What Might Help: Hip Issues Introduction

Here you’ll find information about:

  1. Bringing focus to engaging the gluteus maximus
  2. Practicing from a supine or prone position
  3. Balancing the tone of the adductors and gluteus medius
  4. Re-establishing joint position after hip stretching poses
  5. Have a yoga therapist you trust for referrals and consultation

Focus on the Glutes

  • Bringing focus to engaging the gluteus maximus will keep the femur more centered in the hip socket, reducing overall wear and tear on the hip joint. (Doug Keller)

Take the Weight Off!

  • Because of the weight-bearing nature of the hip joint, it may be wise for students with hip issues to practice exercises and yoga from a supine or prone position. (Gary Kraftsow)

Balance Opposing Muscles

  • Balancing the tone of the adductors and gluteus medius will keep the head of the femur more centered in the hip socket, reducing overall wear and tear on the hip joint. (Doug Keller)
  • This may be accomplished by releasing tension held in the groin area (the upper part of the inner thighs) while simultaneously extending through the legs. Avoid overusing the buttock muscles or hardening the groin.
  • Expert Doug Keller explains, “The block teaches us how to soften the groin and draw the upper inner thighs back toward the sit bones — without simultaneously rotating the thighbones. In the process, the stage is set for the balancing action of the gluteus medius.” See Keller’s advice and suggestions here.
  • See this Sequencewiz sequence for strengthening abductors and lengthening adductors.

Engaging the Gluteus Maximus

When gluteus maximus engages, a number of other muscles also co-contract, or engage along with it — principally the quadriceps, but also the adductors (inner thigh muscles), which complement the action of the gluteals as abductors… As a result of these co-contractions (including a slight contraction of the psoas at the front of the hip joint), the head of the femur remains more centered in the hip socket, reducing overall wear and tear on the hip joint. If, by contrast, gluteus maximus is not engaged, the actions of the other muscles are less likely to support good alignment of the hip, and the hip joint itself — particularly at the front of the joint — can begin to wear down, leading to serious problems in the hip joint. – Doug Keller

Re-Establish Joint Position After Stretching

Pain after practicing “hip openers” may be related to decreased proprioception; it may help to practice a technique to re-establish joint position after hip opening poses. (Ray Long)

Following a hip opening sequence, and before Savasana, I utilize an intermediate version of Warrior II, where the forward knee and hip are not flexing deeply. Then I “co-activate” the hip muscles in the forward leg (co-activation involves simultaneously contracting muscles that have opposite actions). The cue for this is to imagine pressing the inside of the knee into an immoveable object while at the same time pressing the outside of the knee into a similar object. (The knee remains centered and does not move). This engages both the hip adductors and abductors, as well as the internal and external rotators in a position where the joint is in the mid-range of motion. Done properly, this cue should give a feeling of stability in the hip joint. Since it is a neurological process, this technique does not require strong muscular contraction; I only utilize just enough strength to feel the muscles engage and the hip stabilize. Furthermore, the cue only requires a short duration. I have been using 20 seconds, repeated twice on each side. – Ray Long

Private Sessions and/or Yoga Therapy

You may wish to note how yoga therapists might approach such issues. This highlights the limitations faced in a group class and points to the value in having a yoga therapist you trust for referrals and consultation.

Gary Kraftsow explains how yoga therapists work with identified issues, using a three-step process:

  1. Stop actions which cause irritation
  2. Carefully introduce activities that improve the condition, and
  3. Modify movement patterns

Observing Tracking

In working the hips and knees, the main point to consider is the tracking of the legs from the hip to the foot. Tracking refers to the way the distinct segments of the leg relate to each other, and is the result of musculoskeletal conditions and neuromuscular patterns…. We can notice different tracking from the ankles to the knees, and from the knees to the hips. There are people whose knees turn in while their ankles turn out; others who have one knee that turns in more than the other; and still others have knees that turn out. There are all kinds of tracking differences. The origin of our tracking patterns may be in the musculature of the pelvis, the length of the bones of the legs, or even in the condition of the ankles and feet… It is advisable to watch our knees and see how they are responding before we try to impose a rigid form on our legs. – Gary Kraftsow,