Hip Yoga: Abductor Work, Sitting Down

So we’ve done some hip abductor strengthening that, maybe ideally, involves standing and balancing — but can also involve swaying, toppling over, and/or hopping around. In case there are others like me who avoid standing balances like the plague, seated wide angle pose can be a seated strengthening option.

It’s probably worth pointing out that even though this is seated, it’s still a strong, active, engaged pose when it comes to my hips and legs. In fact, my quads especially may be working harder here than they are in, say, a high lunge or a warrior pose. This is more true for me the farther forward I fold, but it’s always true to some extent.

Anyway, whee. Straddles. So basically, the abductors are working because they’re pulling each leg away from the body’s midline. I suppose, technically, the farther they’re abducting, the harder they’re working, but there’s a limit — called the hip socket and the femur head, and when the one meets hits up against the other, it’s pretty much game over as far as abduction is concerned.


[Jess Ryan instructing for Jess Ryan Yoga. Video via YouTube.]

Alignment ideas and practice points I like to keep in mind:

  • Keep my low back happy. — For me, this means assisting the natural curve in my spine, definitely by pulling the flesh of my glutes away from my sitting bones, possibly sitting on a folded blanket if one happens to be convenient. For some other people, elevating the hips might be a non-issue; for others, it might be non-negotiable.
  • Keep my knees happy. — I do pretty well with keeping my kneecaps pointing up, my toes pointing up, and the entire top of my leg — toes to quads — flexed and engaged. I’ve also heard teachers offer the option of bending the knees a little, possibly supporting them with blankets underneath.
  • Not make it an open legs contest. — What I mean is, my legs go about as far as they go. There’s a very comfortable angle distance, and then it’s — thunk! — aforementioned femur heads hitting hip sockets. And there is some competitive part of me that wants my legs to go as wide as the other students’ in class or the instructor in that video or whatever. Aside from the potential issue of pulling a groin muscle (which I’m not actually terribly worried about for my anatomy), there’s the fact that bone against bone is just not going to give. It’s not an open legs contest, and I should probably just get over myself already.
  • Lower down slowly. — There’s a lot of large muscle groups being stretched and contracted in this pose. For me, the big deal is actually my outer hips — the same ones we’re focusing on strengthening here — though this can vary by person and by day. But for me, those muscles take a few breaths to acclimate in the various stages of my forward fold. If I folded forward too fast, I’d hurt myself. On the other hand, if I never went past my first edge, I wouldn’t be getting my maximum benefit from the pose.
  • Get up slowly. — Also using my arm strength. Because that shit can be intense.

Of course, the whole pose can be done in a standing straddle variety — but sometimes it is nice just to sit down, you know?

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