The outward appearance of the gluteal group, particularly our grand gluteus maximus, causes as much pride as consternation in our culture than perhaps any other muscle set. The truth is, the muscles that make up this key cluster at the posterior of our bodies deserve to be honored for the amazing work they perform for us everyday-regardless of their outward appearance.
There are several muscle sets located at the hips, and we’ve met a few of them in previous Yoga Tune Up® blogs, including the Tensor Fasciae Latae and the Piriformis. Here we will examine the gluteal group, and the Yoga Tune Up ® exercises that can provide flexibility and strength to this area. We will discover that one common result of tightness and over-training of this group of muscles is once again low back pain, and limitations in one’s yoga practice as well. As usual, inordinate amounts of time in any activity: sitting at work, riding the bicycle, the horse, or even running, creates imbalances through under or over use.
In yoga, as in life, symmetry, equanimity, and the realization that the impact of our actions will reverberate throughout our being can motivate us to become more aware and conscious. In this case, let’s raise glute consciousness.
The three muscles of the gluteal group are Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus. Their names reflect the size of the muscle, and somewhat indicate their location from superficial (maximus) to deep (minimus).
The strong gluteus maximus is closest to the skin’s surface. It’s work is to extend the hip. For example, when taking Warrior I in yoga, it works with the hamstrings to extend the back leg. This muscle also externally rotates the hip, and helps to move the thigh away from the body (abduction).
Now, we wouldn’t want to continue discussion the gluteal group without acknowledgement of the padding and insulation in the buttock area. This padding and insulation is called adipose tissue, and by and large this tissue (otherwise known as um, fat) is necessary and a good thing, in moderation. (For recent information on the advantages of the “pear” shape see): http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100116104535.htm
So as we discover our glutes, you’ll also encounter your adipose…tissue. Stand with your feet hip width apart, take a giant step back as in a simple lunge or Warrior I. Place your hand on the buttock of the back leg. You should feel the gluteus maximus contract.
The gluteus medius is located more to the upper outer part of the hip. It is partially covered by the gluteus maximus muscle. The Gluteus Medius is crucial for stabilizing and equalizing, or as we say in Yoga Tune Up®, joint-stacking our hips. The classic side lying leg lift exercise helps to target and strengthen the gluteus medius. In yoga, the back leg in triangle also activates the gluteus medius.
The Gluteus Minimus is situated beneath the gluteus medius. The minimus stabilizes our hips, rotates our thigh inward, and also abducts the hips. Some of these yoga poses to strengthen glutes are opposite of the gluteus maximus, but the gluteal group is so large that it can work in many different directions to keep the hip in harmony.
Wake Up Your Gluteus Medius
For a wonderful awakening of the gluteus medius, practice the Yoga Tune Up® pose Leg stretch #3.
And remember to appreciate your glutes for the functions they perform for us in everyday activities!
Watch our Free 5-Minute Quickfix: Hips Video
Learn about our programs to relieve hip pain.
Learn about our Therapy Balls Program for your lower back.