Side Angle Self Adjustment for Hip Strength

SELF ADJUSTMENT IN SIDE ANGLE POSE 

ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES FOR GREATER GAINS

SIDE ANGLE

SELF ADJUSTMENT IN SIDE ANGLE POSE — ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES FOR GREATER GAINS

Glute gains! Who doesn’t want those, right? When we think about glute gains though, our minds may go directly to the aesthetic appearance, when in reality, what we really need is the health and strength of that group of muscles (gluteus minimus, medius, and maximus) in order to have functional strength, balance, and endurance. We have the ability to create this reality within our bodies by way of adjustments and focused muscle activation in our physical yoga practice.  

When we think about adjustments in a yoga context, it can be quite a lengthy discussion with many layers. Receiving adjustments from our yoga teachers can be a wonderfully supportive experience, while for some, it may be the complete opposite. There may be an aversion to touch for many reasons; no matter what the reasons are, they are to be 100% respected.  

STRENGTH

Yoga For Strength: Strengthen Your Weaknesses • Maximize Your Physical Potential

  • 12 classes: Each class targets a specific muscle group
  • Strengthen your core, back, hips, shoulders, wrists, ankles, legs, and arms
  • Learn creative ways to strength train within the context of a yoga practice
  • Increase mobility by balancing your strength with oppositional muscle groups
  • Joyful accountability to help you reach your practice goals

SALE PRICE: $138.00 $128.00

The Power of Self Adjustments

Now, we happen to be in a time where so many of us are still not practicing in studios or in person with our private teachers. We are participating in virtual classes more than ever. If you weren’t utilizing self adjustments before, this unique time provides an opportunity to incorporate them. This can be a transformative addition to your physical practice, whether in the studio or at home.  Self adjustments offer more than you may think they do. They can be a really great way to connect with our own bodies. When we maintain awareness of the breath and connect with the specific action in the self adjustment, we can truly transform the experience we are having on the mat.

Incorporating adjustments is more than just placing our bodies into a specific alignment. Taking gradual steps through the process helps us to feel safe, therefore helping us to progress.

3 STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE SETTING UP YOUR SELF ADJUSTMENT

  1. Pay attention to your breath, maintain a rhythm that sends a signal to your brain that you are safe and that you are ready to sync the next action with your breath.
  2. Find stability first.  If you need additional support in the posture, then gather the props you may need. Utilizing blocks, a chair, and/or a wall may be just the thing that helps you to find the sensation or connection to the muscle activation.  
  3. Go for it! Perform the self adjustment. First, find the appropriate alignment in your body and then apply the action/contraction in the muscle with your own assist.

In today’s video, we can see Matt take all of these steps for glute activation in Side Angle Pose. In his preparation for the posture, he has set himself up on a chair, making himself more stable, and then he presses the knee of the front leg out into his bicep in order to turn on the abductors and gluteus muscles. He adds the action of pressing down through the heel in the front foot to turn on the gluteus maximus. These actions completely change the experience in the posture.

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WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

The 3 Main Benefits of Self Adjustments

  • Gain a sense of awareness of where we are in space (proprioception)
  • Develop muscular strength
  • Gain access to increase range of motion

With better proprioception (body awareness), we have a better chance of activating our targeted muscles. In the example of Side Angle from the video, the act of pressing into the bicep provides feedback into the brain and body to activate the abductors. We can understand the sensation of this activation so much more. This feedback shows us how to come back to this activation with more confidence whenever we revisit this posture in our practice. The act of that isometric contraction in the targeted muscles builds integrity and strength in the muscles and surrounding tissues. With more strength, we find an opportunity to increase more active range of motion. With better active range of motion, we in turn unleash our access to new postures. We can truly see that self adjustments provide so much more than stacking bones and joints. We are changing our experience on the mat and in our bodies as a whole.

If you want to develop more strength in your yoga practice, check out Matt’s October 2021 Immersion, titled “Strength  

If you’re ready to unleash your true potential and develop greater strength in your yoga practice, then Matt’s new Immersion Strength for the month of October is perfect for you.

In this immersion, you will gain access to:

  • 12 Classes: Each class targets a specific muscle group
  • Strengthen your core, back, hips, shoulders, wrists, ankles, legs, and arms
  • Learn creative ways to strength train within the context of a yoga practice.
  • Increase mobility by balancing your strength with oppositional muscle groups
  • Joyful accountability to reach your practice goals.

~Written and Edited by Trish Curling

STRENGTH

Yoga For Strength: Strengthen Your Weaknesses • Maximize Your Physical Potential

  • 12 classes: Each class targets a specific muscle group
  • Strengthen your core, back, hips, shoulders, wrists, ankles, legs, and arms
  • Learn creative ways to strength train within the context of a yoga practice
  • Increase mobility by balancing your strength with oppositional muscle groups
  • Joyful accountability to help you reach your practice goals

SALE PRICE: $138.00 $128.00

Livestream Class Packages

STRENGTH

Yoga For Strength: Strengthen Your Weaknesses • Maximize Your Physical Potential

  • 12 classes: Each class targets a specific muscle group
  • Strengthen your core, back, hips, shoulders, wrists, ankles, legs, and arms
  • Learn creative ways to strength train within the context of a yoga practice
  • Increase mobility by balancing your strength with oppositional muscle groups
  • Joyful accountability to help you reach your practice goals

SALE PRICE: $138.00 $128.00

Vinyasa and Meditation Yoga Immersion

SHOULDER REVELATION

Strength•Mobility•Biomechanics

  • Increase strength and flexibility
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  • Get back to feeling energized
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Arm Balances Online Yoga Classes

BALANCE

INCREASE & AWAKEN YOUR BALANCE

  • Learn over 12 balance postures
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  • Tree, Standing Hand-to-Foot variations, Warrior III
  • Half Moon variations, Handstand, Side Plank, Headstand
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Arm Balances Online Yoga Classes

Hips & Hamstrings

RECLAIM YOUR ELASTICITY

  • Learn over 12 hip openers
  • Step-by-step instructionals in every practice
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  • Pigeon, Eagle, Fire Log, Lizard
  • Lotus, Flying Pigeon, Splits, Straddle
  • 12 all-levels, 75-minute online classes
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Arm Balances Online Yoga Classes

ARM BALANCES

FREEDOM OF FLIGHT

  • Learn over 12 arm balances
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  • Crow, Side Crow, Titibasana, Ashtavakrasana
  • Forearm Stand, Koundinyasana 1 & 2, Handstand
  • 12 all-levels, 75-minute online classes
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yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes

HEART OPENERS

DISCOVER THE JOY OF BACKBENDS

  • Learn over 12 backbends
  • Step-by-step instructionals in every practice
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  • Bow Pose, Camel, Dancer, Full Wheel
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Yoga Alignment and Flow

MOVE • BREATHE • RELEASE

YOGA • BREATHWORK • MEDITATION

  • YOGA: TRANSFORM YOUR BODY
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  • 12 CLASSES: ALL LEVELS  
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Yoga Alignment and Flow

THE DANCE

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  • SHOULDER STRENGTH
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  • 12 CLASSES: ALL LEVELS  

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2020 IMMERSIONS

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HIPS • HEART • HANDSTAND

  • HIP OPENERS
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  • SHOULDER BIOMECHANICS
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BIRDS OF PARADISE

  • FLEXIBILITY OF INNER THIGHS
  • 4 GUIDED MEDITATIONS
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THE SPINAL RESET

  • BACKBENDS & SIDE BENDS
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JOURNEY TO BLISS

  • PHYSICAL MEETS SPIRITUAL
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$148.00 $118.00

BACK, NECK, & SHOULDERS

  • 12 YOGA CLASSES
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  • 12 PEAK POSTURES
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October Livestream Yoga Classes

THE BREAKTHROUGH

  • HIP OPENERS
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  • EMPHASIS ON ARM BALANCES
  • 4 POST-CLASS MEDITATIONS
  • 12 CLASSES: ALL LEVELS  

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  • FULL BODY RESET
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KING PIGEON & HANUMAN

  • FLEXIBILITY OF HIPS
  • SHOULDER & SPINE MOBILITY
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  • 12 INTERMEDIATE CLASSES
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$128.00

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Eagle Pose technique how to double wrap the legs

GARUDASANA – EAGLE POSE

How to Double Wrap the Legs

Eagle Pose

GARUDASANA – EAGLE POSE

Why is it hard to double wrap the leg?

Garudasana, known as Eagle Pose, is a challenging hip opener and hip strengthener. It’s useful in developing balance, but for many people, double wrapping the leg is not accessible. For sure, some people have no trouble at all, but others are completely perplexed.

There are three reasons why it would be challenging for you or your students to double wrap:

 

  1. Lack of flexibility of the abductor muscles (outer hip muscles). These are the muscles that are lengthened when we cross our legs.
  2. Lack of strength of the standing hip abductor muscles. This is a bit confusing unless you watch the video below. The standing hip abductors help to elevate the opposite side of the pelvis, making it more possible to cross the top leg over the bottom leg.
  3. Lack of technique and timing. In most cases, if you are not applying deliberate technique while moving into a pose, you will be entering the pose the hard way, which means you will only be able to do the postures that match your set of physical muscular patterns. This is a disservice, not because you will miss out on the poses but because you will miss out on the opportunity to change your muscle patterns. In the video below, you will see the timing and techniques for getting into Eagle Pose with double-wrapped legs.
yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS & HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

How to Increase Flexibility of the Abductors — Outer Hips

If flexibility is inhibiting you from accessing Garudasana and you want to find ways to access your greater range of motion of the outer hip muscles, there are a couple postures you can work with. Any posture that includes crisscrossed legs will be useful and effective in increasing abductor flexibility. Although there aren’t many traditional postures, aside from Eagle Pose itself, one that comes to mind is Gomukhasana, Cow-Faced Pose. However, I would say that Eagle Pose should usually precede Gomukhasana because Eagle Pose requires less flexibility. The posture that I use in the Hips and Hamstrings immersion to prepare for Eagle is a straight single-leg forward fold with crisscrossed legs.

 

How to Get into the Straight-Leg Crisscrossed Forward Fold

  1. Start in Lunge Pose with your right foot forward.
  2. Heel-toe (move) your right foot to the left side of the mat.
  3. Step your back left foot to the right side of the mat so that both legs are crisscrossed.
  4. I suggest using block under both hands prior to the last step.
  5. Straighten your legs to a degree where you are stretching without strain.

IMPORTANT KEY ACTION: Wag your tail bone to the left to increase the stretch along the outer hip and IT band. If that’s too intense, wag your tail to the right to decrease the outer-hip stretch.

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WHY LACK OF ABDUCTOR STRENGTH HOLDS YOU BACK IN EAGLE POSE

Strength of the abductor group (outer hip muscles) is super important for two reasons. First, the standing hip abductors are what lift the opposite side of your pelvis, which allows you to cross your top leg over. Second, without outer hip strength on the standing leg, you would struggle to balance the pose! Outer hip muscles play a major role in balancing any single leg pose. If you find it challenging to balance Garudasana, then you will want to start with a strength-training routine for the abductors. We focus in on strengthening these muscles in the Hips and Hamstrings Immersion

FREE VIDEO TUTORIAL: HOW TO DOUBLE WRAP LEGS IN GARUDASANA, EAGLE POSE

This video clip was taken from Class #3 in the  Hips and Hamstrings: 12 Class Immersion

HOW TO DOUBLE WRAP THE LEGS

 

    Notice in the video that I am focused on squeezing the outer standing hip inward and lifting the opposite side of the pelvis upward as a result. This allows the thigh bone to more easily cross the midline of the body. You will also notice that my thighs are significantly rotated inward; this helps to access the wrapping of the legs as well. In the class leading up to this tutorial, we used a wall to eliminate the necessity to balance while working with these actions. In this video, I joke about the use of a wall, but I highly recommend you try it that way.
yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

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HOW DO I INCREASE FLEXIBILITY OF MY HIPS FOR OTHER YOGA POSTURES?

The easy answer to this is to practice in such a way that you are deliberately strengthening each muscle group around the hips. To learn more about what muscle groups are involved in hip opening, check out the article I wrote on The 4 Quadrants of The Hips, where I share my methodology and approach for my personal practice and in my teaching. Once you understand which muscles surround the hip joints, the next step is to begin strengthening each muscle group. Strengthening one muscle group through range of motion will increase the flexibility of the opposing muscle group. This is the magic of an educated and deliberate practice — we take the guesswork out, and efforts are more effective in achieving intended results.

To increase your strength and flexibility of the hips, you can join the Hips and Hamstrings Immersion,which will take you through twelve 75-minute online yoga classes, each focused on a different pose and the relevant muscle group(s). I take you through creative ways of strengthening, then I provide you with effective techniques for stretching and accessing various yoga postures.

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS & HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

Continue Learning

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Triangle Pose: Trick to Avoid Hip Impingement

Triangle Pose

Avoid Hip Impingement & Increase Your Range of Motion

Triangle Pose

Triangle pose is an iconic posture in yoga that has tremendous benefits for increasing hip range of motion by creating more flexibility of the hamstrings and adductors (inner thigh muscles). There are several potential strength benefits that triangle pose has to offer, however, it requires an intentional activation of our muscles and they likely won’t engage on their own. In the video and photo breakdown below, I go over my favorite muscle activations for triangle pose. From my experience in practicing triangle pose with teachers across the world, I have heard these verbal alignment cues more often than not: “Square your pelvis to the sidewall, tuck your tail bone, and place your hand on your shin, block, or ground.” When I practice, I try to really do what the teacher asks, but every time I tried this I noticed an immediate pain in my hip that I never get when I approach triangle pose on my own or coming from a posture like side angle pose. I also noticed that if I maintain these alignment cues, my hand only goes to my shin at best unless I fall into a deep side bend. Knowing the anatomy of the hip, I assumed that this alignment increased the potential compression at the hip joint, and maybe caused the soft tissue to be pinched. I decided to do some research on Hip FAI (femoral acetabular impingement) or hip impingement.

The Research

After much research on Hip FAI (femoral acetabular impingement), I was hoping to bring you conclusive data on how yoga could cause or help hip impingement, however, the current research on yoga specifically is minimal and mostly all over the place. It is commonly agreed that range of motion and proper strength training can help prevent hip impingement. It is also commonly agreed that many athletic sports could be the cause of it, as well as childhood development of the bones and joints. There is however an interesting study that showed increased impingement and stress on the hip joint in dancers when performing specific dance positions which include external rotation and posterior titled pelvis. The research doesn’t mention these specific structural alignments, however, being the husband of a dancer raised on ballet I was able to confirm my suspicion about these pelvis and femur bone alignments. In ballet you are asked to keep the low back long which is a posterior tilt of the pelvis – often cued as “tuck your tail” in yoga classes. One pose in the research article stood out to me: développé à la seconde, which is essentially standing triangle pose or Utthita Hasta Pandangusthasana B. The photo of my good friend Beau Campbell (@theyogarina) to the right (below on mobile) shows the posture in the study. Food for thought: If this posture is creating compression at the hip, what happens when you add the weight of gravity as we do in triangle pose. 

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS & HAMSTRINGS

ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

  • 12 classes to increase flexibility of the hips and hamstrings
  • Maximize your strength through range of motion
  • Access your pose potential
  • Release tension of hips and back
  • Sensation-based practices
  • Unlock and strengthen major muscle groups
  • Active, passive, and isometric stretching
  • Improve mobility and stability
  • So much more!

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MORE INFORMATION

What is Hip Impingement 

Hip impingement is the result of increased friction or damage of the soft tissue that makes up the hip joint. The hip joint is where the thigh bone and pelvis connect. It is a ball and socket joint – the head of the femur (thigh bone) is a round “ball” and the pelvis has a “socket” that receives it. There are soft tissues that cover and surround the bones so that the joint becomes slippery and smooth. Articular cartilage covers the two bones, and the labrum is like a gasket that forms a tight seal around the joint. When these soft tissues become inflamed, irritated, or damaged it is referred to as hip impingement. Some Hip impingements are the result of the way our bones were formed growing up, and others could be the result of repetitive high impact exercises or sports. A healthy hip joint is one where there is no wear and tear of the soft tissues.

Are there other Kinds of hip injuries?

Hip impingement is not the only kind of injury around the hip area. The hip is surrounded by ligaments, muscles, fascia, and nerves that can all become injured due to stress, strain, or structural miss-alignments. Just because you have hip pain does not mean you have an impinged hip. We are also coming to realize that not all physical pain exists in the body, but can also be stemming from mental or emotional trauma. What should you do if you have hip pain? Don’t freak out- see a specialist to assess where the pain is stemming from so you can take proper action to support your health. It could be a pulled muscle, or as simple as a muscle that is hyperactive and causing a myriad of issues. Physical therapy, Acupuncture, and Massage are all great healing modalities to try.

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4 Steps TO ENTER TRIANGLE POSE 

 

Step 1 - Internal rotation

Rotate the back foot, thigh bone, and pelvis inward toward the front leg. No need to overdo this like you would when trying to square the hips in a lunge pose. How much to turn in will depend on you and your structure so go slow and try various angles and observe what you feel. This will increase the amount of possible joint mobility, but tight hamstrings might still inhibit the range of motion.

Step 3: Glute Activation

From your front buttocks press down into your heel until you feel your pelvis starts to open back toward the sky (the opposite of step 1). Ideally, activating both gluteus Maximus and gluteus medius/minimus as you do so. This likely will all happen when you press down, but if your pelvis doesn’t rotate open and your outer hips don’t engage, try pressing your inner heel down and outward.

Step 2: bow at the pelvis

Flex (or bow) at the hip joint to bring your front hand to the block or the ground I personally avoid asking students to go to the shin as not to put more downward pressure into the front knee. Personally, I come to fingertips as it’s a bit easier than full palm and still grounded.  Press down into your hand for support and activation of your deep core – psoas muscles.

Step 4: Counter Action

Similar to step 1, we are trying to rotate the thigh and hip inward again, however, the major difference is that in step 4 it is simply an activation of the muscles, not an actual movement of the bones. Counteraction creates stability and also helps to prevent going too deep into the end range of motion which could bring you right back to impingement or just an overstretch of the adductors.

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS & HAMSTRINGS

ONLINE YOGA IMMERSION

  • 12 classes to increase flexibility of the hips and hamstrings
  • Maximize your strength through range of motion
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The Adductors

The muscles along the inner thigh are referred to as the adductor group, and typically serve to bring the thigh bones toward the midline of the body, but they can also internally rotate the thighbones, extend them backward like the hamstrings (adductor magnus) and even externally rotate when in deep extension. The adductors also help to stabilize the pelvis.

Practicing Triangle

Is triangle a high-risk posture? Probably not on my list of postures to avoid, but depending on your body and how you approach it, it may have massive benefits or setbacks. The steps I have provided for you have helped me feel better in my triangle pose, and many students have felt the same. This doesn’t mean it will be best for you, so proceed with presence, observe what you feel as you practice, and go slow enough to be able to make choices. There are many more potential options of how to isometrically activate your muscles in postures like triangle. Should you want to learn more please check out the Hips: Rock Em and Unlock Em workshop below.  Leave a comment if this post has been helpful or if you have questions or requests for future posts.

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Backbends and the Glutes

Backbends and the Glutes

Should I engage my glutes in a backbend?

Should I Engage my Buttocks in a Backbend?

In the yoga world, there are many opinions on alignment and what muscles “should” or “should not” be engaged. One of the common questions I get is, “Should I engage my buttocks in Wheel pose or bridge pose?” I decided it’s time to address this question with a video response to help clarify the anatomy behind the posture. 

In the video, I go over the anatomy of Full Wheel aka Upward Facing Bow or Urdva Danurasana. The action at the hip joint in this pose is called extension. This is when your thigh bones go back behind your pelvis; think of the back leg in a crescent lunge pose.   The muscles that create extension at the hip are the Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings, and Adductor Magnus. The Gluteus Maximus is the big buttock muscle that most of us see as “The Butt.”  To easily answer the question of whether one should engage their buttocks or not when going into Urdva Danurasana, I would say yes of course. To be more specific, if you are trying to go into extension at the hip it is incredibly useful to employ the muscles that create that action. 

“Wait, why have people told me to relax my butt??”  The origin of this cue was based on the fact that so many people splay out their knees, which is a result of external rotation at the hip. One of the muscles that create external rotation at the hip is the Gluteus Maximus…yes, it performs both actions. So by trying to relax that muscle, you may not externally rotate as much. The issue with that is that the over external rotation is mostly a problem if you are using the deep external rotators of the buttocks – this could throw off the sacrum and cause the pinch in your upper pelvis, hip, or low back. 

My personal suggestion is simply to turn on your internal rotators, which are your outer gluteus muscles (gluteus medius and minimus), TFL, and Adductors (inner thigh muscles). Don’t worry, you don’t need to know these muscles in order to internally rotate your thighs. All you need to do is focus on pressing down through your inner heels and big toe mound. By focusing on pressing into your inner feet, you will undoubtedly turn on your internal rotators without compromising the extension at the hip that is gained from the Gluteus Maximus engagement.

With my mentorship students, I break down the difference between what I call Balancing Action and Fundamental Action. Knowing the difference makes it so much easier to know what is appropriate for yourself in any given posture. A Fundamental Action is any action that is required for the posture to exist. In the case of Urdva Danurasana, the Fundamental Action at the hips is Extension. Without the action of extension, your hips wouldn’t leave the ground. A balancing action is any action that is the opposite of the fundamental action, or the opposite of what the tendency is when creating the fundamental action. In this case, when creating the fundamental action of extension at the hips, the tendency will be to let the knees splay out to the sides (external rotation at the hips). A balancing action, in this case, is Internal Rotation at the hips which would keep the knees straight forward. Just to clarify, the direction of your knees isn’t the direct concern, it’s more about what is happening in the hips and sacrum that is of importance. 

Can you do Urdva Danurasana with externally rotated legs? Yes of course! Will it be good for you? That’s a great question, and dependent upon so many factors in your body. My suggestion is until you have a deep relationship with your body and know what is a good sensation and what is not good, simply stick to the balancing action of internal rotation at the thighs by pressing the inner heels down. 

I recognize this conversation is quite technical. If this was challenging to follow, simply watch the video to gain the visual aid as well. Enjoy strengthening and engaging your buttocks! If you are interested in learning more about techniques and anatomy, let’s set up a call to see if the Mentorship Mastery Program is right for you!

Hip extension

In order to go into hip extension in poses like Urdva Danurasana (full wheel pose) you will need to recruit your hip extensor muscles, which are located in the buttocks. By relaxing these muscles you are relying on your back muscles to do the heavy lifting.

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3 Steps to Activate the Buttocks

Step 1 - form The Arch

Forming the arch first is recommended prior to placing more force and pressure on the spine and hips. If you don’t feel a sense of spaciousness while lying on the ground, you certainly won’t feel it when applying more pressure. Often the inability to activate the transverse abdominals correlates with a lack of spaciousness between the vertebrae of the spine. Transverse abdominals cause the vacuum effect in the abdomen and typically make it easier to lengthen the solar plexus away from the pubic bone which is indicated with the smaller arrow. The larger arrow is to call your attention to the evenness of the curve. Most people place their backbend in just the mobile parts of their spine and doing so will simply exacerbate your patterns. Try to put less effort into the mobile areas, and more in the stiff areas.

Step 2: extension at the Hip

When doing postures like bridge and full wheel, this action is crucial in that it is what creates the pose. Without activating the buttocks you will be relying on your back muscles alone to lift your hips up and as a result, you will likely cause too much compression in the spine. This doesn’t mean that activating the buttock will be a magic pill but it will help to disperse the pressure. In addition, the buttock muscles are super important to our posture when walking, standing, and even sitting. Maintaining strength and awareness of what they do in the body is crucial to health and longevity. To make step three easier, it is helpful to think of pressing down through the inner heels however, if that feels too challenging, simply press the outer heels down first and then work step 3 second.

Step 3: Balancing Action

Internally rotating the thigh bones will balance out the external rotation that happens when pressing down into the heels. When pressing down you are activating the hip extensors, and since the extensors of the hip are also external rotators, the thighs will tend to externally rotate. There is nothing inherently wrong with this however, it could cause over-activation of some of the deep external rotators causing unnecessary tension in the hips or sacrum. Some people will also experience sacral pressure as a result of the force placed on the S.I (sacral-iliac) joint from extension and external rotation. By activating the internal rotators you can balance out the hip extension and maintain neutral rotation and likely find more ease in the S.I joint.

Releasing the Buttocks

One of the issues people experience after activating their buttocks is gripping sensation. This often happens when the muscles are weak and trying to find any way to engage. This goes away as the muscles get stronger but the easiest way to release this is a posture like pigeon pose to stretch these muscles after backbends. Pigeon pose is also wonderful in that it doesn’t overly round the spine after backbending which could otherwise be dangerous on the intervertebral discs.

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Gravity: Not All Backbends Are the Same

The action of activating the buttock muscles here is most important in bridge and wheel pose because of the relationship to gravity. If we were doing something like bow pose it may still be beneficial to activate the buttocks, but chances are it won’t have the same effect and might even cause more compression on the spine. In that pose, the quads are typically more important because your hands are connected to your feet. When grabbing your feet for this posture, you will have activated the hamstrings and buttock already and the work in this posture will be lengthening the arch and finding an even disbursement of extension in the spinal column. This doesn’t mean you should not engage the buttocks, but in this case, your hands holding your feet are the cause for hip extension. For now use the tips in this blog for postures like full wheel and bridge, as well as the one leg up variations.

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