“. . . 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



Monday, July 18, 2011

Antagonist/Synergist Combinations in Yoga

In this post we explore the relationship between the tensor fascia lata (TFL) and the gluteus maximus. In addition I add a cue for engaging the adductor magnus as a synergist of the gluteus maximus. Knowledge of these relationships can be used to refine and stabilize postures with a lunge component, such as Warrior II.

The "Deltoid" of the Hip . . .

You might think of the TFL as akin to the anterior deltoid of the shoulder in that it flexes and internally rotates the joint. The gluteus maximus is similar to the posterior deltoid in that it extends and externally rotates the articulation. Both muscles can abduct the hip. They are thus antagonists for flexion/extension and rotation and synergists for abduction.

gluteals and tensor fascia lata - "the deltoid of the hip"
The deltoid of the shoulder and the "deltoid" of the hip.
Click image for larger view.



The gluteus medius and minimus lie between the TFL and the gluteus maximus and are comparable to the central portion of the deltoid. They are abductors and, depending on the position of the hip joint, synergists of the TFL or gluteus maximus. For example, if the hip is flexing and internally rotating, the gluteus medius and minimus synergize the TFL for these actions. If the hip is extending and externally rotating, they synergize the gluteus maximus. For this reason, the combination of the tensor fascia lata and gluteals is sometimes referred to as the “deltoid” of the hip.

The front hip in Warrior II flexes, abducts, and externally rotates. This combination of movements is known as “circumduction” and it involves the contributions of several muscles. The tensor fascia lata and gluteals produce the abduction component. Depending on the position of the joint, each of these muscles has several possible actions which can synergize or oppose one of the other muscle’s actions. Throughout the range of motion of the hip, the TFL and gluteus maximus form an antagonist/synergist pair.

Here’s the Cue . . . 

In Warriors I and II, I bring the front knee in line with the hip and ankle and then gently press the sole of the foot into the mat. This activates the TFL and gluteus maximus, respectively (the quadriceps also engage). Press the back foot into the mat to stabilize it and then gently attempt to drag it away from the front foot. This acts to extend and abduct the hip and stabilize the pelvis. I balance these cues for the front and back legs and ease back on muscular force as I attain stillness in the pose.

gluteus maximus and tensor fascia lata in warrior II
Engaging the gluteus maximus and tensor fascia lata in Warrior II.
Click image for larger view.

Adding the Adductor Magnus…

As an additional refinement, I engage the adductor magnus by gently attempting to drag or “scrub” the back foot inward towards the midline (adducting it). Because the foot is constrained by the mat, the force of this action is transmitted to the origin of the muscle, as shown here. I have found that this cue works especially well in Warrior I for refining the position of the pelvis.

adductor magnus in warrior I
Engaging the back-leg adductor magnus in Warrior I.
Click image for larger view.

The overall effect of these actions is to produce a series of forces that stabilize the asana from the foundation to the core. I get a feel for these cues first by using them in a shallower variation of the pose and build the muscular engagement gradually. This helps with stability and awareness.

Always, in your particular case, consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. Always practice yoga under the direct supervision of a qualified instructor. See full disclaimer here.

Thanks for stopping by. Check back next week when we'll go over using these techniques in Parivrtta Trikonasana. Be sure to download 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 (we ask that you pay shipping and handling :)).

Namasté,

Ray and Chris

7 comments:

  1. I love reading these posts. I am studying Sports and Exercise Science and I love learning about the anatomy of Yoga poses and exactly what's going on where. Love the Daily Bandha

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  2. Hi Road Runner,

    I much appreciate your comment. All the Best with your studies and practice!

    Namaste'

    Ray

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  3. Ray, I simply love your blog.What a great yet simple presentation understandable to all of us! Thanks Ray again and look forward for next week's blog..

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  4. Thank you, Gayatri! All the Best~Ray

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  5. new to this site, really excellent post on the relationship between muscles!

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  6. Hi, thanks for the fantastic in depth analysis of the muscles, joints, tendons and kinematics that are addressed by the different yoga poses. I'm using a yoga and taichi based rehabilitative physiotherapy for my connective tissue disorder, and your site gives me the information that most Yoga/Tai-chi instructors are unable to give.

    Obviously I modify a lot of the poses as not to aggravate old injuries, but so far the information on your site has aided a lot in my recovery and rehabilitation!

    Much appreciated, and looking forward to more. Ever grateful.

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  7. Ray,
    can you do a series on facilitating the multifidi and transverse abdominus as a force couple please?
    thank you,
    Michelle

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