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.