• How to Use the Adductor Muscles to Refine Downward Dog

    If you’r’e new to yoga, you might not be aware of how much awareness goes into every single pose in the practice. When we’re in tadasana (mountain pose) we’re not just standing there; we’re activating a set of very specific muscles throughout the body to create strength, get grounded and find balance. When we’re in upward facing dog, we’re nut just pressing ourselves up with our hands; we’re also activating every single muscle in our backs and our abdomens to protect our spines. Asana is not just about making shapes with our bodies, it’s about developing a deep awareness of the body as we work to build both mental and physical strength and flexibility. In today’s blog post, Dr. Long is sharing his anatomy insight to teach us how to refine one of the most basic poses in the practice: downward facing dog.

    In our blog post, “Strong Thigh Muscles Benefit People with Knee Osteoarthritis,” we gave a tip for activating the tensor fascia lata in Downward Facing Dog. This synergizes the quadriceps for extending the knees, aids in flexing and internally rotating the hips, and helps to align the kneecaps to face forward. You can further refine alignment in this pose by using the adductors longus and brevis and their synergist, the pectineus. Co-activating these muscles and the TFL balances external and internal rotation of the femurs while at the same time synergizing hip flexion. 

    First the Anatomy . . .

    The adductors longus and brevis originate from the superior and inferior pubic rami, respectively. The longus inserts onto the middle third of the linea aspera, a ridge of bone on the inside of the femur. The brevis inserts onto the upper third of this ridge. Both muscles act to adduct (draw the thighs together), flex, and externally rotate the hip joint. They also stabilize the pelvis.

    The pectineus originates from the pectin of the pubis and inserts onto the pectineal line on the inside of the femur, running from the lesser trochanter to the linea aspera. This muscle adducts, flexes, and externally rotates the hip and stabilizes the pelvis.

    Adductor muscles in downward dog

    Here’s the Cue . . .

    Use Utkatasana to get the hang of isolating the proximal adductor group. Warm up with Surya Namaskara A (do several). Then move to Surya Namaskara B. When you take Utkatasana, on your exhalation, gently press the knees together to contract the adductors longus and brevis and the pectineus. Note how this action becomes progressively refined with each cycle and with each practice session. You should feel more stable in the pose.

    Adductor muscles in chair pose

    Navasana can also be used to gain awareness of the proximal adductors. Squeeze the knees together and feel the muscles contract at the top insides of the thighs. This helps to flex the hips and stabilize the pose. If you’re new to Navasana, try one of the intermediate variations illustrated below and in the Yoga Mat Companion series.

    Adductor muscles in navasana, boat pose

    Engaging the adductor group in Utkatasana and Navasana brings awareness and control of these muscles. Once you get a feel for this, contract them directly to refine alignment of the leg bones in Downward Facing Dog. You can apply this same principle in Urdhva Hastasana (Tadasana with the arms raised overhead) and other poses. Click here for details. This is an example of the concept of “portability” of the techniques between poses.

    By Ray & Chris of The Daily Bandha

    Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga.

    Chris Macivor is a 3D Graphic Dessigner and illustrator who has been involved in the field of digital content creation for well over ten years.

    Learn More About Yoga Anatomy on OMstars

  • Diaphragmatic (Belly) Breathing

    In yoga classes, you’re probably used to hearing your instructors guiding you to breathe using your diaphragm or what we often call, belly breathing. In this blog post, we’re excited to be sharing the knowledge of Dr. Long from Dailybandha.com regarding the diaphragm. In this article, he explains the action of diaphragmatic, or belly breathing, the benefits, various techniques and more. 

    Diaphramatic belly breathing skeletal system image

    In diaphragmatic breathing, you actively expand the abdomen during inhalation. The abdominal expansion occurs via the diaphragm contracting and pressing down on the abdominal contents. Chest expansion is kept at a minimum in this type of breathing. Exhalation is a relaxed process and occurs through the elastic recoil of the chest wall and lungs.

    Regular practice of diaphragmatic breathing draws the mental focus into what is known as the “belly brain”. It has a calming effect on the mind while, at the same time, potentially strengthens the diaphragm. I recommend practicing diaphragmatic breathing for 5-10 minutes per day. We have included a video link below to guide your practice and aid you in visualization of the movement of the diaphragm and abdomen.

    Diaphragmatic Breathing Video:

    How much does your diaphragm actually move?

    The answer to this question depends on how deep of a breath you take and what part of the diaphragm you are asking about. The diaphragm is a sheet like dome-shaped muscle (when it is relaxed). Upon contraction, it flattens out and presses down on the abdomen. The net result is a negative inspiratory pressure, which draws air into the lungs.

    Tidal, or resting breathing results in smaller movements of the diaphragm, while vital capacity breathing (as in a deep diaphragmatic breath) results in much larger movement. This is where you take a complete full inhalation.

    The posterior, or back part of the diaphragm exhibits the greatest excursion; the amount of diaphragmatic motion decreases progressively as we come forward. Figure 2 illustrates this. MRI studies (which are considered the most accurate) have quantified diaphragmatic motion during deep breathing, with the posterior region moving an average of 10 cm (about 4 inches) between inhalation and exhalation. This decreases progressively moving forward, with the most anterior portion moving about half that of the posterior. Diaphragmatic motion decreases by about one-third in the sitting position compared to lying on your back. (see reference below)

    diaphramatic belly breathing skeletal system image 2

    Does the heart move with your diaphragm when you breathe?

    Yes, but not the full excursion of the posterior diaphragm. The pericardium, which is a sac surrounding the heart, has fascial connections to the diaphragm. Accordingly, the heart does move during breathing. Your heart is located more anterior on the left dome of the muscle, and so it moves less than the full excursion of the posterior portions of the diaphragm, but it moves significantly nonetheless. Click here for a video that illustrates diaphragmatic and cardiac movement during breathing (I recommend you start viewing at about the 40 second point, and later at about 4:00 for deeper breathing). This cineradiography video strikingly illustrates this process. (you may also want to mute the sound 🙂

    Learn more about anatomy, biomechanics and physiology for your yoga in “The Key Muscles of Yoga”, “The Key Poses of Yoga” and the Yoga Mat Companion series. Click on any of these books to page through

    By Ray Long, MD and Chris (illustrator/animator)

    This article was originally posted on dailybandha.com. Now put the techniques to practice, or learn more about yoga anatomy with Tim Feldmann on OMstars!

    Learn More About Yoga Anatomy On OMstars