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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

Final Stretch

Now, about stretching those adductors, particularly the short and medium-length ones, which include all but the gracilis. Shortness in these muscles limits your horizontal abduction, or your ability to spread your thighs apart when your hips are flexed in poses like Baddha Konasana, Janu Sirsasana (Head-of-the-Knee Pose), Virabhadrasana II (Warrior Pose II), and even Parsvakonasana (Side Angle Pose). You can get a feel for horizontal abduction by sitting on an armless chair with your thighs spread as far apart as possible. Your adductors contract to pull your thighs back along a horizontal line (the chair seat).

Here's a stretch sequence you can do that will improve adductor flexibility in horizontal abduction. The first position is a variation of Baddha Konasana. Lie on your side with your feet close to a wall and your torso perpendicular to it. Bend your knees and slide toward the wall until your sitting bones touch it, and then roll onto your back, straightening your legs and bringing them up the wall. Bend your knees, place the soles of your feet together, and slide your feet down the wall as close to your pubic bones as possible. Put your hands on your inner knees, and push them gently toward the wall (while simultaneously lengthening the femurs out of the hip sockets) to stretch the adductors. Breathe and relax for a minute or two.

Bring your legs back together, place the soles of your feet on the wall, and slide your body away from the wall so your hips are about 18 inches from it. Your knees should be bent over your hips. With your feet on the wall, you'll look as though you're sitting on a chair that's been tipped over backward. Keeping your shins perpendicular to the wall, move your feet and thighs as far apart as possible. Imagine that your thighs are heavy and your adductors are surrendering their weight to the pull of gravity. You should feel a -satisfying stretch in your inner thighs.

If you've tried a few of these stretching and strengthening ideas, you should have a pretty good idea of where your adductors are and what they do. And even though we spend a lot of time stretching our legs and hips—including the adductors—in yoga, it's equally important to keep them strong. Balanced strength and flexibility: a worthy goal for your adductors as well as for your body, mind, and spirit.

Julie Gudmestad is a physical therapist and Iyengar Yoga teacher in Portland, Oregon. She regrets that she cannot respond to requests for health advice.

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