The groin. It’s where your inner thigh connects to your pelvis. And it’s most assuredly not a joyous feeling when it’s injured. It certainly hasn’t been a joy for one of my students who approached me about it recently. He said he strained a groin-area muscle in his right leg while doing Triangle pose in another class with another teacher. Now, each time he re-attempts Triangle, the pain reminds him naggingly that it’s still there. He described the muscle believed to be afflicted as the one that feels like it goes straight up and down on the inner thigh, from the pelvis to the knee. Signs point to the gracilis as a possible culprit.
The gracilis belongs to the Adductor Magnus group, located on the inner thigh, which adducts or draws the legs together. the primary function of which is to carry the legs backwards and toward the conceptual vertical midline of the body. It’s like an inner-thigh version of the iliotibial band, or IT band, a tract of tissue – but not a muscle – covering the majority of the outer thigh, from the hip to the knee. Both the inner thigh muscles and the IT band are regions that are rarely trouble-free. I have a triathlete student whose outer thighs are about as flexible as granite countertops. Consequently, she finds tremendous displeasure in Twisted Triangle. To further complicate matters of mobility, tightness in the hamstrings can impact the suppleness in the sides of the legs, and vice versa. If any of these areas are exceptionally bound, it can produce trouble for your Triangles.
Several scenarios suggest what could be happening with my student with groin discomfort:
- His outer thigh is atypically strong and overworked, whereas his inner thigh is weak and underdeveloped.
- He has rigidity in the fascia, particularly in the lower back and hamstring region. Fascia is connective tissue that can be described as anatomical plastic wrap in and around the muscles. A primary sheath of it covers virtually the entire back side of the body, starting just above the eyebrows, wrapping over the head and going all the way down into the feet. So, it’s possible that something is very tight in the back side of his body, preventing loose movement in the groin and around the legs.
- His right hip flexor could also be locked up. The primary hip flexor, called the iliopsoas (or psoas, for short), is attached to the inner thigh, pelvis and lower spinal bones. However, this possibility doesn’t seem as likely, because the hip flexor’s spinal attachments don’t seem to be pulling his back into an overly rounded position.
- Finally, he just could have become excited at the thought of Triangle pose and leaned over in a momentum-based movement that exerted just enough force to cause a strain.
If you are suffering a similar predicament, try the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls to roll out your lower back, gluteal muscles and hamstrings, which could help relinquish some of the nervous system’s grip on your inner thighs. But, I would not recommend attempting to roll out your inner thighs; there is tender vasculature there that shouldn’t be subjected to deep pressure.
To fortify as well as loosen your whole hip region dynamically in preparation for Triangle or Twisted Triangle, try the Half Happy Baby Minivini (video demonstration coming next week). Not only is this inner thigh stretch fun to say, it’s fun to do. It also feels great. It takes your legs and hips through many ranges of motion, a perfect way to prime yourself for standing postures. One time, I had students do this, then Triangle pose shortly thereafter. An enthusiastic lady approached me following class to report that she was able to lean over and go deeper than she ever had in Triangle. In the event that a tight or possibly weak hip flexor is to blame for Triangle troubles, try my variation of the Psoas Spiral (video demonstration also coming next week). Here’s hoping these groin and inner thigh pain relief tips work for you, too.
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Thanks so much for your article! Finally realize that one can not isolate the function of the psoas from the Iliacus!
Thank you for these tips, especially for the warning not to roll out the inner thigh. I have been wondering which parts of the body are not good for rolling (because, well, if something feels really good we want to do it all over and all the time). The Happy Baby mini-vini is also super helpful for those classes where we don’t have balls but want to provide some of this relief from/preparation for poses like triangle. Bonus thanks to commenter Clare Chura for the suggestion on a twisted triangle modified stretch.
It was really helpful to read your post in preparation for teaching Triangle as the peak pose in the YTU Level One training. Thinking about the gracilllis (as an inner thigh adductor) and relating it to the it band on the outside (abductor) of the leg is a great concept. Both muscles have a lot of power in the body. Also, following the series of my poses, it will be great to utilize the YTU Therapy balls to open up the low back (QL), gluteus and hamstrings. Thank you for sharing as this post is helping me with my 10 minute sequence for the Training.
Great advice on how to help you triangle will have to keep those in mind! Looking forward to the videos in the next post.
Loved the analysis about what might be wrong with your student. Makes sense. Also appreciate the 1/2 happy baby mini vini to prelude trikonasana. I find too that most are weak and out of balance at the adductor with overly tight abductors. Thanks
I loved the way you explained the connection that everything has. Like a problem solving situation, following the trails to possible outcomes. This is super helpful and I wish I had known this information back when I pulled a muscle in my groin! Now, I’m armed with knowledge!!
i like the “finally, he may have just become excited at the thought of triangle…” – thanks for all the great suggestions for some inner thigh strain relief.
Loved this breakdown and explanation of how (tight) hamstrings and adductors are related. Many students love triangle…loosening these areas (hamstrings) will help them get more comfortable and perform it safely. This anatomy picture/diagram was perfect too…just enough information without over complication.
Is there a time that you would recommend rolling out your inner thighs?
This was a great article. I have a client who tore one of his adductor muscles as a teenager and it still causes trouble. It starts to settle down and then a weekly hockey game will acerbate the problem again. I will definitely start to manipulate the tissues you describe. Hopefully a little more space in the antagonists will let the old injury heal and then we can start to build ROM again.
More than fascia and the phenomena of tight muscles, couldn’t your student’s problem be linked to overuse and bad form? You mention an overworked outer thigh, fascia issues, and right hip flexor pain but aren’t these more about creating a body that can’t do triangle or twisted triangle. Maybe half happy baby and modifications are the only postures he (your client) should attempt while pursuing being a triathlete?
[…] Flexibility, Leg Stretch, stretching, Yoga Pose When I first started practicing yoga, I was a hot mess in Triangle Pose. I thought that if I touched the floor with my hand, I was achieving the best possible version of […]
Kneading the massage balls onto the outer thigh muscles and IT band is an ideal mechanism for breaking up and softening tight muscle tissue. Before I discovered massage balls, I practiced a variation of twisted triangle that deeply engages the outer hip muscles and stretches the IT band as well. In this pose, both hands are placed shoulder-width apart on blocks along the pinky toe side of the front foot. From here, the student can walk his hands outward and/or backwards, laterally rotating the spine and ankle joints. The stretch is held for a few breaths once the student reaches his flexibility peak. At this point, the spine is neutral/straight, and the hip joints are laterally abducted into a straddle position (pinky toe sides of the feet face each other). It makes for a great alternative stretch if massage balls aren’t available to the student.
Wow, thank you so much! I learned so much from this article. Good to know not to roll out inner thigh and better to work with opening the hips and hamstrings, and possible lower back. I will definitely keep this in mind next time I encounter someone with a groin issue.
I really appreciate the descriptions of what could be causing the issue with the groin pain! Also, thank you for suggesting a safe and fun alternative to Triangle pose.
I’m new to the triangle pose – thanks for the great tips and most importantly how to avoid an adductor strain while performing it.
It’s so cool how interconnected the body is that massaging the areas around the inner groin like the glutes, lower back, and hamstrings can cause direct relief for a sprained groin. Fascia facinates me! It’s a beautiful system.
Great comparison of the Gracilis and IT band. The gracilis also plays a very important role when keeping good knee alignment when squatting. Great choice with happy baby mini vini! Such a fun dynamic pose!!
Thanks. Well written and I will defo give it a go. One happy baby mini vini coming right up.
I have serious psoas pain in one side – I credit it partially to triathlon training, and partially to the left knee surgeries of my rugby-laden past. Rolling my IT bands (which I think is actually felt deeper into the vastus lateralus?), my lateral hip rotators, & gluteus muscles helps tremendously – but I’d love to see/learn from your psoas spiral video. Where can i find it?
Thank you, everyone, for your comments. T’ai, it sounds as if you’re working on a position similar to Lotus Pose. I’d say as long as it doesn’t feel like it’s tweaking your knee and that you’re maintaing a dorsiflexed ankle, you’ll be okay to practice this pose for brief periods. Long holds of Lotus can change the bloodflow in the body. I’ve also heard about people who’ve held it for much too long (20-30 minutes) and have gotten temporarily numb sensations in their legs. Proceed with caution and do what feels right!
Such great information Claiborne. As a cyclist this is an especially needy area for me, While the quads (especially the vastus medialiis and lateralis) and hamstrings get worked mightily but the adductor and abductor groups tend to get ignored. Thanks for the reminder to do all that work.
This is a very informative post. It’s helpful to know what NOT to do, (rolling balls on inner thighs) as this could cause even more issues. Would like to see the videos, anyone know where to find them?
Thank you for the great information on the inner thigh. So often we don’t notice a muscle until it is too tight or injured. It’s nice to have a picture of what’s going on in there and how to dissect possible issues. I find it fascinating how one muscle can link to a completely different part of the body.
I had a male student in my class a few weeks ago who informed me at the beginning of the class that he had injured his groin muscles and may not able to do some poses. I greatly appreciated the information so that I would not try to encourage him to stretch in a pose that would be too uncomfortable for him but was at a loss for suggesting any form of therapeutic exercises. This article was a tremendous help. Now the next time someone comes into my class with a groin injury I am ready!
It’s super helpful to think of the Gracilis as an inner thigh version of the ITB. This is a muscle group that we so often take for granted until something goes wrong. These groin injuries are fairly common among soccer players, who unfortunately tend to “play through” their injuries. I appreciate hearing that the Tune Up Balls on the “lower back, gluteal muscles and hamstrings, could help relinquish some of the nervous system’s grip on your inner thighs” as we are often at a loss for how to care for these precarious groin adductors.
This blog post has motivated me to look into my anatomy books more closely for additional information about the vasculature you refer to that is contra indicated for the balls. I look forward to your video posting.
I have to say a little Tui Na/self massage with the outer edge of the forearm or palm can be nice for the inner groin (not upon injury) but as a genial practice, I sit (old man) crossed leg with my hip externally rotated and my ankle crossed over thigh in order to find the tension of the muscle… do you think this is risky specifically if worked deeply or aggressively? I love the outer hips therapy but sometimes it is nice to get a little bit more personal… and work the inner groin. what do you think?