I see it all the time. Just sitting in yoga class can be difficult for today’s athlete. Tight muscles can cause the lower pelvis to tuck in, rounding the low back all the weight is resting on the tailbone, the heart collapsed and the head drops forward. It even looks uncomfortable. What can Today’s Athlete do to find ease? Lowering knees closer to mat lowers center of gravity towards your pelvic core and helps to decrease muscular effort in an easy crossed legged seated pose.
The obvious is to lengthen the muscles of the inner thigh, what may be less obvious and often overlooked is that the muscles of the outer thighs need to be strengthened.
The imbalance of strength and length once again becomes apparent as the hip adductor
muscle strength overpowers the hip abductors. This weakness in the abductors may then present with hip pain and knee pain that comes from fatigue and over use of the abductors rather then from tight hips.
Hip adduction means to bring the leg towards the midline of the body, or to working the inner thighs
Hip abduction means to take the leg away from the midline of the body, or to work the outer thigh.
Working with some of today’s athletes I am encouraging them to do asanas that help strengthen the abductor muscles in conjunction with lengthening the adductors.
Lengthening the hip flexors, ie the psoas and the illiacus as well as the quads, are important to being able to open up the hips. Strengthening and lengthening the abductors will help to stabilize the hip, keep it flexible and working more efficiently so that you can continue to move with greater ease.
The strength of the abductors is key to lateral movements for today’s Athlete, in actions of pushing off, quickly change in direction or in landing. The strength of these muscles is going to help keep the hips stable and protect the knee.
To feel the muscles in action, come to an easy-seated pose, Sit to front of the sitting bones Turning the thighs’ outward you can feel the external hip rotators. Now as you press the outer edge of your feet down into the earth you can slowly feel the sides of the legs lower as you engage the abductors of the thighs.
So here is where things get a little confusing The muscles that abduct the thigh to the floor are also internal rotators of the hips, so you lengthen them in internal rotation and engage them as abductors.
Balanced strength is key and often the discomfort that arises from a tight hip, may very well be fatigued hip abductors that have to work harder to keep up with the strength of the hip Adductors.
It is so important that you do not lose the integrity of your shoulder keeping it aligned over your elbow and maintaining an action of external rotation so as not to dislocate the Shoulder. As always listen to the wisdom of your body, if you are holding, or straining, guess what? You are no longer working the intended muscles group the asana is targeting.
See you, on the mat!