Firstly, I’m sorry that I didn't post an article last month. I've been working on a new site, specifically for you guys, and that has taken up most of my time. I’m hoping to launch it very soon.
Now, on to business. Today’s article is about the groin and why it’s causing you problems.What is the groin?
The groin is your upper inner thigh. It is closely related to your hip adductors, which are the five inner thigh muscles that lie in between your quads and hamstrings.
These five adductors originate from the pubic and sitting bones. Two are short adductors – the pectineus and the adductor brevis – and attach at the back of the upper femur (thighbone). Two are longer – the adductor longus and adductor magnus – and attach lower down the femur. The longest – the gracilis – attaches below the knee, to the upper tibia (shinbone).Actions of the adductors
These are many and varied:
- When they contract, the adductors squeeze your thighs together—this is known as hip adduction.
- They assist the hip flexors (psoas and iliacus) and abductors (glutes and TFL) in flexing, extending and rotating your hip.
- The gracilis assists the hamstrings in knee flexion and stabilization.
- They co-contract with the hip abductors to stabilize the hips and pelvis.Why is your groin tight?
Probably because you’ve done a whole lot of activities that require you to contract your adductors and comparatively little stretching. This, like most muscular imbalances, unfortunately, is exacerbated by riding, in which you draw your thighs towards each other to control the bike and never have to open them very wide or take them through their full range of motion.
Additionally, your adductors tighten up in much the same way as the hip flexors do from sitting too much, and you may well do or have done sports when you were younger that required running and changing direction quickly, without paying too much attention to your recovery.What range of flexibility should you have?
Here is a simple test you can do. Lie on your back with butt against the wall and your legs straight up. Allow your legs to fall open (abduct) while maintaining contact with the wall. You should have at least a 90-degree angle between your legs.
Overly tight adductors can contribute to pain and dysfunction in the lower back, hips, knees, and ankles, and can make you more susceptible to groin injuries.Yoga and the groin
Many riders don’t realize that their groin is tight until they start practicing yoga. In many ways, it can act as a diagnostic tool. In our sessions, we focus as much on hip abduction (pulling your thighs apart) as on hip adduction (drawing them together). I've written before about hip openers, but this is a fairly general term. In a previous article, I described the three different types—outer hip (glute), hip flexor and groin stretches. Today, I’ll just focus on the last of these.
I’m going to give you eight passive stretches (plus some bonus poses) but I recommend you combine them with regular hip opening yoga sequences like this one
to actively and dynamically stretch your adductors.
I have broken them down into four types:Part One: A Pose to do as Much as Possible
To use a concept popularised by author Tim Ferriss, this pose is the 80/20 of groin stretches—the pose that will give you 80% of the benefits with 20% of the effort.Sitting Cross-Legged
This may be the first position in yoga when you realize how tight your groin is. Ideally, you should be able to sit up straight, fairly comfortably. However, for such a seemingly simple pose (the Sanskrit name is Sukhasana or Easy Pose), it requires considerable flexibility in the inner thighs, hamstrings, and hip joints. If you don’t have access to this range of motion, your pelvis will tilt back, causing your lower back to round.
The bad news is that it is going to take a while to loosen up all these powerful muscles and tendons. The good news is that this is an easy posture to integrate into your everyday life.
In the correct alignment, your knees are level with or below your hips (not up by your armpits) and your spine is straight. To achieve this, sit on the edge of some cushions or a block to lift your hips up higher than your knees. This allows your pelvis to rotate forward and bring your spine into a neutral position.
This is a passive pose, so don't try to push down on your knees to hurry things up, as this is more likely to increase rather than decrease tension. For quicker results, sit for longer.
Try to replace as much chair sitting as you can, propped up in this position. In time, your groin will start to release and your posture will improve.Part Two: Poses to do After Your Ride:
Hold these poses after your ride for as long as you have time for. 10 breaths, in and out through your nose, or a few minutes if you can. Try to relax into the stretches and repeat them a couple of times.Wide-Knee Child's Pose
Touch your big toes together and bring your knees out wide for this variation of Child's Pose. If your butt doesn't reach your heels, sit back on a pillow or some cushions. Shift your weight from side to side to loosen up your groin, then settle into the pose. Breathe deep into your lower back, letting go of tension on every exhalation.Side Lunge
In Side Lunge, spend a few breaths stretching the hamstrings of your straight leg, then rotate your foot in to move the stretch into your groin. Alternate between the two, spending 5-10 breaths in each of them.Squat Twist
This variation of the Squat will give you some extra leverage. When your left arm is up, press against the inside of your right thigh with your bent arm to deepen the stretch. If your heels don't touch the ground, you can stay up on your toes or find something to support them on.Wide-Leg Forward Bend
In this hamstring and groin stretch, it is totally fine to keep your knees bent – don't force it. And if you have lower back issues and have been advised against practicing forward bends, please skip this pose.Part Three. Poses to do When You Have More Time – in the Evening or After a Workout
The idea with these postures is to hold them for a long time, yin style
. Start with one minute and build up from there. You can combine them with meditation or a relaxing breathing technique if you like.Happy Baby
If you can’t reach your feet, hold onto your ankles or shins. Rock gently from side to side and then hold the pose still. Breathe and relax, allowing your groin to let go of tension on every exhalation.Reclining Butterfly
If you support your knees on cushions, you may find that you can let go of more tension, as your central nervous system receives the message that it is safe to relax. Breathe deeply and let gravity do the work.Sleeping Pigeon
Sleeping Pigeon is a deep hip opener. To really feel it in your groin, inch your front foot forward a few inches before you relax into the pose. Use as many cushions as you need, to support your right hip.Part Four: Poses for More of a Challenge
One of the benefits of yoga is that it operates on many levels. These three bonus poses are great groin stretches but they will also challenge you in other areas – in flexibility, balance, coordination and agility. See how you get on.Bending Tree
This variation of Tree Pose ups the ante by shifting your center of gravity. Press down firmly through your bottom foot, engage your core and try to hold the pose as still as you can for 5 breaths.Extended Side Angle
In this pose, line up your front heel with the middle of your back foot, try to bring your from thigh parallel with the mat and press back firmly through the outside edge of your left foot.Balancing Half Moon
When you're learning this pose, rest your bottom hand on a block to bring the floor up a little closer, or you can use a wall for support. Flex your top foot and press back strongly through your heel. See if you can hold the pose still for a few breaths.Glute-groin imbalance
When it comes to releasing tension in the groin, weak glutes – the antagonists to the adductors – are also likely to be part of the picture. A common scenario for mountain bikers is overactive adductors and hip flexors, and weak gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. It is beyond the scope of this article but is something I encourage you to look into.Take care
As always, please see a good physical therapist if you experience pain in any of these poses or have other concerns. There might be something more serious going on that could require professional medical attention.
Let me know how you get on with these poses and what else you've found that has worked for you. Stay loose!Previous Yoga with Abi
:Release Tension In The Upper Back & Injury-Proof Your ShouldersYoga For Sore, Weak or Inflexible WristsLoosen Up Tight Hips With 3 Types Of Poses15-Minute Post-Ride Routine Designed To Optimize Your RecoveryThree Levels of Yoga to Relieve Lower Back PainStretches to Relieve a Tight Chest and Stiff ShouldersThe Most Effective Style of Yoga to Increase Your FlexibilityEasy 15-Minute Yoga Routine To Loosen Up Tight JointsHow To Release Tight Quads And Increase Your PowerHow To Release Chronically Tight HamstringsA Challenging One-Hour Yoga Flow ClassTake Control of Your Mind and Push Your Personal LimitsYoga To Relieve Pain In Between The Shoulder Blades15-Minute Routine To Unlock Tight Hips15-Minute Yoga Routine To Build Core StrengthShort Yoga Routine To Help With Lower Back Pain in Bikers15-Minute Yoga Routine To Enhance Balance and Agilityl15-Minute Post-Ride Yoga Routine8 Quick Yoga Stretches To Do At Work