Connect To Your Abductor Muscles

Connect to Your Abductor Muscles

5 Unique Variations for Increased Stretch and Strength

hip stability

CONNECT TO YOUR ABDUCTOR MUSCLES

Once you’ve been exposed to what’s possible in your asana practice, there’s no turning back. What I mean is that it’s possible to completely transform your practice once you realize just how many opportunities there are to implement strength. These opportunities exist in places you may not have considered before. As for stretching, it may seem easier to find opportunities to stretch, but implementing effective stretch methods is another thing entirely. Practicing with Matt opens the doors to both effective stretching and strengthening. In today’s video, it’s all about your abductor muscles. What you’ll see are 5 posture variations you can start implementing today.

One of the major roles of your abductor muscles is to provide hip stability, so it’s imperative that you implement effective stretch and strengthening techniques to promote the health of your abductor muscles and surrounding tissues. 

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ABDUCTOR MUSCLE ANATOMY AND PELVIC STABILITY

The action of the abductor muscles is to move your legs away from the midline of the body. These muscles also assist in stabilizing the pelvis. A telltale sign that your abductor muscles are extremely flexible or potentially weak is the presence of a significant hip sway when walking. Alternatively, when your abductor muscles are tight, it may be more challenging to adduct the upper thigh bones because of the pull from the tension in the abductor muscles. In order to create pelvic stability, you need suppleness in the abductor muscles. Engaging in opportunities to both stretch and strengthen will help you nurture more supple muscles.

There are 4 main abductor muscles: gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, tensor fasciae latae (TFL), and gluteus maximus. Even though TFL is a hip flexor and gluteus maximus extends the hips, they also abduct the legs when they work together.  

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CONNECT TO YOUR ABDUCTOR MUSCLES: 5 UNIQUE VARIATIONS FOR INCREASED STRETCH AND STRENGTH

WARRIOR II AND SIDE PLANK TO PROMOTE STRENGTH

Warrior II 

This posture can serve you in ways you may not expect. The technique to create strength in the abductor muscles here is to utilize a self-adjustment. Placing your hand on the outside of your front knee and pressing your hand into your knee and your knee into your hand will work to awaken and strengthen all four abductor muscles.

Side Plank with a Strap

Grab a strap for this one! The strap helps provide the feedback and the self-adjustment required to connect to your abductor muscles. You’ll see in the video that the trick here is to turn your pelvis slightly towards the ground as you push your legs apart (abduct) in order to create the required tension in the strap. Think about pulling the back of your legs apart as opposed to opening your pelvis.  

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CHAIR POSE TICK TOCKS

Now, this is a really creative variation! Once again, the strap is your best friend. Sensationally, it will provide more information from your body, which will help you discern which actions you need to implement so as to connect with and activate your abductor muscles. Matt emphasizes that the action of pressing your heels apart provides a slight internal rotation of the femur bones, which helps to ignite the TFL. As you “tick tock” from side to side, you maintain the abduction of the legs in conjunction with that internal rotation so that you can indeed feel the intended contraction and effort from your abductor muscles.

Practicing in this way builds neural pathways in the brain, promoting a healthy mind-body connection. The more you repeat actions like this, you’re teaching and telling your body how to respond more effectively in order to develop greater strength.

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EFFECTIVELY STRETCH IN PIGEON AND EAGLE POSE

Pigeon Pose

To connect to your abductor muscles in Pigeon Pose, it’s about where you place your effort. If the right leg is forward, you’ll push your front thigh bone down and to the right, which will promote strength. This will also send your body to the left, which will also spark a stretch.

Eagle Pose on Your Back

In a standing Eagle Pose, the standing leg needs to be strong and the crossover leg flexible in the abductor muscles. In the video, Matt provides the variation on your back as a way to more easily negotiate the flexibility aspect of the posture.

A golden tip is to hike the hip of the top leg in order to gain more access to the bind, providing more stretch. In the video, you’ll see how Matt adds a lift of the legs to go even deeper with the stretch.

DO MORE THAN THE POSTURE

Throughout his classes, Matt continuously reminds us that it’s not about “just doing the posture” but about your particular intent and the purpose it provides for you as an individual in a given moment.  

Ultimately, maintaining the health of your muscles—cultivating both strength and flexibility—will lead you to a stronger, more well-developed asana practice along with those same benefits in your daily life.

You can start practicing in Matt’s Blissful Hips Immersion and learn how to safely and effectively unlock these benefits.

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Article by Trish Curling

Videos Extracted From: Blissful Hips Immersion

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Seated vs. Standing Dandasana

Seated vs. Standing Dandasana

Prepare for Seated Forward Fold

staff pose

SEATED VS. STANDING DANDASANA

Seated vs. Standing Dandasana (Staff Pose)—why compare the two? Not only are we going to examine how they differ, but we’re also going to dive in and really look at the parallels between these 2 yoga postures and how they inform one another. There is no way around the foundations of your yoga practice, and in today’s video, Matt demonstrates Seated versus Standing Dandasana. Not only are they substantial enough on their own, but they also serve as an important preparation for Seated Forward Fold. Matt also intricately demonstrates Seated Forward Fold at the end of the video, so that you’ll be able to see the direct correlation among all of these postures. Let’s take a look at how you can level up these foundational postures.

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PASSIVE VERSUS ACTIVE FLEXIBILITY

Unless you have been exposed to practicing asana in a way that offers a balance between active and passive flexibility, it’s likely that your body is widening the gap between the two. What is the difference between active and passive flexibility?  

Active flexibility happens when a particular joint moves through a range of motion without any external assistance (e.g., a yoga strap, wall, or chair). The opposite is true for passive flexibility, which occurs when you are utilizing an external force (including gravity) to explore a given range of motion.

For example, Standing Forward Fold, when approached more passively, is not necessarily the best preparation for Seated Forward Fold because a greater amount of muscle engagement is imperative to safely and successfully execute the postures.  

However, it’s not just about the postures. In his classes, Matt teaches us about the benefits of learning how to be more conscious of how and when to engage and release muscles. Being more conscious and intentional in this way means that the communication between your nervous system, brain, and body has become more intelligent and capable. Your ability both to move more dynamically and to hold postures/positions on and off the mat has multiplied because you are more proactive, rather than reactive. This also means that you have narrowed the gap between the two, and your body becomes more willing to surrender passively after you have spent time actively engaging muscles. This is where Seated versus Standing Dandasana comes in.

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SEATED VERSUS STANDING DANDASANA: PREPARE FOR SEATED FORWARD FOLD

SEATED DANDASANA

As Matt demonstrates in the video, Seated Dandasana (Staff Pose) is a great precursor to Seated Forward Fold because of the muscle engagements involved. 

One of the first steps involved in Seated Dandasana is to sit more upright. This involves lifting your belly in and up to engage your transversus abdominis. Once you’re sitting more upright, you’re also getting your back muscles involved, muscles like the quadratus lumborum (QL), particularly as you bring your pelvis into more of an anterior tilt. This anterior tilt, in conjunction with maintaining a strong lift of your chest and belly while keeping your legs straight, really helps to fire up your hip flexors. When you watch the video, you’ll see that Matt outlines a couple of key actions that also contribute to this hip-flexor firing. Those actions are creating dorsiflexion in your feet and pulling your kneecaps up in order to support the action of drawing your femur bones in towards the hip sockets (this helps to sustain and deepen the engagement of the hip flexors). All of these actions within Seated Dandasana help to create strength in a part of the body, the hip flexors, that is neglected in many. That alone validates the importance of this posture as one to incorporate into your practice on a regular basis. It equally validates why it offers excellent preparation for Seated Forward Fold.

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STANDING DANDASANA

In Standing Dandasana, there are wonderful opportunities to work on a great deal of muscle engagement for the hip flexors; this may also allow time for a greater examination of how to engage the lower back muscles. In the video, you’ll see how Matt pushes his heels out isometrically in order to activate the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), which is a hip flexor. Additionally, the placement of your hands really informs how much sensation and strength you can create in the lower back. Lengthening your arms all the way out in front of you increases the effort and dance between keeping your sit bones lifted (which is the same anterior tilt required for Seated Dandasana and Forward Fold) while maintaining the lift of the chest. This is surely a recipe for the firing of the QL and erector spinae muscles.

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HIP FLEXORS & HIP FLEXION

As already explained, one of the most important actions for Seated Forward Fold is hip flexion (the thighs moving closer to the chest, closing the hip joint). We’ve also established that hip flexor strength is essential for Seated Forward Fold. When attempting to gain strength of the hip flexors when it comes to Seated Forward Fold, you need to apply your understanding of the difference between active and passive flexibility. Allowing gravity alone to create the shape of Seated Forward Fold would likely simply create frustration due to the length of time it takes to see the results of going deeper into the posture. With the development of hip flexor strength and the practice of the articulation of the pelvis in postures like Seated and Standing Dandasana, you simply can’t go wrong when it comes to Seated Forward Fold.

SEATED FORWARD FOLD

After exploring Seated and Standing Dandasana from the perspective Matt offers, your body will display its readiness. During the setup in the video, you’ll see where Matt marries the passive and active in this posture. You’ll tap into the strength of your lower back with the same lift of the belly and chest along with the anterior tilt of the pelvis. Just like in Standing Dandasana, you’ll push your heels out isometrically, which will internally rotate your upper thighs, switching on TFL.  Once you’ve performed the actions you practiced in Seated Dandasana, that is, plugging the femur bones into the hip joint and pulling the kneecaps up, you can lean more forward. This is the crucial point at which you may begin to relax your back muscles and transition to a more passive state in the posture. The negotiation that takes place in the body, however, is that while your back relaxes, you’re still maintaining the suctioning of the quadriceps and tensioning of the hip flexors. This creates an exciting conversation within your body. It creates a marriage between active and passive, which Matt describes as the nervous system more fully participating in the experience and improving the health and functionality of your muscular system overall.  

Practicing in this way unleashes the potential functionality of your body. Registering for this month’s immersion will take you on a journey of deeper understanding, and it will help bring new life to foundational postures like the ones examined here. 

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Video Extracted From: Twists & Folds

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Continue Learning

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read more
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read more
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Titibhasana Techniquesfirefly poseTITIBHASANA TECHNIQUES There are some general rules to follow when executing arm balance postures. To find optimal balance, most require us not to shy away from leaning forward. They also demand a considerable degree of upper body...

read more
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read more

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