Lateral Pelvic Tilt in Yoga Practice

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 sign by physical therapists.

The Gluteus Medius acts a hip abductor but it is also a very important knee stabiliser: if the knee is bent when standing on one leg, it tends to sway inwards, causing pain in the knee.  A weak Gluteus Medius also contributes to anterior pelvic tilt, because the Tensor Fascia Latae is substituted in hip abduction movements. The Tensor Fascia Latae is a hip flexor and thus the pelvis tilts forward.  Refer also to How Hip Problems Cause Knee Pain

Yoga practitioners with a weak Gluteus Medius may feel

  • Pain at the outside of the hip in forward bending, or in lunges like Virabhadrasana or Parsva Konasana
  • Hip pain and limited flexibility in wide legged asanas like Baddha Konasana
  • Knee-pain in Matsyendrasana.
  • In standing asanas, the hip pushes outwards on the weak side, and the pelvis tilts sideways
  • Pain at the outside of the knee
  • Lower back pain
  • Pain turning over in bed when sleeping

People usually have one weak and painful hip, not both. Awareness of habits and a conscious effort to keep the pelvis level and not to allow the hip to push out sideways when practising is essential.

There is another factor in yoga practice that actively contributes to weakness of the Gluteus Medius: strong Adductor muscles weaken hip abductor muscles via reciprocal inhibition. Please refer also to Adductors, the Pelvic floor and Lower Back Pain. The long adductors are strengthened by:

  • Excessive use of leg strengthening asanas in yoga sequences: lunge-asanas – Virabhadrasana, etc. and hip extension asanas such as Dighasana. The long Adductor muscles are Synergist muscles for both hip flexion and hip extension and become overactive, inhibiting the Gluteus Medius. Runners often have Gluteus Medius weakness.
  • Repeated flexion and extension of the pelvis, especially in Surya Namaskara and Vinyasa. It has been noticed by physical therapists that sports which include large amounts of pelvic flexion and extension tend to have these problems as well, because flexion and extension contributes to tightness in the adductors – which act as stabilisers in these movements
  • Keeping the knees together in asanas like Utkatasana shortens adductors and lengthens and weakens abductor muscles

Correcting this is not a matter of stretching adductors, but of strengthening abductors. The hip abductors often feel tight and sore, but stretching them weakens them further. The Gluteus Medius is best strengthened with single leg squatting and upright standing balancing asanas with a strong awareness of horizontal pelvic position and paying attention to pelvic tilt. Avoid asanas that cause hip pain until the hips are stronger. This is a good time to review your yoga practice and change it as necessary

Reading sources: Kendall, Mc Creary, Provance, 1993, Muscles, Testing and Function De Franca, 1996, Pelvic Locomotor Dysfunction Ellenbecker, De Carlo, DeRosa, 2009, Effective Functional Progressions in Sport Rehabilitation Brunnstrom’s clinical Kinesiology, 5th ed, 1996 Neil-Asher, 2005, The Concise Book of Trigger Points Injury clinic – Adductor magnus | Sports Injury Bulletin Gluteus Medius: Weak buttocks ruin the runner | Sports Injury Bulletin

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:
  • Understanding and Managing Sacroiliac Pain in Yoga Practice March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten It is common for yogis to develop painful sacroiliac joints, with serious consequences: dysfunction at the sacroiliac joint inhibits the hip muscles and starts a vicious cycle of hip instability and body misalignment. Painful sacroiliac joints must be treated and stabilised to avoid chronic pain and it is not advisable to continue with ...
  • ‘Yoga Butt’ Injury March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten ‘Yoga Butt’ is a term for a range of symptoms frequently experienced in Ashtanga and other forms of Vinyasa or Power yoga after a few months of regular practice. It often starts as Pain or discomfort at either of the Ischial Tuberosities (sit-bones) Discomfort in all forward bending and a feeling that the hamstring won’t ...
  • Lower Back Pain and Posture (Pelvic Tilt) and how Yoga affects Pelvic Tilt March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Posture is not simply a matter of standing up straight, like your mother told you to; posture is created by the Hamstrings and Hip Flexor (mainly the Iliopsoas) muscles. If the Hamstrings are stronger than the Psoas, the pelvis tilts backwards and if the Psoas is stronger than the Hamstrings, the pelvis tilts ...
  • 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 ...
  • Hip Pain and Injury in Yoga March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten Hips are vital in all body movements because the body’s centre of gravity is located in the hip area, about 4 finger-widths below the navel or belly-button. Healthy hips are also the key to a pain-free lower back and knees. Flexibility in the hips is determined by strength and overstretching the hips in an ...
View more articles by Niki

You may also like...

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