Yoga Asana for Hip Mobility, Part 2: Spotlight on Adduction and Abduction

In Part 1 of my hip mobility posts, we took a look at mobilizing the hips in flexion and extension in the sagittal plane. Remember the hips move in several directions, so let’s talk about the next ways that we can mobilize our hips in our yoga practice.

After practicing sagittal plane hip movement, we can now move on to the coronal plane (a.k.a. the frontal plane). If you remember, movements in the coronal plane are basically from side to side. The major coronal plane movements of the hips are abduction and adduction.

Mobilizing the Hips Side to Side in Yoga

Most yoga poses for coronal plane hip mobility will focus on the inside of the hip or the hip adductor muscles: pectineus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, and gracilis. These muscles attach from the pubic area to the inside of your big thighbone, the femur.

The adductors work as a group to pull your thighs closer to the midline of your body creating adduction at the hip joints, so to open or stretch them, we would need to use the opposite motion, abduction. A touch of external rotation also helps. Check out the muscular anatomy below.

Similar to how we don’t put as much focus on mobilizing the back of the hips in the sagittal plane, we don’t focus as much on opening the outside of the hips in the coronal plane. The muscles on the outside of the hips are the hip abductors: mainly gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and some of the gluteus maximus and tensor fasciae latae (TFL). Most of these muscles are generally a little under-used and weak in people, so we typically don’t try to stretch them out more. The function of the tensor fasciae latae is a bit more complex sometimes making it tight, so it does help to give it a stretch sometimes.

Asana for Hip Abduction

Poses that abduct the hips will open the insides of the thighs (the adductors). These poses involve pulling your thighs away from each other or pulling one thigh away from the center of your body. Horizontal abduction is often seen too. Some examples are below.


Mobilizing the hips in the coronal plane will help prepare for poses that need more length in the adductors or poses that need strong hip abduction. Some examples include Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose), Samakonasana (Middle Splits Pose), Eka Pada Galavasana (Flying Pigeon Pose), and Visvamistrasana (Visvamitra’s Pose).

Reprinted with permission from

Read Part 1 in Dr. Nolan Lee’s series focusing on asana and hip mobility – Yoga Asana for Hip Mobility, Part 1: Focus on Flexion and Extension.

Part 3 of Dr. Nolan Lee’s series: Yoga Asana for Hip Mobility Part 3: Spotlight on Internal and External Rotation.

Dr. Nolan Lee is a yoga teacher and physical rehab specialist in Chicago, IL, with an extraordinary passion for understanding how the body moves and functions. Nolan has the unique ability to blend the science of anatomy with the art of yoga. With an active practice at this clinic, Balanced Flow Wellness, he practically applies yoga to restore and maintain health. Dr. Lee also holds a Master of Acupuncture degree and is a NASM-certified corrective exercise specialist (CES). He enthusiastically shares his knowledge of yoga and anatomy in lectures and workshops and on his blog.

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