Glutes and Yoga
The glutes are located behind the pelvic girdle and consist of three layers of muscle, namely the gluteus medius, the gluteus maximus, and the gluteus minimus.
Gluteus MediusThe gluteus medius is the primary stepping muscle and is located under the gluteus maximus. This muscle connects the hip bone or ilium to the top side of the femur (upper leg bone). The core function of this muscle is to abduct the leg (open it our to the side) and provide stability to the pelvis (as on one leg balancing postures l.e. Tree Pose).
Gluteus MaximusThe gluteus maximus, as the name indicates, is the biggest of the three gluteal muscles. This muscle originates on the inner border of the sacrum (a flat bone you feel in between the glutes), and it is responsible for hip extension (basically all backbends) and hip external rotation (front leg in l.e. Warrior ll pose)
The gluteus maximus assists with everyday physical activities like walking, running, and rising from a squat by creating forward thrust.
Gluteus MinimusThe gluteus minimus is the smallest gluteal muscle and assists in hip abduction, flexing, and internal rotation.
Deep SixBelow the primary gluteal muscles are six deeper-lying tissues, the external rotators; namely:
- The obturator internus
- The quadratus femoris
- The gemellus inferior
- The obturator externus
- The gemellus superior, and
- The piriformis.
All of these muscles rotate the femur externally in the hip joint.
Yoga for Lower Back and GlutesIf it weren’t for the glutes, yoga postures and movements would look completely different. This is because the three gluteal layers of muscle and six deeper lying muscles are the primary support providers to the pelvis and hips.
Also, the glutes rotate the femur internally and externally and support the thighbone inside the hip socket, preventing it from dislocating. The glutes also allow you to pull your leg to your back. The glutes are not only essential in yoga practice but also in everyday life. These muscles will enable you to walk, run, stand, and provide support to the body when you sit.
The typical modern lifestyle can have a detrimental effect on the health of your glutes, especially if your lifestyle is characterized by sitting for hours in front of a computer, driving to work instead of walking, and a lack of exercise. This lifestyle often results in a condition called “gluteal amnesia.”
Gluteal amnesia is associated with glutes that are overstressed, overused, and underdeveloped. Gluteal health can also be affected by strain. High-intensity yoga postures and overworking the glutes during other physical activities can be just as detrimental to your glutes as a passive lifestyle.
Common symptoms of over- and under-developed glutes are that they are susceptible to a limited range of motion, strength imbalances, instability, and pain when carrying out a yoga posture.
A unique issue with gluteal muscles is that they carry weight when you’re in a seated position and when the muscles are relaxed. When a relaxed muscle carries weight, the result is that fascial tissues lengthen and the muscles’ natural tension weakens.
Another consequence of weak glutes is muscle imbalances. The quadriceps and hip flexors have to take more strain to do the glutes’ work. Muscle imbalances can inhibit your yoga practice development and can even result in pain.
Yoga to Strengthen Your GlutesSeveral yoga poses can strengthen your glutes and enhance their flexibility. Incorporating these poses in your yoga practice will not only improve your gluteal health, but it will also take the load off your hip flexors and quadriceps. The yoga postures for glutes are listed below.
Warrior Pose III
For this pose to work effectively, you have to engage all your lateral gluteal muscles; the glute medius: this is the primary muscle layer providing support to the hips together with the deep six muscles stabilizes each side of the pelvis for each position of the hips.
The Warrior III is, in essence, a balancing posture, and it is excellent for strengthening your muscles. Start with the runner’s lunge with your right leg forward and your left leg to the back. Your hands should be on the ground with your left leg extended entirely, and your heel in the air.
While keeping your front knee bent, bring your left knee toward your body without losing the stretch. Roll up with your upper body while keeping your back leg straight, and your navel tucked in. Step half-way in with your hind leg.
While exhaling, press your right thighbone back and straighten your right leg so that you can come into Warrior III. Repeat this process up to eight times.
Lie on your back with your arms next to you on the floor. Your arms should be passive so that they don’t help your glutes. Then, place your feet level to each other and about five inches from your buttocks. Activate your core to support your spine throughout the posture.
Tuck your tailbone in slightly and you will immediately feel your glutes engage. Press your feet on the floor and lift the hips up. Your body should create a diagonal line from your shoulder to your knees. First, lift your left foot one inch off the ground and keep it there for up to eight breaths. Then, do the same for your right foot.
For the most part, the chair pose increases the strength of the gluteus maximus and the medius. To do this pose, start by assuming the mountain pose. Your feet should be hip-width apart, and your toes have to point forward. Engage your core muscles to keep your spine intact and contract your glutes by squeezing your buttocks.
Then, engage your outer hips as if you want to separate the floor between your feet. Next, raise your arms over your head and lower your upper body as if you are doing a squat or sitting down in a chair. When you go lower, your spine should remain static. Stay in this position for at least eight breaths.
Raise yourself out of this pose and transition back into the original pose. The primary objective of this posture is to build glute strength and endurance. (Siber, 2015)
Siber, K. (2015, May 24). Glute Anatomy to Improve Your Yoga Practice. Retrieved from www.yogajournal.com: https://www.yogajournal.com/lifestyle/glute-anatomy-improve-yoga-practice