Adductors, the Pelvic Floor and Lower Back Pain

By Niki Vetten

Pelvic floor contractions are used in Yoga as part of Pranayama practise- Mula Bandha. The pelvic floor also has an important stabilising function, as it controls the forward and backward movements of the Sacrum – these movements are also called Nutation and Counter Nutation. If the pelvic floor is tight and inelastic, the Sacrum remains tucked (Nutated) in all movements, which can contribute to lower-back pain because a lack of movement here can flatten the natural curve of the lower back.

Use of Mula Bandha does not tighten the Pelvic floor muscles, but helps to keep them strong and elastic. The pelvic floor is inelastic if either the Hip Flexors or Adductor muscles are tight. Out-dated anatomy textbooks will tell you that the Adductor muscles are only used to bring the legs towards or across the centre-line of the body and that they are weak unless the person either rides horses or is a breast-stroke swimmer. In fact, the adductors are important stabilisers of the legs for all movements and are active as Hip Flexors if the hip is flexed, and are used together with the hamstrings to extend the leg backwards if the hip is extended, and are seldom weak, but often tight.

Tight Adductors also inhibit and weaken Hip Abductor muscles, as explained in Reciprocal Inhibition and the Hips and yoga can contribute to this process, due to the fact that many asanas require the knees to be together, as in Utkatasana, or on top of each other, as in Garudhasana. If Hips are weaker than Adductors, Yogis who are otherwise strong and flexible are unable to sit in Baddha Konasana. Pelvic Floor tightness also occurs if lateral movements of the legs are ignored, but lots of standing splits, Down-dog Splits, Virabhadrasana 3, Dighasana, etc. are practised.

One way in which Adductors and the pelvic floor can be loosened up is to adapt the sequence called ‘Surya Namaskara B’ in the Ashtanga tradition: this sequence is practised as normal, except that Utkatasana is replaced with a conventional squat and Virabhadrasana with a lateral squat. When doing Utkatasana, keep the feet shoulder-width apart, knees facing in the direction of the toes, arms overhead, squat as low as possible, and rise up using a strong contraction of the Glutes. After stepping the leg forward for Virabhadrasana, straighten the front leg and bend the back knee, as you lift your torso, so that you are in a lateral squat position. Strong yogis may be very surprised at how little lateral flexibility and stability they have in their legs, and should practise this from time to time if they have a problem with tight Adductors and hips.

Reading Sources: Franklin, 2004, Conditioning for Dance Brunnstroms Clinical Kinesiology, 5th edition, 1996

Author: Niki Vetten

View Profile

Visit Niki’s Website: Yoga Anatomy for the Perplexed

Here are some of the other articles posted here by Nikki Vetten:
  • Lateral Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten When the hips are can’t be held level in a horizontal plane while standing on one leg, lateral pelvic tilt occurs, caused by weakness of the Hip abductor muscles, especially the Gluteus Medius. The pelvis tilts down to one side and the head of the Femur is pushed outwards. This is called Trendelenburg ...
  • How Hinging From the Hips Creates Weak Gluteal Muscles March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Yoga practice usually starts with some form of Surya Namaskara and most sun salutations include moving from Samasthitih or Tadasasna to Uttanasana and back upright many times. These movements are often made by keeping the back straight and folding forwards at the hips, with the knees locked and rising back to vertical in ...
  • Back Flexibility with Yoga March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten As we get older our spines bend less, mostly because of the effects of gravity on the spinal discs, which begin to dehydrate and become compressed after 30, reducing the spaces between the facet joints in the vertebrae and limiting movement. Gravity and an upright human posture also causes some the spinal muscles ...
  • Hip and Hamstring Flexibility March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Hamstrings and hips get a lot of stretching in yoga, because everyone wants to do Hanumanasana, and also get their feet behind their heads, preferably both feet at the same time. For many, this will never happen, precisely because they try so hard and focus only on one set of muscles without understanding ...
  • Nerve compression in the neck, shoulders and wrists from yoga practice May 16, 2013 By Niki Vetten It is quite common for yogis, particularly women, to develop wrist pain and numbness or tingling in the whole hand or individual fingers, either when they are doing arm balances or Chaturanga or at night if they sleep with arms raised above the head although these sensations subside if the arm is placed ...
View more articles by Niki

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Nichi says:

    This is great stuff nikki thanks. I agree that lateral stretches are often ignored and are essential. I’ve certainly noticed an improvement in my flexibility but also been surprised at how difficult I find them

Leave a Reply

Error: Please enter a valid email address

Error: Invalid email

Error: Please enter your first name

Error: Please enter your last name

Error: Please enter a username

Error: Please enter a password

Error: Please confirm your password

Error: Password and password confirmation do not match