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Monday Muscle of the Week

November 17, 2014

The Gluteus Medius Muscle in Yoga

Thanks to everyone for your input on Facebook for the “Muscle of the Week”, the gluteus medius. In this blog post we go over the essential anatomy of this muscle and illustrate its action in several yoga poses.

Here’s the anatomy…
The gluteus medius originates on the outer surface of the ilium bone and runs to the greater trochanter of the femur. This muscle acts to stabilize the pelvis when standing on one leg and during walking. The gluteus medius is also a primary abductor of the hip. Its anterior fibers act to synergize flexing and internally rotating the flexed hip; its more posterior fibers synergize extending and externally rotating the extended hip. The gluteus medius is innervated by the superior gluteal nerve, which is formed from nerve roots L4, L5 and S1. Figure 1 illustrates this muscle.
Figure 1: The gluteus medius muscle with its innervation from the superior gluteal nerve. The gluteus maximus, with the inferior gluteal nerve is shown as a see-through.

Tree pose and other one-legged standing poses help to strengthen the gluteus medius, which is essential for stabilizing the pelvis of the standing leg (figure 2). Click here to read more about the function of the gluteus medius in one-legged asanas in our blog post, “Anatomic Sequencing in Yoga”. Click here to read about the connections of the gluteus medius during gait.

Figure 2: The gluteus medius stabilizing the pelvis in Tree Pose.

Figure 3 illustrates the gluteus medius contracting to help lift the leg in Ardha chandrasana (Half Moon Pose).

Figure 3: The gluteus medius stabilizing the lifted leg in Half Moon Pose.

Engaging the gluteus medius in Downward Dog pose can be used to synergize hip flexion. This muscle also helps to internally rotate the hips, thereby bringing the kneecaps to face forward. The cue for engaging the gluteus medius in Downward Dog Pose is to press the feet into the mat and then attempt to drag them apart. The feet remain constrained on the mat and do not move. However, the abductor muscles, including the gluteus medius, minimus and TFL, engage to refine flexion and rotation of the hips. Click here to read about this in our blog post, “How to Use Nutation to Refine Uttanasana.” Figure 4 illustrates how to work with the gluteus medius and minimus to refine Downward Dog Pose.

Figure 4: Engaging the gluteus medius and minims in Downward Dog Pose.

Figure 5 illustrates the gluteus medius synergizing hip extension in Purvottanasana.

Figure 5: Engaging the gluteus medius to synergize hip extension in Purvottanasana.

Finally, figure 6 illustrates stretching the gluteus medius in Garudasana.

Figure 6: Stretching the gluteus medius in Garudasana.
Many thanks for all of your feedback on stretching the gluteus medius in last weeks “Muscle of the Week” on Facebook. Check back soon for the next one…

Feel free to browse through The Key Muscles of Yoga and Key Poses of Yoga by clicking here.The Yoga Mat Companion Series gives you step-by-step anatomic sequencing for all of the major asanas, with a variety preparatory poses as well. Use these books to design your classes and optimize your practice. We’re also pleased to announce that all of our books are now available in digital format for Kindle, iPad and other digital devices. Click here to learn more…

Thanks for stopping by The Daily Bandha. Stay tuned for our next post when I’ll present another subject on combining science and yoga. Also, we greatly appreciate when you share us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.


Ray and Chris


Ray Long MD FRCSC is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga. Ray graduated from The University of Michigan Medical School with post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, The University of Montreal and Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over twenty years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters.
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