I managed to get to 11 classes this week. The 2 classes that were very challenging for me were not yoga classes, but fitness based classes. One of them was a Yoga Barre class with weights and the other was a Yoga Boot Camp with weights done in a 97 degree room! I used to teach at multiple gyms and have unlimited access to classes like this, which at the time maybe weren’t “easy” for me, but were fairly routine. I also used to teach and practice a lot of Pilates. Those days I felt super strong and had a lot of stability. I felt I could do anything! What I noticed this past week, specifically in these two classes was that I was super weak in my Gluteus Medius and Adductor muscles. The Yoga Barre class required a lot of the Adductors and the Yoga Bootcamp was all about the Gluteus Medius on that specific day. Boy, was I burning!
Here’s what was happening:
In the Yoga Barre class I found it difficult to keep my inner thighs squeezing together in certain movements such as Navasana with bent knees, shins parallel and twisting side to side while holding a weight. In the fitness world you may know them as Russian Twists and do them with a medicine ball. There was also a standing series where we were squeezing our legs together while high on toe mounds doing squats, standing back up, pulsing, etc. There were a few other moves that I can’t remember now, but what I do remember is laughing to myself thinking “Wow. I’m really having a hard time working my Adductors!” While it may have been frustrating at the time, I’m a good sport and find it refreshing to discover nuances about my body so I can become more aware of these intrinsic movements and perhaps change the way in which I practice and even add in some of these cross training fitness and Pilates classes to my yoga schedule.
What are the Adductors anyway?
The adductors are a group of five muscles that make up the inner thigh. They connect the inner thigh bone (the femur) to the pelvis and their primary role is to pull the legs together. Think of adduction as bringing together – adding.
Pectineus – the uppermost of the thigh adductors. This is often the muscle that is strained if someone has a pulled groin. It is responsible for flexion & adduction of the thigh at the hip joint.
Adductor Magnus – a large triangular shaped muscle that consists of two parts. It contracts the hip towards the midline. It’s often considered part of the hamstring muscle group.
Gracilis – means “slender”. This is the most prominent and superficial (closer to the surface of the skin) of the adductor muscles. In addition to adduction, it also assists with medial rotation of the thigh at the hip as well as flexion of the leg at the knee joint.
Adductor Brevis – it’s main function is to pull the thigh towards the center of the body.
Adductor Longus – the most anterior (front) of the adductors. Does flexion & adduction of the thigh at the hip joint, but also helps with rotation.
Why they are important:
They are a fundamental part of our daily function such as sitting, standing, walking and running. They also play a role in stabilizing our pelvis.
In yoga we’re really good at stretching this muscle group, but it’s important to strengthen the adductors as well. Especially as we age, it becomes important to not only increase flexibility, but also to create strength and stability. If you’re an athlete looking to increase performance and prevent injuries, it’s crucial to strengthen this muscle group.
Undeveloped adductors can create muscle imbalance and injuries of the knee, hip, back, shoulder and neck. after all, it’s all connected, right?
Many runners have knee and hip problems due to over-developed quadriceps and under-developed adductors.
What can be done?
- Squeeze a block in between thighs In Tadasana, Downward Dog, Camel, Bridge and Wheel.
- Use a resistance band – one end on a stationary object, one end tied around your ankle. Stand with your hip towards the stationary object and cross the leg that has band in front of the planted leg. It should be challenging, not easy, but also not so hard as to strain. Many gym have a machine that simulates this same motion. I prefer using bodies over machines, but it’s better than nothing.
- Use a Pilates “Magic Circle” in between ankles or knees while doing core work to squeeze and work the adductors simultaneously.
- When you’re in Malasana or Goddess pose press your upper arms in toward your inner thighs and press your inner thighs back into your arms so that oppositional actions are working together to promote strength.
- Keep your legs together in Locust and try to spiral your inner thighs to the sky.
- Keep your hips square in Warrior 3, flex the foot of the extended leg and again try to spin the inner thigh up.