Movement Monday: Hip Abduction and Adduction

When we’re thinking about doing asana, or yoga poses, we are often inclined to think about the shapes our bodies are making, or maybe what muscles are contracting or stretching.

If we want to move and feel better, however, it might be helpful to think instead of the bones.

If you missed the previous Movement Monday posts about the hip joints, you can get all caught up here:

In this post, we’ll be looking at two movements of the hip joint. In abduction, the thigh bone moves out to the side, away from the midline. In adduction, the thigh bone moves toward or across the midline. (See below.) It’s worth noting that these are two separate movements. I am choosing to combine them in one post because of the exercise I’m highlighting, but you definitely can work on one at a time if you prefer!

Bertha the Pelvis does abduction and adduction with some difficulty on account of being held together by elastics.

Just like with the other hip movements we’ve seen in this series, ab- and adduction can be done on their own, with the pelvis stable. They can also be combined with movement through the pelvis and spine to take the leg further through space. Clues that pelvic/ spinal movement is occurring are:

  • You notice that one hip lifts or drops as you move the leg.
  • You notice that the side waist shortens on one side.
  • One hip comes forward as you move the leg.
  • The leg moves back behind you as it comes out to the side.

Sometimes we also combine hip abduction or adduction with other movements of the hip. For example, we might rotate the thigh bone as we take it out to the side. This can be intentional or unintentional.

As always, combining movements is natural, and a perfectly good strategy for moving through the world and getting things done. In addition, when it’s the only way we can do a movement, it can sometimes be limiting. Learning to isolate and get better at movements on their own is a helpful tool for improving our overall movement and having more options for how we move.

Hip Abduction and Adduction in Asana Practice

Hip abduction and adduction are movements we rely on in our asana, or postural yoga practice. Here are just a few examples of poses where they occur:

  • Wide legged poses such as: Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2), Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-legged Forward Bend), and many others
  • Balancing poses such as: Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) or Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana B (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) where one leg lifts to the side

The poses above use abduction to enter the pose and adduction to come out. In many of them, these movements are being combined with other hip movements such as rotation. There are also poses like Garudasana (Eagle Pose) that we enter with hip adduction.

In Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2 Pose), both legs are abducted, or moved away from the midline, as you come into the pose. To come out, the legs are adducted to bring them back together.

To work on your ability to do abduction and adduction of the hip, it helps to isolate the movement first and then play with how it combines with other movements. We get better at what we practice, so doing these movements well on their own and in combination will increase your options in both yoga postures and daily life.

Today’s videos show ways to explore hip abduction and adduction lying down and in standing. Take this awareness into any poses where you’re doing these movements, and see what you notice. Keep in mind that when you come into a wide-legged standing pose, both feet stay on the ground and both legs coming into abduction (as opposed to one at a time in these videos).

Are you using other movements to get you into these poses, and how does that feel? If it feels good, no problem. If it feels less good, play with making the movements smaller so you can focus on one movement at a time and see if that helps.

Hip Abduction and Adduction – lying down

Hip Abduction and Adduction in standing

Still feeling unsure about what your hips are doing in your asana (postural yoga) practice? Sometimes the key to clarity is another set of eyes. I have a private workshop on the hips where I dedicate a whole hour to observing and working on the movements your hips need for your postural yoga practice and beyond. Or join me for a group class to see how these movements fit into an hour-long practice.

The information, instruction, and advice contained in this video and post are in no way intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content is for general informational purposes only. Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor before beginning this or any exercise program.

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