Your hips don’t lie! And because of that (and a plethora of other reasons) you should treat them with respect, love, and proper yoga pampering.

Those hips of yours are the single most important factor in your posture, and play a huge role in your ability to balance. One of the major goals of any yoga practice is to extend the range of motion in your hips, and this is accomplished by doing a dichotomy of exercises: on one hand, building strength and stability, and on the other, stretching.

Last Thursday evening I had the pleasure of trying out Crunch Gym‘s extremely popular “Hippie Yoga” class with instructor Ilaria Cutolo (Union Square NYC location), who’s been teaching the class for over two years now. No, this isn’t a flower power hour of Beatles music and bell-bottoms, it’s a yoga class that revolves around that all-important pivotal point located in your body’s ultimate intersection.

The moves we did in Hippie Yoga were fairly similar to the ones I do in my regular Monday yoga classes – it’s amazing how so much of yoga really does focus on your hips. In this class, additional moves and poses were included to target the glutes, quadriceps, and surrounding areas.

After class I chatted with Ilaria, who shared some of the best reasons to take your hip flexors seriously: For New Yorkers (or ANYONE who’s doing a lot of walking!), you’re over-strengthening and not doing enough stretching. For anyone who works at a desk and sits for long periods of time, your hip flexors are in a state of mild contraction which warrant stretching to balance it out. I absolutely love half pigeon pose – nothing opens up my hips quite like it and I can feel a dramatic change in my body afterwards. You BET yoga can also benefit the elderly who are quite prone to breaking their hips, which sadly often leads to a rapid decline in overall health.

How should you go about treating your hips right? It’s all about striking a balance of strengthening and stretching for ultimate hippie health. But – be mindful when stretching to MOVE SLOWLY and be very aware of all your joints. If you feel strain on your knees, adjust your position. As we were reminded by The New York Times’ “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body” story, pushing yourself too hard can be harmful.

Ilaria Cutolo’s 4 Simple Poses to Stretch & Strengthen Hip Region

Two yoga poses for stabilizing and strengthening: The side plank (left) is great for upper body strength, but the focus here is really on the glutes and waist. Balance for as long as you can. At right, the “Jane Fonda” leg lift targets the outer hips. Try 20 pointing your toes followed by 20 flexing your feet on each side.

For stretching, here are two very straightforward poses you can do to target your outer hips (left), and your inner thigh (right). There’s a very good chance that you may have to physically cut your body in half to achieve a split like Ilaria. Only split and lean forward as much as your body will allow!

PS. Ilaria just had a baby a few months ago – would you believe it? Which brings me to one more super benefit of yoga: sweating it out and dropping lbs for a less hippie figure. It all comes full circle.

PPS. You can get a FREE week at Crunch and try out Hippie Yoga class when you buy and of the spa deals on throughout the month of January!