The following set of stretches work on the glutes, piriformis and IT band. They also work on the deeper hip muscles that extend the hip, the hip extensors.
Although similiar in a lot of ways to hip extensor stretches like low lunge, the main difference that turns these stretches into glute medius (side glute) and piriformis stretches is that the leg being stretched is externally rotated.
The following yoga hip stretches are for the back of the hip joint. These differ from hamstring stretches in that the knee is bent and these stretches can be used as preparations for hamstring stretching.
Bound angle pose is normally taught with the feet pulled close to the pelvis. However, if you move the feet forwards, away from the pelvis, and then bend forwards, the pose then becomes a glute stretch (With feet clo.se to the pelvis this pose is a stretch for the inner thighs.)
As you bend forwards work at spreading the inner edges of the feet. Use the muscles of your ankles and feet as opposed to using your hands.
In addition, press the sides of your feet into the floor. If you feel the sides of your glutes activating, you are doing the foot activation correctly.
To add weight to the stretch lift your hands off of the floor and then reach them forwards.
With hands lifted you'll be strengthening the glutes as well as stretching them.
One of my favorite glute stretches is a variation of the low lunge but with the front foot turned out. (I used to call this "painful pose").
Start in a low lunge with the front foot turned out. Move the back knee rearwards far enough so that your shoulders are over the front foot when viewed from the side.
Press the front knee rearwards so that the inside edge of the foot lifts off of the floor.
Try to touch the back of the knee to the floor. It's probably not going to happen but that's one of the ways to deepen the stretch.
To increase the stretch of your front leg gluteus muscles, bend your elbows and sink your shoulder towards the front foot.
Continue to push the front knee back and down. To add weight to the pose lift the back knee. (Back toes can be tucked under or they can point back so that the top of the foot is on the floor.)
To target the glutes a bit more, it can help to externally rotate the leg that you are stretching.
These hip stretches may be good for runners and/or people who suffer from sciatic nerve pain. These poses can be counterposed with inner thigh or adductor stretches.
A variation of the above glute stretch is runners stretch.
You could also try grabbing the bottom foot with both hands. Then use your arms to pull your chest towards your foot.
Once you can grab the foot, increase the stretch by moving the bottom foot rearwards so that the supporting knee moves higher.
You can also try levering the "grabbed" foot forwards so that your armpit moves closer to the foot.
Arm pit pose is a fun way to stretch the glutes and the shoulders at the same time.
To get into armpit pose you need to have your elbow reach past the outer edge of the top foot.
From there internally rotate the arm, bend the elbow and reach the hand along the inside of the bottom leg and then try to reach it behind the back.
Try to clasp hands behind the back.
This pose not only stretches the glute of the externally rotated leg, it also stretches the shoulders.
Pigeon pose is perhaps on of the most common glute stretches.
To learn how to keep your knee safe in this pose (as well as some options for the "hip lifted" version of this pose), check out yoga pigeon pose.
Other variations include doing pigeon pose glute stretch with the front leg hip on the ground.
To increase the glute stretch you can reach the same side shoulder towards your foot.
Yet another variation of pigeon pose is double pigeon.
Work at pressing both feet down in this double leg glute stretch. Press the bottom foot into the floor, then press the top foot into the knee of the bottom leg.
This final stretch can be extremely uncomfortable but is a good way to stretch the iliotibial band, or perhaps more exactly, the muscles that work on it.
Start with one leg crossed over the other. (You may find it easier to start with if you sit on yoga blocks to raise your hips higher!)
Use your hands to press your knees towards each other. Ideally (and this may take some practice) your knees will be stacked over each other.
The stretch is a little less intense if you move your feet rearwards. For a more intense stretch move the feet forwards enough so that the feet and knees are all in one line. (Not shown.)
Sit up tall and focus on breathing deeply and smoothly.
Note that if you have a chronically tight IT band, it may be tight because it is compensating for something else. So rather than just using this stretch I'd suggest also working on hip stability. A simple way to work on hip stability is to practice balancing on one foot. You can also try balancing one leg while binding the non-standing leg.
Why improve muscle control?
Muscle control not only helps you to control your body, it also helps you to feel it.
Muscle activation creates the tension that not only moves your body, but helps you to "sense" it.
With better muscle control you can use your body with less effort and make it easier to balance, improve flexibility and deal with pain and poor posture.