Antagonist/Synergist Combinations in Yoga
By Ray Long
The deltoid of the shoulder and the “deltoid” of the hip.
Engaging the gluteus maximus and tensor fascia lata in Warrior II.
Engaging the back-leg adductor magnus in Warrior I.
The “Deltoid” of the Hip . . .
You might think of the TFL as akin to the anterior deltoid of the shoulder in that it flexes and internally rotates the joint. The gluteus maximus is similar to the posterior deltoid in that it extends and externally rotates the articulation. Both muscles can abduct the hip. They are thus antagonists for flexion/extension and rotation and synergists for abduction.
The gluteus medius and minimus lie between the TFL and the gluteus maximus and are comparable to the central portion of the deltoid. They are abductors and, depending on the position of the hip joint, synergists of the TFL or gluteus maximus. For example, if the hip is flexing and internally rotating, the gluteus medius and minimus synergize the TFL for these actions. If the hip is extending and externally rotating, they synergize the gluteus maximus. For this reason, the combination of the tensor fascia lata and gluteals is sometimes referred to as the “deltoid” of the hip.
The front hip in Warrior II flexes, abducts, and externally rotates. This combination of movements is known as “circumduction” and it involves the contributions of several muscles. The tensor fascia lata and gluteals produce the abduction component. Depending on the position of the joint, each of these muscles has several possible actions which can synergize or oppose one of the other muscle’s actions. Throughout the range of motion of the hip, the TFL and gluteus maximus form an antagonist/synergist pair.
Here’s the Cue . . .
In Warriors I and II, I bring the front knee in line with the hip and ankle and then gently press the sole of the foot into the mat. This activates the TFL and gluteus maximus, respectively (the quadriceps also engage). Press the back foot into the mat to stabilize it and then gently attempt to drag it away from the front foot. This acts to extend and abduct the hip and stabilize the pelvis. I balance these cues for the front and back legs and ease back on muscular force as I attain stillness in the pose.
Adding the Adductor Magnus…
As an additional refinement, I engage the adductor magnus by gently attempting to drag or “scrub” the back foot inward towards the midline (adducting it). Because the foot is constrained by the mat, the force of this action is transmitted to the origin of the muscle, as shown here. I have found that this cue works especially well in Warrior I for refining the position of the pelvis.
The overall effect of these actions is to produce a series of forces that stabilize the asana from the foundation to the core. I get a feel for these cues first by using them in a shallower variation of the pose and build the muscular engagement gradually. This helps with stability and awareness.
Always, in your particular case, consult your health care provider before practicing yoga or any other exercise program. Always practice yoga under the direct supervision of a qualified instructor. See full disclaimer here.
Here is a selection of some of the other articles posted here by Ray Long:
- Lengthening the Torso in Forward Bends January 26, 2013 By Ray Long In “Preventative Strategies for Lower Back Strains Part I,” we discussed femoral-pelvic and lumbar-pelvic rhythm, muscles that influence these rhythms, and the effects of these muscles on the lumbar spine. Here, our discussion progresses as we cover the trunk, the thoraco-lumbar fascia (TLF), Uddiyana Bandha and how accurate knowledge of this can be ...
- Using the TFL to Refine Utthita Parsvakonasana March 23, 2013 By Ray Long Author; Ray Long View Profile Visit Ray’s Website http://www.dailybandha.com http://www.bandhayoga.com Share this:FacebookTwitterGoogle
- Preventing Yoga Injuries vs Preventing Yoga, Part II: Joint Hypermobility January 19, 2014 By Ray Long In this post we discuss labral tears and the condition of joint hypermobility. I also present the case of a specific injury from yoga practice, its biomechanical basis and the steps that can be taken to aid in its prevention. First, however, let’s look at the concept of association vs causality. Simply put, ...
- Degenerative Disc Disease, The Sushumna Nadi and Yoga January 25, 2013 By Ray Long “A sword by itself rules nothing. It only comes alive in skilled hands.” Sir Te to Governor Yu in the martial arts classic, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. With this in mind, let’s look at a condition that affects the spinal column and, thus, has the potential to affect the Sushumna Nadi. Degenerative disc disease ...
- Preventing Yoga Injuries vs Preventing Yoga, Part I: The Hip Labrum January 19, 2014 By Ray Long I’m thinking the ancients were onto something. Meaning this (possibly) 5,000 year old art that so many of us enjoy practicing and teaching. I’m talking about the tradition of Hatha yoga. The one that includes putting our bodies into poses like Uttanasana, Dandasana, Padmasana (Full Lotus), Sirsasana (Headstand) etc. Now, part of that ...
- Balancing Freedom and Restraint in Yoga March 23, 2013 By Ray Long The work of legendary furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames has been described as a balance of freedom and restraint.Mr. Eames was once asked: “Have you ever been forced to accept compromises?” He responded: “I don’t remember ever being forced to accept compromises, but I have willingly accepted constraints.”1 Practicing yoga also involves ...
- Preventing Yoga Injuries vs Preventing Yoga, Part III: Joint Mobility, Stability and Proprioception January 19, 2014 By Ray Long A central concept in all healing arts is that of correcting imbalances within the body. The principle of re-establishing balance can be found across all cultures from Navajo sand paintings, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine to modern allopathy. And anything with true healing power also has the capacity to cause injury when ...