In Yoga Tune Up®, we take the body apart muscle by muscle in order to put it back together again in a healthier, more balanced way. What this part by part method can teach us is that every part of us needs individual attention: one part out of whack can cause a chain reaction throughout the body. Take the hip flexors for example. Their main job anatomically is to bring the front side of your thigh closer to your belly. That means they are working when you walk up stairs, do a Warrior Pose, dance the Can-Can or do a Ninja Kick. They get shorted whenever we are sitting whether we are at work, driving, watching TV or reading Yoga Tune Up® Blogs. If your hip flexors are shortened because of the kind of work that you ask them to do, you may have an anteriorly tilted pelvis, which means that if you imagined that your hips are a bowl full water, the front lip of that bowl is tipped forward and down so that the water pours out onto your feet. To take that one step further, if the front lip is tipped forward and down, then the back edge must be lifted, so the muscles in your low back may be tight and painful as well.
Now that we have zoomed out to look at the bigger picture, let us refine our view in true Yoga Tune Up® fashion. One of the hip flexors that can be tight is called the Tensor Fasciae Latae. If your find the boney protrusion on the front of your hips and place your heel of the hand on that, and then reach your fingers towards the seam of your pants diagonally, you will be right over your TFL.
The Tensor Fasciae Latae may sound like the newest specialty beverage at the local coffee shop, but it is in fact a muscle of the lower extremity. It attaches from the Anterior Superior Iliac Spine (the front of your hip that you were just poking) to the Iliotibial band, otherwise known as the often sore strip of fascia right under the athletic stripe on your workout pants. When activated, the TFL flexes, abducts, and medially rotates the thigh at the hip joint. The TFL works when you are walking, standing, balancing on one leg, but not so much when you are lying in savasana. If your TFL is weak, it increases the likelihood that you walk like a duck with your feet turned out, and if it is tight, chances are good that you feel a lot of tension down the side of your thigh through the iliotibial band. Because it is a hip flexor and most humans in this part of the world spend most of their time sitting, chances are good that it is somewhat shortened. Add to that the fact that many of the activities we do to make up for our sedentary life styles include a lot of hip flexion, (running, power walking, kick boxing, remember step classes(!) and even yoga), it’s a pretty good bet that your TFL needs a little TLC. Here are three Yoga Tune Up® poses that get at that overworked under-appreciated coffee beverage, uh, make that, muscle.
- Abductor Lifts static or Dynamic
- Triangle in Parallel
- Bridge Lifts Minivini
I’ll be including a video clip of the Bridge Lifts with my blog on Friday!