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Thigh Master

Work the small muscles of your inner thighs—often overlooked in yoga— and find ease in all sorts of poses.

By Julie Gudmestad

Party of Five

Taken together, the hip adductors are about the same size as the four quads or the three hams. All five originate (attach) on your ischial tuberosity (sitting bone) or pubic bone. Two shorter adductors, the pectineus and the adductor brevis, insert on the upper posterior femur (thighbone). Two longer ones, the adductor longus and adductor magnus, insert on the middle and lower posterior femur. The fifth member of the group, gracilis, is a long straplike muscle that extends from the pubic bone to the tibia, just below the knee.

The adductors play a role in many types of movements. When they contract, the adductors squeeze your thighs together, an action that's known as hip adduction. Depending on your leg position, one ad-ductor muscle or another might help to flex, extend, or rotate your hip. The gracilis also assists the hamstrings in knee flexion, or bending. And all of the adductors play an important but unheralded role in helping to stabilize the pelvis when you stand on one leg. Whenever you walk or practice a standing balancing pose like Vrksasana (Tree Pose), the adductors are working with the hip abductors—the muscles that perform the opposite action—to help prevent you from wobbling.

To feel the adductors contract, put your fingers on their common tendon just below and slightly to the side of the pubic bone. Even a moderate squeeze of the thighs toward each other elicits a big response from the muscles, and the tendon will stand out against your fingers.

In yoga poses with extended hips—such as Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) or Tadasana (Mountain Pose), in which the thigh is in line with or behind the torso—the adductors contract to hold your legs together. This action is especially noticeable in inversions, when gravity pulls the legs apart and down. If the adductors are weak or lack isometric endurance (the ability to hold a position for an extended length of time), it can be very difficult to hold your legs together in poses such as Sirsasana (Headstand), Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand), and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand).

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