“. . . according to the Yoga Sutra (3.1), the term [Bandha] refers to the ‘binding’ of consciousness to a particular object or locus (desha), which is the very essence of concentration.”
Georg Feuerstein

Thursday, March 31, 2011

How to Use the Adductor Muscles to Refine Downward Dog

In our blog post, "Strong Thigh Muscles Benefit People with Knee Osteoarthritis,” we gave a tip for activating the tensor fascia lata in Downward Facing Dog. This synergizes the quadriceps for extending the knees, aids in flexing and internally rotating the hips, and helps to align the kneecaps to face forward. You can further refine alignment in this pose by using the adductors longus and brevis and their synergist, the pectineus. Co-activating these muscles and the TFL balances external and internal rotation of the femurs while at the same time synergizing hip flexion.

synergists of flexion in downward doge pose
Co-activation in Downward Facing Dog pose.
First the Anatomy . . .

The adductors longus and brevis originate from the superior and inferior pubic rami, respectively. The longus inserts onto the middle third of the linea aspera, a ridge of bone on the inside of the femur. The brevis inserts onto the upper third of this ridge. Both muscles act to adduct (draw the thighs together), flex, and externally rotate the hip joint. They also stabilize the pelvis.

The pectineus originates from the pectin of the pubis and inserts onto the pectineal line on the inside of the femur, running from the lesser trochanter to the linea aspera. This muscle adducts, flexes, and externally rotates the hip and stabilizes the pelvis.

Here’s the Cue . . .

Use Utkatasana to get the hang of isolating the proximal adductor group. Warm up with Surya Namaskara A (do several). Then move to Surya Namaskara B. When you take Utkatasana, on your exhalation, gently press the knees together to contract the adductors longus and brevis and the pectineus. Note how this action becomes progressively refined with each cycle and with each practice session. You should feel more stable in the pose.

adductors longus and brevis and pectineus in utkatasana
Adductors longus and brevis
and the pectineus in Utkatasana.

Navasana can also be used to gain awareness of the proximal adductors. Squeeze the knees together and feel the muscles contract at the top insides of the thighs. This helps to flex the hips and stabilize the pose. If you’re new to Navasana, try one of the intermediate variations illustrated below and in the Yoga Mat Companion series.

Engaging the adductor group in Utkatasana and Navasana brings awareness and control of these muscles. Once you get a feel for this, contract them directly to refine alignment of the leg bones in Downward Facing Dog. You can apply this same principle in Urdhva Hastasana (Tadasana with the arms raised overhead) and other poses. Click here for details. This is an example of the concept of "portability" of the techniques between poses.

navasana preparation
adductor muscles in navasana
Adductors longus and brevis and the pectineus in Navasana.

Thanks for checking in. We’ll see you for the next post when we go over more details on nutation and stabilizing the pelvis in twists. Be sure to download volume two of our free interactive eBook.  Also, don’t forget to tell your friends about our blog and to visit us on Facebook for your free chakra poster.

Namasté,

Ray and Chris

6 comments:

  1. Thanks. The info you post is very helpful, and my yoga is all the better for it. Cheers.

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  2. Thanks Lek--delighted to hear this helps you! All the Best~Ray

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  3. Thanks for your wonderful work of linking yoga and orthopeadics. it is very useful and helps to visualize how to perform a pose. By the way this helped me also to do the Teaser from Pilates.

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  4. I greatly appreciate your compliment on our work, Yann. Also, thanks for the input from the Pilates perspective! This is further confirmation of the validity of the technique. All the Best~Ray

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  5. Your site has been life-changing for me, and your delivery and explanations are so accessible. I just ordered my first book, and can't wait to get it. I have so many yoga books, and now I basically study Mr.Iyengar- and your site ~ Thank you!

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  6. Many Thanks, Anita! I greatly appreciate your feedback on our work. All the Best~Ray

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