A few years back I was in India for an entire month to do my 200 hour teacher training. I meditated daily without any extra support from props or walls (I was in a palapa), and I had lectures all afternoon, again without props or walls. Needless to say, I started to hurt everywhere, but the majority of pain was felt on the medial side of my knee. At the time I had no idea why. All I knew that the pain “magically” disappeared when I left India. After some self study and research I came to the conclusion that I had an angry sartorius, causing knee pain. Here’s why:
The sartorius come from the Latin word sartor which means tailor and is often referred to as the tailor’s muscle. I have always known I had tight hips and that sitting cross legged was never comfortable, but what the heck did that have to do with my knee? The sartorius is the longest muscle in the body, starting at the anterior superior iliac spine (aka your hip bone), then obliquely crossing the thigh and ending at the inside or medial knee where it joins the gracilis and semitendinosus muscles to form the pes anserinus attachment on the tibia (lower leg bone). This muscle gets credit for extending the femur, but in reality it is an amazing flexor! It not only flexes and abducts the hip but also externally rotates the hip all while internally rotating a flexed knee. With the sartorius muscle’s many functions, this long superficial muscle is busy (and I would argue it’s only superficial anatomically, as it is deep and complex in movement!)
In everyday life, you activate this muscle by crossing your ankle over your thigh while sitting or looking at the bottom of your shoe to see if you stepped in gum. Kicking
a soccer ball highlights this muscle in sports as does the breast stroke kick. In yoga, vrksasana or tree pose best exposes all the actions of the sartorius.
Voila! In India, I was forcing external rotation of my hip far beyond my range of motion and stressing the sartorius. If I simply elevated my hips on a bolster or cushion, the external rotation of the hips would have been taken down a few notches and my hips, knees and definitely my attitude would have been a whole lot happier!
Stay tuned for my next post where I give you a Yoga Tune Up® pose where the sartorius is both stretched and strengthened for overall knee and hip balance.