Does Butterfly pose stress the adductors or the hamstrings?

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Does Butterfly pose stress the adductors or the hamstrings?

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I was recently asked the following question:
  • Hi Bernie: I am a RMT and have just finished YTT. While other students and my instructor were teaching I often noticed that while guiding class into Butterfly pose they would say that it was a hamstring stretch. This did not make sense to my brain from an anatomy perspective as the knee is bent and the distance between the ischial tuberosity and Tibia is decreased.

    My YTT instructor and I discussed it and she said that in Yin yoga it is considered a hamstring stretch. I can see it effecting the Biceps Femoris portion as it inserts into the IT band from a fascial aspect only. I guess my question is how would you explain Butterfly pose and it's effect on the hamstrings to a student?

    I look forward to hearing from you. Kindly, Angela
Hi Angela

I can understand why you feel this way: Butterfly should be a purely adductor stretch. But, some students do feel this in their hamstrings, and who are we to say that they don't? ;-) Why they feel it there may be due to a number of factors: perhaps their feet are quite far away, straightening the legs a bit more or perhaps (and probably more likely) because of the folding forward. You are right that bending the knees releases the hamstrings at the distal end, but flexing the hips stresses the hamstrings at the proximal end. The greater the flexion, the more stress that occurs.

In my book, The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga, I describe this as an adductor stress unless the legs are quite straight, at which time it may become a hamstring stress. I see it as a bit of both, which is a nice preparation for deeper stresses of the adductors (like Straddle Pose) or of the hamstrings (like Caterpillar Pose).

I hope this helps.

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