Movement Habits and their Effect on Yoga Practice

By Niki Vetten

There are three particular movement habits in asana practice that either cause or indicate problems with the hips: These will be covered in detail in separate posts, to keep posts shorter

1. Allowing the hip to push out to the side and not maintaining a level pelvis in the horizontal plane – lateral pelvic tilt 2. Hinging from the hips when folding forwards from a standing position or returning to an upright stance from a forward fold. 3. Arching the back and maintaining anterior pelvic tilt in your movements

It’s common for yoga-practitioners to develop weak Gluteal muscles from these habits because there are many muscles in the hip area that can be used to create the same movements and the result is overuse of some muscles and weakness of others. Weak Gluteal muscles cause instability of the Sacroiliac joint, because the muscle fibres of the Gluteus Maximus have attachments to the Sacroiliac ligaments down the length of the Sacrum. These muscles are further weakened and damaged through excessive stretching.

It’s important to remember that if specific movements and asanas are practiced with very little variation and no consideration is given to correcting habitual misalignments, muscle imbalances develop and quickly become painful. Sometimes professional treatment improves the pain but then the problems return because movement habits haven’t changed. The fastest way to resolve muscle-imbalance is with corrective exercises from someone who has assessed your movements and muscle strength but a long-term improvement depends on becoming aware of how you move and maintaining that awareness as you practice.

The process of reciprocal inhibition also creates weak hip muscles – please refer to Reciprocal Inhibition and Hips for an explanation of how hip muscles are weakened by particular asana sequences. ‘Yoga butt’ or Ischial Tendonitis is common in Ashtanga practice and is an example of reciprocal inhibition. An analysis of ‘yoga butt’ follows the posts on movement habits

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

Author: Niki Vetten

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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 ...
  • Lower Back Pain in Yoga Practice and the Lumbar Spine March 11, 2013 By Niki Vetten The Lumbar spine, unlike the lower thoracic spine, moves very little and should not be used during back extension movements, because the vertebrae or discs can be damaged. Any muscular imbalances between the hips, legs and lower back cause pain and restriction in the lumbar spine, and can ultimately result in injury. Hamstring ...
  • Reciprocal Inhibition and the Hips March 9, 2013 By Niki Vetten Reciprocal Inhibition is a process that the body uses to create movements. All movement is controlled by opposing sets of muscles, called Agonists or prime movers, and Antagonists that create the opposing force which returns the part being moved back to its original position. Movement is also aided by other surrounding muscles, called ...
  • Wrist Pain from Vinyasa Yoga March 10, 2013 By Niki Vetten Vinyasa, arm balances and handstands often leave yoga practitioners complaining of wrist pain, especially at the Ulnar side of the hand, that is, the base of the palm furthest from the thumb. To combat this, the focus is on various hand positions, pushing down with the base of the thumb, rising up onto ...
  • 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 ...
View more articles by Niki

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