floor and relax or sink a bit more deeply into the stretch.
- Hold this position for up to 2 minutes.
- Repeat 2 to 4 times.
Hand placement options
- Interlace fingers under your pinky toes.
- Use your thumb and first two fingers to hold your big toes.
- Place your hands on your ankles or shins.
Here are a few pointers to bring ease to the butterfly stretch:
- It’s important to slowly open up your hips, especially if they’re very tight. Be gentle and increase your flexibility gradually.
- Use slow, steady movements and avoid bouncing or pushing yourself beyond your natural limits.
- Ensure your weight is balanced evenly between your hips, pelvis, and sitting bones. If you find yourself sinking to one side, adjust your body.
- If your knees are quite high off the floor, you can place cushions or blocks under your thighs or knees. Allow your thighs to relax and your knees to naturally lower without pressing or forcing them down.
- Use caution if you have a groin or knee injury. Use support under your outer thighs and knees, as described above.
- Sit with support, especially if you have tightness. Use a combination of blocks, cushions, and folded blankets to create a seat. Place your sitting bones on the edge of this seat, allowing your pelvis to tilt forward so you can deepen the stretch.
- Focus on taking slow, long, and deep inhalations and exhalations. This will help you to move more deeply into the stretch.
There are several modifications and variations of the butterfly stretch that may help to make the pose more comfortable and manageable.
Remember, the shape of your body can affect your flexibility and range of motion. Do each variation on its own or combine them to create a hip-opening sequence. Use props as needed.
Here are a few options:
- Put your back to a wall. To keep your spine straight, sit with your back against a wall.
- Twist to the left. Incorporate a twist by placing your left hand behind your back and the back of your right hand against the outside of your left thigh. Or, twist in the other direction.
- Hinge at the hips. Do a forward bend by hinging at your hips to fold forward. Rest your hands on the floor or a block. You can also place your arms on your legs and your hands on the outsides of your feet while pressing your elbows into your inner thighs or calves.
- Invert your seat. Do the stretch with your legs up against the wall, as though you’re “sitting” on the wall.
- Add shoulder stretches. Relieve tightness in your shoulders by doing simple exercises such as shoulder rolls, shoulder shrugs, cross arm stretch, or Cow Face Pose. You can also cross one arm on top of the other, reaching for opposite shoulders or place your palms together behind your back in Reverse Prayer Pose.
- Lie back. Reclined butterfly pose is a useful variation. You can place a cushion or block under your upper back to open up your chest.
If the butterfly stretch isn’t for you, or, if you simply want a few complementary stretches, there are alternatives that can similarly stretch the same areas of your body.
- Tree Pose
- lunge variations
- supine, standing, and seated figure 4 stretch
- Warrior II
- Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
- Cow Face Pose
- Head-to-Knee Pose
- Hero Pose
- knee-to-chest stretch
- Downward-Facing Frog
- Side Angle Pose
It’s a great option for people who sit or stand for long periods and can protect your hips from overuse injuries from walking, running, or cycling.
The butterfly stretch targets your hips along with your groin, inner thighs, and knees. Loosening up these areas of the body and strengthening your back muscles can help to improve posture.
If you feel tightness in your hips or hamstrings, it may be time to get on the floor and start gently loosening up stiff muscles, allowing for relaxation and release.
People have also used this stretch to boost circulation, stimulate digestive organs to improve digestion, ease menstrual discomfort, and in managing erectile dysfunction.
The butterfly stretch is one of the most accessible hip openers. It offers a wide range of benefits, can be adapted to suit many levels of ability, and is safe to do every day.
The butterfly stretch can be used to recover from and prepare for long periods of sitting and athletic activity, such as running and cycling.
Make it a part of your stretching routine or do it on its own — and have patience as you improve your flexibility.
Use caution when doing the butterfly stretch if you have any concerns or injuries in your groin or knees.