Understanding your hip rotators is crucial for maximizing your yoga practice. They are often a source of habitual imbalances that we carry into our practice, exacerbating existing issues. But they can also be key in learning how to access deeper expressions of poses with more comfort and ease.
We have 2 kinds of hip rotators – internal and external. The internal rotators turn your thigh in your hip socket, as if you were turning your knees and toes inward. The external rotators turn your thighs out in your hip sockets, as if you were turning your knees and toes out. Turning the toes in and out (moving from the hip sockets) can, in fact, be an excellent way to first learn to access the rotators. And, furthermore, a great way to really see how the movement of your hips affects your knees and low back (and, yes, sometimes even your ankles:-).
Hip Rotators – Internal
Here’s where we begin to see how the hip rotators exacerbate imbalances – there are NO muscles for whom internal rotation is their primary job. WOW! There are several muscles for whom internal rotation is secondary, but they all have other jobs, too. Talk about multi-tasking confusion. The Gluteus Medius, Minimus and TFL all assist in internal rotation with a little help from a couple adductors and quads. If you have been following along with our hip series (Hamstrings, Flexors and Extensors, Hip Stabilizers), you will recognize these muscles as having other primary actions.
Hip Rotators – External
To further complicate the situation, there are plenty of muscles whose primary job is external rotation – SIX deep rotators assisted by all the glutes, the Sartorius, an adductor and a flexor. WHEW! As you can imagine, it is our body’s tendency to emphasize external rotation. It’s just easier. As you can see in the illustration to the right, most of these muscles attach from the sacral area to the femur, pulling these two bones toward one another. This often causes tightness in the buttock leading to issues such as Piriformis Syndrome/Sciatica.
Yoga Practice for Hip Rotators