I have been placing extra attention on the outer hip musculature lately with an attempt to free up, what seems like, a life time of congestion in and around the hip capsules. Besides the obvious deep lateral rotator and gluteal muscle tension, I have been particularly prone to extreme tightness in the tensor fascia lata and iliotibial band (outer thigh running from the hip crest down to the outer knee).
I have enjoyed ample openness in my hamstrings making poses like Triangle quite fluid to enter, but rotate my position into Revolving Triangle and my outer hips go on fire. So this brings on the motivation to dissolve this resistance in the hips.
One pose that I find can be a nice preparation for the outer hips is Warrior 3 Balance. We typically associate this pose with conditioning the back and major gluteal muscles due to the horizontal position of the torso (extensor muscles of the back and hips become prime engagers).
What can often be missed out in Warrior 3 are the outer hips. Due to efforts to counter balance the body, you will often see (and experience) the hip of the elevated leg rise relative to the other hip (ie hip is tilted open to the side which is a variation of ‘horizontal abduction’ of the hip/thigh). In an organic sense, this is not necessarily incorrect positioning, but why miss out on engaging more advantages in this pose.
By squaring the hips level with the mat, you essentially are increasing the amount of ‘horizontal adduction’ of the supporting thigh/hip (visualize from Mountain Pose, one hip/thigh flexed and the thigh moving into the center line). Since the tensor fascia lata and deep gluteal muscles (medius and minimus) function to abduct the thigh/hip, this squaring motion counters their functional motion when contracting and adds a direct stretch.
You can see in the accompanying image that I still have a slight lift of the free hip. This is more noticeable from the angle of the free foot. You can that my shin and foot are turning outwards slightly. This is a good indicator that the free hip is elevated. With more squared hips, the free foot would have less outwards turn with the sensation that the big toe is pointing down versus side.
Working in Warrior 3 with squared the hips is an excellent preparation for poses like Revolving Triangle:
-warms up hip and thigh muscles making muscles more receptive to stretching
-provides a pre-stretch of outer hip and hamstring muscles
-gives proprioceptive (body awareness) reminder of the key pelvic alignment needed in the Twisting Triangle with emphasis on avoiding vertebral compression as you rotate the spine
If you are blessed with fluid outer hips and IT bands, be mindful that this squaring motion is not exaggerated. Only square to a horizontal line to mimic the neutral pelvic alignment of Mountain Pose, and not collapse the free hip below the level of the supporting hip.
5 Replies to “Intention Pose of the Day: Warrior 3 Balance”
Wonderfully insightful breakdown of how and why the outer hip is so involved in vira C-thank you!
Thanks Amy … just a side to consider, these outer hip muscles that we are attempting to stretch by squaring the hips are also stabilizing the posture. Therefore, you will be stretching while they are contracting. Namaste, Kreg
I have a student, around 60 or 65 and very strong and flexible, practicing yoga for many years. She has issues in her right hip especially during warrior 3. When she’s balancing on her right side, she has the sensation that she is “collapsing into her hip socket” (her words), and in fact feels very weak like she may fall over. Her left is fine. She pointed to the collapse being more on the adductor side (she pointed to it by drawing her hand behind her right hip and pressing into the inner/posterior part of her groin/hip). Also, she has trouble with her feet and has had surgery on one or both (can’t remember which). I think she has some pins in one or two toes.
Any suggestions for her? She has had no relief from her sport physiotherapist who came highly recommended to her. She stopped seeing him and said she gets more out of yoga. That’s great, but I would like to possibly support her to prevent further issues. Any recommendations?
Lesley (from Nanaimo! Hi again!)
My first thought is she is lacking stability from her right abductors – in particular, Gluteus Minimus, Gluteus Medius, and possibly the Tensor Fascia Latae – but more so, those deeper gluts. In walking, running and other standing patterns, those deep gluts keep the pelvis from dropping on the other side. Try Tree pose and relax the outer supporting hip – feel what happens to the opposite side – it drops. Then, contract those outer hip muscles on the standing leg – feel the opposite lift and the spine/pelvis levels out.
In Warrior 3, this is an extreme variation – the outer glut muscles are trying to hold up the pelvis and the entire chain of upper body and free leg. If she has dyfunction in those deep gluts, she may be collapsing the hip and feeling the sensation of falling into the hip socket.
So, test her out with Tree Pose. How is her ability to level her hips using the outer gluts. Before bringing awareness to this – she what she automatically does OR doesn’t do on both sides in Tree Pose. Does one side stay naturally level where the other side sinks? If so, bring attention to utilizing more of those deep glut muscles to level the pelvis on both sides.
See if that is the problem – if so, then you have come closer to solving the problem. Note: the dysfunction in the gluts can be related to dysfunction down the chain of joints (feet, knees, SI joint, spine). But at least you can try isolating one of the dysfunctional points.
Great Info. Thanks for the detailed response. You’re super smart! Will be seeing her on Tuesday and I look forward to discussing it with her. Have a wonderful Sunday! Lesley
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