Here’s a little anatomy quiz for you. The hip adductors are responsible for which of the following common yoga issues: (1) You have difficulty holding your legs together in inversions; (2) Your knees pop up in sitting poses like Baddha Konasana(Bound Angle Pose); (3) Your legs slip down your arms in arm balances like Bakasana (Crane Pose); (4) Your legs won’t separate very far in Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend).
Answer: All of the above. The hip adductors are a group of five muscles that occupy your inner thighs between the quadriceps on the front of the leg and the hamstrings on the back. When these muscles contract, they help draw your thighs together in poses like inversions and arm balances; when they stretch, they open up poses like Baddha Konasana and Upavistha Konasana. Whether stretching or contracting, they’re crucial in a wide variety of poses. Strengthening and stretching the inner-leg muscles will improve the aforementioned poses, and you’ll be able to sit on the floor with greater ease—to play with children or pets, perhaps—and have both greater stability and an increased sense of freedom in your walking gait.
Party of Five
Taken together, the hip adductors are about the same size as the four quads or the three hams. All five originate (attach) on your ischial tuberosity (sitting bone) or pubic bone. Two shorter adductors, the pectineus and the adductor brevis, insert on the upper posterior femur (thigh bone). Two longer ones, the adductor longus and adductor magnus, insert on the middle and lower posterior femur. The fifth member of the group, gracilis, is a long straplike muscle that extends from the pubic bone to the tibia, just below the knee.
The adductors play a role in many types of movements. When they contract, the adductors squeeze your thighs together, an action that’s known as hip adduction. Depending on your leg position, one adductor muscle or another might help to flex, extend, or rotate your hip. The gracilis also assists the hamstrings in knee flexion, or bending. And all of the adductors play an important but unheralded role in helping to stabilize the pelvis when you stand on one leg. Whenever you walk or practice a standing balancing pose like Vrksasana (Tree Pose), the adductors are working with the hip abductors—the muscles that perform the opposite action—to help prevent you from wobbling.
To feel the adductors contract, put your fingers on their common tendon just below and slightly to the side of the pubic bone. Even a moderate squeeze of the thighs toward each other elicits a big response from the muscles, and the tendon will stand out against your fingers.
In yoga poses with extended hips—such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) or Tadasana (Mountain Pose), in which the thigh is in line with or behind the torso—the adductors contract to hold your legs together. This action is especially noticeable in inversions, when gravity pulls the legs apart and down. If the adductors are weak or lack isometric endurance (the ability to hold a position for an extended length of time), it can be very difficult to hold your legs together in poses such as Sirsasana (Headstand), Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand), and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand).
Squeezes for Strength
Fortunately, there a few simple exercises you can do to help strengthen your adductors. First, find a firm inflated ball about six inches in diameter or a towel or pillow rolled to that dimension. If you struggle to bring your thighs together in inversions, start by lying on your back with the inner edges of your feet together and your soles against the wall. Or stand in Tadasana, with your feet together or nearly so. From either position, place the ball between your thighs, press in against it, and hold for 10 or 15 seconds. Do this a few times during each practice, and over the next several weeks, gradually increase the holding times. If you can squeeze and hold the ball for one minute, you should be able to hold your legs together in Sirsasana for a minimum of that amount of time.
When you’re ready to make the ball squeezing more challenging, lie on your back with your legs on the floor—but this time, don’t put your feet against the wall. In this position the adductors will have to work harder to hold the legs together as well as to compress the ball. For the greatest challenge, however, have someone place the ball between your thighs while you’re in an inversion. Exert a steady, moderate pressure to build strength and endurance in these muscles.
Strengthening the adductors with your hips extended can help your inversions and your backbends. Try squeezing a block between your thighs in Bridge Pose. Eventually, this can help correct the unwanted tendency of the feet to turn out and knees to splay. See that your feet are parallel when you place the block between your knees (the long side between the knees if you have wide hips). As the adductors work to squeeze the block, the knees stay in place. As an added bonus, this technique may help to resolve any knee pain you might have experienced in Bridge Pose.
You also need adductor strength in poses that flex the hips, like Bakasana and Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose). This time, place your ball or even a block between your thighs while sitting in a chair, feet flat on the floor, and work on squeezing it to build endurance. You can train the adductors with the abdominals—a useful combination for arm balances—by practicing Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose) with a block between the thighs. If Paripurna Navasana on its own is challenging for you, start by keeping the block in place but doing the pose with bent knees.
Here are a few final tips for strengthening your adductors. Using a block can give you valuable feedback about whether you’re pressing evenly with left and right adductors; you want to develop balanced strength. You can elicit a strong adductor contraction when your feet are off the ground (in inversions and arm balances) or when you’re lying on your back, by pressing evenly through the base of your big toes and your inner heels simultaneously. This action can really help you “get a grip” in Bakasana and other arm balances in which your legs grip your arms. Remember, as you build isometric strength by increasing the time you hold the contraction, don’t hold your breath.
Now, about stretching those adductors, particularly the short and medium-length ones, which include all but the gracilis. Shortness in these muscles limits your horizontal abduction, or your ability to spread your thighs apart when your hips are flexed in poses like Baddha Konasana, Janu Sirsasana (Head-of-the-Knee Pose),Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II), and even Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose). You can get a feel for horizontal abduction by sitting on an armless chair with your thighs spread as far apart as possible. Your adductors contract to pull your thighs back along a horizontal line (the chair seat).
Here’s a stretch sequence you can do that will improve adductor flexibility in horizontal abduction. The first position is a variation of Baddha Konasana. Lie on your side with your feet close to a wall and your torso perpendicular to it. Bend your knees and slide toward the wall until your sitting bones touch it, and then roll onto your back, straightening your legs and bringing them up the wall. Bend your knees, place the soles of your feet together, and slide your feet down the wall as close to your pubic bones as possible. Put your hands on your inner knees, and push them gently toward the wall (while simultaneously lengthening the femurs out of the hip sockets) to stretch the adductors. Breathe and relax for a minute or two.
Bring your legs back together, place the soles of your feet on the wall, and slide your body away from the wall so your hips are about 18 inches from it. Your knees should be bent over your hips. With your feet on the wall, you’ll look as though you’re sitting on a chair that’s been tipped over backward. Keeping your shins perpendicular to the wall, move your feet and thighs as far apart as possible. Imagine that your thighs are heavy and your adductors are surrendering their weight to the pull of gravity. You should feel a satisfying stretch in your inner thighs.
If you’ve tried a few of these stretching and strengthening ideas, you should have a pretty good idea of where your adductors are and what they do. And even though we spend a lot of time stretching our legs and hips—including the adductors—in yoga, it’s equally important to keep them strong. Balanced strength and flexibility: a worthy goal for your adductors as well as for your body, mind, and spirit.
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Julie Gudmestad is a physical therapist and Iyengar Yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon. She regrets that she cannot respond to requests for health advice.
8 Poses to Feel Empowered and Sexy
Feel like you’ve lost your sense of Self in the noise of social media or societal expectations? It’s time to get on the mat and reclaim who you are. Join author and yoga teacher Rina Jakubowicz for Empowered Vinyasa: Journey to Your Highest Self, a series of 10 yoga classes and companion dharma talks that zero in on principles of yoga philosophy—from The Bhagavad Gita and the Hindu spiritual tradition Vedanta—that are essential to self-exploration. Sign up today!
When I was going through a divorce 10 years ago, I used affirmation practices to try to shift my mindset during the healing process. One phrase I repeated often was “I am beautiful.”
As silly and simple as this may sound, it really helped me. Failing at a marriage is very painful and I carried a lot of judgments about myself, especially since I had been the first in the family to get a divorce. Walking around each day with this affirming thought, even if I didn’t believe it in the beginning, was life-changing. It helped me realize that my words and thoughts are powerful and that I’m in control of how I feel about myself. I began walking with confidence and maintaining a sense of calm in my communication and interactions. In addition to the affirmation practices, I started studying in the Bhagavad Gita and began to apply some of the teachings to my relationships, including in the bedroom. It took several years, but I began to develop a healthier relationship with myself and my sexuality. I learned how to break down my sexual walls and release judgment and fear to become my gorgeous, badass self from within.
I’ve learned that having sex and feeling sexy can and should come from the purest space. That will create the most euphoric and pleasurable experience for both you and your partner. I now teach “Sattvic and Sexy” workshops and courses because I want to help more women tap into this empowering space where they can stop harshly judging themselves or suppressing their sexuality.
Sattva is the highest of the three gunas (mental qualities) in Ayurveda. It means pure, poised, or objective. The lower two gunas are tamas and rajas. Tamas is a mental state of inertia, dullness, or laziness. Rajas is associated with mental agitation and hectic activity. We need rajas to move us away from tamas, but our ultimate goal is to move into sattva. If you’re passionate about something or someone but you’re overthinking, emotional, or getting caught in your head, then there’s an attachment and you’re in rajas. If you have passion from a pure place and it doesn’t control you, then you’re sattvic.
To start feeling more empowered, sexy, and content in your life and relationships, try this 8-pose sequence. Each posture is paired with an affirmation to inspire you to become the best version of yourself, both as a lady and a lover, so you can create the sex life and the spiritual life you deserve.
Then, join me for a free “Sattvic and Sexy” webinar on April 10 at 2:30 EST. I’ll share more tips for developing a healthier relationship with yourself, your sexuality, and your partner. Register today!
5 Best Yoga Poses for Runners
Although running and yoga may seem like activities that are on opposite ends of the spectrum, they really are complementary activities that work together beautifully. Running is an excellent way to exercise your whole body aerobically at a high level of intensity. The main benefit of running includes gaining muscular strength, better cardiovascular health, and losing weight. It can also be quite meditative.
However, running can be stressful on muscles, joints, and ligaments. It’s estimated that after every mile, your feet will hit the ground around 1,000 times. This means if you run about 20 miles every week, each foot will hit the ground approximately 20,000 times.
This repetitive impact may affect your hips and legs, which can lead to stiffness and sometimes even pain. For you to get rid of these stressful effects of running, practicing yoga before and after you run will help you to stay flexible, limber, and less prone to injury.
Additionally, if you are looking for a way to not get tired when running, these five yoga poses will definitely help and improve your running.
Answers to your most frequently asked questions as the virus continues to spread.
This is a rapidly developing situation. For the most up-to-date information, check resources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regularly. This story will be updated as new information becomes available.
While the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, causing running races—and many other large events—to be postponed and canceled, you might be wondering what you should do for your own personal health and how this could affect your training.
Is it safe to run outside?
Yes—in fact, it’s safer to be outside than inside when it comes to disease transmission. When people congregate together and someone sneezes or coughs, droplets get onto objects that people touch, and then people touch their face, Nieman explains. The best plan for running right now is to go out for a solo run and enjoy the outdoors.
Additionally, people might be afraid to run in the colder weather for fear of illness, but that’s not true; there is no data that you will get sick from really any respiratory pathogen when running in cold weather, Nieman says.
Getting in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to brisk activity can help your immune system keep viruses at bay. Be sure you know what’s going on in your area and if there are any restrictions or mandatory self-quarantines. And, if you’re sick or at-risk of spreading the virus, you shouldn’t go out—the bigger concern is spreading it to those who are at high risk, such as the elderly or immunocompromised.
During a self quarantine, Nieman suggests doing some exercise while staying where you are quarantined to keep healthy—doing bodyweight exercises or running on an at-home treadmill are great ways to do this. Unless you’re sick.
“If you do have flu or coronavirus, or have fever, sick people think wrongly they can ‘exercise the virus out of the system’ or ‘sweat it out,’ that’s a myth. It’s actually the opposite,” Neiman says.
Can you run outside during a shelter-in-place mandate?
Effective March 19, residents of the state of California were ordered to shelter in place until further notice, meaning everyone is to stay inside their homes and away from others as much as possible. However, as outlined in the directive first put in place in San Francisco, this allows for people to go outside and engage in solo outdoor activity, such as running, walking, and hiking, as long as people practice safe social distancing (stay six feet apart) and do not gather in groups.
And, according to a press conference, New York City may soon follow suit.
Overall, be sure to check your local public health recommendations and the current health mandates in your area, found on your state and local government website before heading anywhere for a workout. (You can find a directory of state health departments here.)
Should you avoid running in groups?
Your exposure to sick people running outside should be minimal, as someone who has a fever and a cough won’t feel like going for a run, Labus says. As of March 15, the CDC recommends that for the next 8 weeks, in-person events that consist of 50 people or more are canceled or postponed. And, the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America suggest that people avoid social gatherings of over 10 people for the next 15 days to help slow the spread.
If you find yourself in a group or on a crowded route, you could protect yourself a bit by spreading out (6 feet apart is the recommendation for safe social distancing) and avoiding unnecessary hand-touching. And of course, don’t forget to wash your hands when you get back.
Should I avoid touching traffic buttons?
The latest data with the novel coronavirus is that it does not last very long on objects outside because of the exposure to sunlight. In general, objects outside should have little virus on them, Nieman explained. However, there could be a problem if someone coughs into his or her hand immediately before touching a traffic button, and then you touch the traffic button after them. If you must touch the traffic button, do not touch your face after. Even better? Use a glove (then avoid touching your face), sleeve, or elbow.
Can coronavirus be spread through sweat?
According to the CDC, transmission of the coronavirus happens between people who are in close contact with one another (about six feet) and through respiratory droplets, produced through a cough or sneeze—not sweat.
Am I contagious if I have no symptoms?
This is one thing we don’t fully understand yet about coronavirus. You are probably contagious right before you begin to show symptoms, but we don’t know for what time period and we don’t know how contagious. It makes sense that you would be more contagious once you are coughing, but we don’t fully understand transmission yet, Labus says.
Social distancing is the answer right now, Nieman says. Experts are still trying to figure out how long the virus lives on objects, and the problem is that it appears to be highly contagious, spread easily by coughing and sneezing, and can be spread by people who don’t think they’re sick. That’s why hand-washing and not touching your face are so important.
Is my immune system weaker postmarathon or after a hard workout?
As you deplete your stores of glycogen, your immune system does not function as well as it normally does. That means in the hours following a half marathon or marathon, if you have been exposed to someone who has been sick with the flu or coronavirus, your bodies defenses are down, Neiman says. Additionally, mental or physical stress—caused by running a marathon or a very hard workout—could slightly increase your chances of becoming ill, Labus explains.
“I would caution runners to avoid long, intense runs right now until we get through all this and just to kind of keep things under control,” Nieman says. “Don’t overdo it. Be worried more about health than fitness.”
However, that doesn’t mean you need to quit running or exercising altogether. There is a very strong connection between regular exercise and a strong immune system in the first place, so the long-term immune system benefits of running far outweigh any short-term concerns, Labus says.
Are gyms safe for indoor training?
Many cities and states around the country are taking extra measures to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Gyms across the country like Barry’s Bootcamp, Mile High Run Club, and WORK Training Studio are temporarily closing out of an abundance of caution. Gyms (and other nonessential businesses) in states including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are also closed. Overall, be sure to check your local gym and local public health recommendations before heading anywhere for a workout. (You can find a directory of state health departments here.)
At this time, at-home workouts may be your best bet for keeping up your fitness routine and helping to ensure your own health and the health of those around you. Many closed gyms are offering free online streaming of their workouts.
And, no matter where you sweat, you should remember to wash your hands regularly, especially after your workout and wipe down all your equipment when you are done using it.
If my race isn’t canceled, should I go?
You might be wondering what to do about your St. Patrick’s Day 5K, or the marathon you’ve been training for. Bottom line, no. As of March 15, the CDC recommends that for the next 8 weeks, in-person events that consist of 50 people or more are canceled or postponed.
Nieman suggests that the goal right now is to avoid crowds and gatherings of people indoors and outdoors until we know better about how the virus can spread.
If my race is canceled but there are other group run events in its place, should I go?
You might be seeing group runs or unofficial races popping up in your community in place of canceled races. But any time people come together, there is a chance for the disease to spread. Again, as of March 15, the CDC recommends that for the next 8 weeks, in-person events that consist of 50 people or more are canceled or postponed. And, the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America suggest that people avoid social gatherings of over 10 people for the next 15 days to help slow the spread.
In general, be mindful of your interactions with others and take basic steps to protect yourself, like washing your hands, limiting direct contact with others, and not touching your face, you can reduce your risk of many different infections, Labus says. Remember that, even though everyone is focused on coronavirus, flu is still circulating widely.
How dangerous is spitting while running right now?
Spreading COVID-19 via spit is possible, according to Amy Treakle, M.D., an infectious disease specialist with The Polyclinic in Seattle. “COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets when a person coughs or sneezes, and transmission may occur when these droplets enter the mouths, noses, or eyes of people who are nearby. Spit contains saliva but could also contain sputum from the lungs or drainage from the posterior nasopharynx,” she says.
Sorry, snot rocketeers: Treakle says shooting mucus out of your nose isn’t any better. “Having witnessed and participated in races, I think it’s appropriate to note that this would apply to projectile nasal secretions.”
And, the spread of the particles being about six feet (current safe social distancing recommendations) is based on people standing near each other and not fast movement or strong air currents. Those could increase or decrease that distance. In a scenario where someone runs into a sneeze or a cough, that would obviously present an increased risk, says Labus. That’s why it’s important to stay in your home if you are feeling sick or have been exposed to someone who is sick, in order to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus to others.
How long can COVID-19 live on clothing?
Experts don’t yet know the risk of transmitting the virus from surfaces like clothing, Treakle says. But the World Health Organization reports that coronaviruses can remain on surfaces for a few hours up to several days. If your clothing gets hit by spit, avoid touching the area, and change your clothing as soon as possible, washing your hands afterward. To disinfect clothing, wash it in hot water and use the dryer’s high setting.
Training for my first marathon led to runners’ highs and a few lows as I pushed my average unfit body to its physical — and mental — limits.