In the last hip yoga post, I detailed a reclined stretching pose. For the next few posts of the series, I’m going to look at postures that contract and strengthen the hip adductors. (As someone with tight complementary muscles — aka., the hip abductors — I assure you that this hurts me more than it hurts you.) Today I’m looking at a standing posture; however, for folks for whom standing is not the best of all possible worlds, floor poses are certainly in this blog’s future.
Today’s asana is eagle pose, a fairly involved standing balance that incorporates hip adduction as one of its elements. It also calls on lower body strength, core stability, and shoulder stretching for the pose.
[Chelsey Korus instructing for Howcast. Video via YouTube.]
In terms of adductor action, it’s the adductors — specifically adductor magnus — that we’re focusing on here. The top thigh is crossing the midline of the body, creating some adductor engagement and contraction. If you do a thing known as “hugging the midline” — basically, making sure the core is engaged, then squeezing the left and right thighs toward one another, creating some stability in the spine and pelvis — it can intensify the top leg adduction.
In terms of the rest of the posture, well, let’s just say that it’s a pose with a lot going on. In case of possible overwhelmedness:
- It is totally reasonable to separate out the shoulder business from the leg business and to only do one or the other (at a time or at all) until such time as you feel comfortable adding on.
- Some instructors teach to enter the pose legs first, then arms. Some teach arms first, then legs. While that second option is what works for me personally, there is no actual magic answer. It’s fine to do whichever is easiest for you.
- You can also do this pose with your bum lightly resting against a wall for balance.
Also to complicate matters, the many arm and leg options for the pose. Legs first this time, just because:
- One option is to cross the top leg over the standing leg, then rest the top toes (as much or as little as is good for you) on the ground. This does lessen the work in the top adductor; on the flip side, it aids stability and balance. Personally, I am a fan of this leg option when I want to concentrate more on the shoulder stretch, so I want a leg position where toppling over is less of a looming possibility.
- Another option is to cross the top leg over the standing leg just one time, so that the outside edge of the top foot or calf is moving toward touching the outside edge of the standing calf. This ends up being the option I take most often because I like the balance challenge, but I don’t like the wiggling and wriggling I have to do to take option three.
- The last leg option I know involves crossing the top thigh over, as in the second option, but then continuing the wrap with the lower leg so that the top foot is tucked behind the standing calf. Because of the girth of my legs (thighs and calves) and the non-flexibility of my hip abductors (which are getting stretched here), this variation is often a PITA for me to get into, so I usually pretend it doesn’t even exist.
And the arms:
- One option involves placing the hands on opposite shoulders, sort of like giving yourself a hug, and lifting up through the elbows (which are more or less lined up on top of one another at the center line of the chest). I sometimes take this option when my shoulders are feeling extra tight or when I want to focus more on my hips.
- The next option involves lifting the forearms so they’re vertical and back to back with one another. This is a pretty commonly offered variation, so I’m guessing it’s useful for folks for whom the first option isn’t enough shoulder stretch but for whom the third option is also less workable. (For me, my forearms and wrists are happy to do the twisting thing, so I rarely take this arm variation.)
- The final option involves raising the forearms, then sort of twisting them around one another so that the palms come more or less to touch. (I end up touching palms to fingertips, and I vote that’s good enough.) For me, at least, this variation doesn’t increase the shoulder stretch any over the second option. What it does do, however, is to create a convenient “lock” that helps keep my arms from slipping out of position.
Which. Yeah. A lot to think about.
For next time, maybe I can find some non-standing options for eagle?