The quantum approximate optimization algorithm/quantum alternating operator ansatz (QAOA) is a heuristic to find approximate solutions of combinatorial optimization problems. Most of the literature is limited to quadratic problems without constraints. However, many practically relevant optimization problems do have (hard) constraints that need to be fulfilled. In this article, we present a framework for constructing mixing operators that restrict the evolution to a subspace of the full Hilbert space given by these constraints. We generalize the “XY”-mixer designed to preserve the subspace of “one-hot” states to the general case of subspaces given by a number of computational basis states. We expose the underlying mathematical structure which reveals more of how mixers work and how one can minimize their cost in terms of the number of CX gates, particularly when Trotterization is taken into account. Our analysis also leads to valid Trotterizations for an “XY”-mixer with fewer CX gates than is known to date. In view of practical implementations, we also describe algorithms for efficient decomposition into basis gates. Several examples of more general cases are presented and analyzed.