I’ve always been active – and now as I reflect back, I’ve also always had trouble with my knees, hips and feet. It was something I never really thought about until my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training two years ago when I was injured on day two during a Tadasana intensive. Tadasana. Standing up straight and aligned.
I was born with hips that were internally rotated and wore leg casts as an infant. As a toddler, I wore shoes with a bar across the soles to keep my feet and legs from turning in. My younger years (5-10) were spent in ballet classes where teachers would try to correct “my turned-in legs”. I didn’t help. Eventually, I left ballet (yay!) and went about pursuing other sports. As I grew up, there were repeated visits to the orthopedic doctor; severe shin splints, slipped kneecaps, various strains and sprains all followed up with physical therapy and finally orthotics – custom made inserts for my shoes – all before the age of 12. I had extremely high arches, weak ankles, and my knees continued to turn in towards each other. I also had a lovely party trick: I could (and still can) pop my femur head out of its socket. I used to think it was amusing, now I know it’s a sign of weakness and misalignment.
Fast forward 35 plus years… A year or so prior to my teacher training, I was beginning to have hip pain again. I was becoming aware that my right knee was starting to turn in more and my standing poses were becoming increasingly more difficult and uncomfortable (especially on the right side). As an avid jogger, I was no longer able to jog without pain. I continued my yoga classes becoming more and more aware of my legs and hips, trying consciously to correct them by turning my inner thighs forward so my knees would face forward.
After an extremely intense practice on Day 2 of my Teacher Training, we split up into groups for a deep study of Tadasana, also known as Standing Mountain Pose. The teacher was trying to get me to center my knees and engage my outer thighs. Wanting desperately to please, I did what she said, even though my hips and knees were feeling uncomfortable. As a result of her instruction, as I looked in the mirror, I saw completely aligned legs – hips, knees, ankles all in one beautiful line – a sight absolutely uncommon to me. We worked for at least 10 minutes and my body was exhausted.
As we broke for lunch, I sat down, extended my right leg, and KA-POW! Pain, like I’d never experienced before, shooting from the right knee up to my hip and down to my foot. I stood up, tried to put weight on my leg and couldn’t. I had no strength. It was weeks before I could walk or sit with out pain. I went to a great chiropractic body worker. No real diagnosis – overstretched ligaments, he thought. As I continued treatment, he came to realize my bigger problem was an extremely weak gluteus medius. It seemed the glute medius was asleep on the right side and the neural pathway was severely undeveloped.
This was the introduction to, and the beginning of the relationship with my gluteus medius.
Sandwiched between the gluteus minimus and the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius shares actions with both of these muscles.
The glute medius lies on top of the glute minimus and is covered in part (posterior 2/3) by the gluteus maximus. This medium sized muscle originates on the outer surface of the ilium and inserts into the lateral aspect of the greater trochanter – the knob like protrusion at the top end of the femur bone, our “hip bump” area.
Primarily, with all fibers contracted, the gluteus medius, abducts the hip, lifting the leg out to the side. The anterior fibers, when engaged, medially or internally rotate the hip and the posterior fibers are responsible for hip extension and external rotation.
The gluteus medius is active when climbing stairs, running, cycling, swimming, skating, dancing and many other activities. This lovely muscle is also a main stabilizer of the hip for the above actions, as well as one-legged standing poses in yoga like Virabhadrasana III, Standing Splits, and Vrksasana.
When inflamed, it can cause pain, swelling and tenderness on the outside of the hip, limping when walking or running and weakness, just like I was experiencing.
After my pain started to subside, I had to learn how to awaken my gluteus medius, especially on my right side… Enter Yoga Tune Up!
Come back on Friday to find out my favorite Yoga Tune Up® exercises to awaken and strengthen my gluteus medius.