Difference between the Yoga Movements of Abduction and Adduction

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Science of Yoga articles

Practicing yoga is not like any other mode of exercise,

where in just repeating a particular manoever  a number of times,

without understanding it,

is expected to yield the desired results.

Abduction vs Adduction are the two movements,

which need to be understood for one to extract the

maximum benefits from the yoga techniques

they are involved in.

 At practice level yoga is more about involving the mind in its techniques, understanding the basic movements involved and how they work  toward infusing the techniques  with the intended purpose, the benefits  of yoga,  is another way of weaving the mind into yoga. 

Knowing the difference between abduction and adduction  related to body movements suffices similar requirement of the practitioner.

 The confusion between the two is accentuated by the fact that  both appear to be perfect homonyms, with a slight difference of a single letter ‘b’, prone to being miscontrued one for the other by a not very attentive mind.  

Understanding the what, and how of yoga movements will definetly help one enrich one’s experience with yoga, and help one align the body, as per the alignment principles, while practicing any yoga pose, The words abduction and adduction have their origin in the latin roots ‘ ab’  which means away, and ‘ad’ which means towards respectively, and ‘ducere’ which stands for to pull.

 Abduction vs Adduction, the Difference 

Both, Abduction vs Adduction,  are the movements of the limbs, in order to understand the movements of the limbs one needs to first understand the concept of ‘ midline’  or the ‘sagital plane’ of the body.  The concept of ‘midline’ acts as a reference line related to which the difference between the two movements can be easily explained.

If one places a sharp knife longitudinally over one’s head, with the tip of the knife placed  over the head directly above the area between the two eyebrows and the handle positioned over the back of the head, directly over the center of the back of the neck, the knife will appear aligned to the side prodile of the head. 

From there, now if one cuts straight down through the head, the neck, the torso, the pelvis, and out from between the legs, one will cut the body, from the middle, into two equal right and left parts. The path that the knife had traced to cut the body into exactly equal left and right sections is the sagital plane, or the midline of th human body.

Each one of the left and right section of the body, left after it has been cut along its midline,  will have one of each from the pairs of eyes, nostrils, shoulders, nipples, arms, hips, and legs. 

Abduction Vs Adduction

Stand in Tadasana, feet together, arms placed beside the body, head held vertically over the nech, tail bone drawn in, and shoulders slightly pulled  back  keeping the chest pushed out.  keeping all te other parts of the body immobile, any movement of the limbs , arms and the legs, which swings them away from the midline of the body is known as abduction, the limbs are abducted away from the midline,  and any movement of the limbs which places them back  closest to the midline of the body is known as adduction. 

Abduction is moving away of the limbs from the midline of the body, as  one  draws a circle on both sides of the body with one’s extended finger tips, while  one swings lift the arms extending along the sides of the body up till their maximum reach, arms positined straight above the head.  

Abduction is the term used for the movement made, and not for the position of the hands at a particular point.  Same goes with the legs: Moving of the legs away from the midline, as one spreads one’s legs out  to any possible degree is known as abduction of the legs.  As per Samkhya Philosophy legs form the part of organs of action which evolve from  Ahamkara(Ego) during the process of evolution of Prakriti.

Similarly, extending the fingers, or toes away from the midline of the armsor legs respectively, taken as separate units, is abduction of the fingers and the toes,  as is  extending the thumb out at right angle to the extended fingers.  One is required to abduct ones arms and legs in Virbhadrasan 2 variation.

Remember, abduction is sideways moving away of the limbs,  along the medial – lateral plane which is perpendicular to the sagital plane of the body,  from the midline of the body,  not moving along the midline of the body as in lifting the limbs forward or backward with respect to the body.

Adduction on the other hand is the movement  exactly opposite to abduction: any  lateral movement of the limbs which brings them closer to the midline i sknown as adduction.  Bringing the stretched out arms back to the positin as in Tadasana,  hanging beside the body, is  adduction of the arms, same goes tru for the legs as well.  

The motion of abduction help open out the body whereas adduction helps by closing the body parts  near to each other. The movement of the stretched out fingers towards the midline of the arms and the motion of the stretched out toes towards the midline of the legs is also the act of adduction.

Hugging one own slef by crossing one’s arms around one’s own chest is also the movement of adduction, and opening the arms out to hug someone else is the motion of adduction.  

Our eyes also create the motion of adduction and abduction: when one attempts to look sideways one of the eye moves towards the midline of the face (the nose) creating the movement of adduction and th eother eye moves away from the midine of the face creating th emovement of abduction.

Anatomy of  the Two Movements

All the movements of the parts of the human body are caused at the joint level aided by the corresponding muscles.  In order to execute movement of a body part in a particular direction  a section of the muscles surrounding the related joint will contract and  another section – usual on the opposite side of the joint, will elongate. Thus a balanced movement is created by a balanced stretching and counter contracting of the muscles surrounding a joint in the body.

Thus, the motions of abduction and adduction ( abduction vs adduction) which are exhibited by the arms and the legs are actually governed by the muscles around the  shoulder joints and the hip joints respectively. 

Abduction vs Adduction Yoga Movement

Abduction vs Adduction Hips

The muscles which take part in  creating the motions of  abduction are  known as abductors and for creating adduction are known as adductors.  Physiologically it has been found that the muscle fibers of abductors are shorter in length with lesser cross sectional area than the  muscle fibers of adductors. 

The hip adductora are  located in the groin area along the inside of the upper thighs. their normal range of motion is 30 – 40 degrees.  one of the most common example of hip adduction is when one crosses one’s thighs over each other while sitting. another would be when one squeezed one’s thighs  while riding pillion on a running bike,  or while standing in a long line  trying to hold the urine while waiting for the rest room.

Adduction contracts the muscles of the groin. The hip adductors contain maximum muscles mass of the thigh muscle group.  Thay all originate from the lower border of the pelvis at the ischium and pubic bones which also makes them hip flexors. 

Out of all the hip adductors only one, gracilis, which extends upto and terminates on the tibia, lower leg,  rest end on the femur, the thigh bone. The muscles which act as  hip adductors as viewed from front upper side to inferior are listed here.


  1. Adductor Longus
  2. Adductor brevis – it is located behind th eupper two
  3. Adductor magnus – the largest muscle of all
  4. Gracilis – the longest muscle in the group also acts as a knee flexor

The movement of hips in the yoga pose Gomukhasana is normal full range of motion for hip adduction  and external rotation.

Hip abductors on the other side are located on the outside of the hips. the normal range of motion of hip abdutors is 45 degrees.  Hip abductions contracts the outer hip muscles and provides a  slight stretch to the adductos of the same hip. The main hip abductor muscle is the gluteus medius. it is located in front and below of gluteus maximus and has the shape of a open fan. 

THe gluteus medius originates along the upper outer surface of the ilium in the pelvis, extends upto the head of the femur, thigh bone,  and latches on to its upper lateral surface. The muscles fibers present in the front, anterior, of the gluteus medius muscles also aid in internal hip rotation, while the muscles fibers of its back part, posteriro, aid in external hip rotation. 

The main assitant of the gluteus medius muscle in creating hip abduction is the gluteus minimus muscle which is hidden in the underside of it  and the tensor fascia lata.   Gluteus minimus is attched to the longest tendon in the body which ends at the lateral side of the tibia bone.  Common examples of hip abduction would include  placing one leg out of the car while stepping out of it or spreading one’s thighs to make a sideway step while walking.

Abduction and Adduction of Shoulders 

The normal range of motion for  movement of shoulder abduction si 40 degrees in a posterior, behind, direction because in a full motion the uppar arm will move backward, completely out of sight, when one is facing directly forward.  Deltoid is the shoulder muscle which contracts in making this movement which originates at the front outer third of the collar bone and connects to the back along the spine (ridge line) of the shoulder blade. 

The muscle fibers of deltoid  help  abduction of the shoulder (lifting the arm)  as well as rotation of the arm. Deltoid is a commonly weak muscle often associated with the chronic neck tension.   Holding the arms straight out, without lifting the shoulders, for at least a minute is a good test of the strength of this muscle. 

One contracts one’s deltoids while yawning and stretching before getting out of the bed in the morning and while reaching anything  on a shelf located  at a height over head.

The normal range of motion for the movement of  adduction of shoulder is 130 degrees,  wherein the elbows can touch each other and also cross  each other in front of the chest. Adduction of shoulders is evident in the yoga pose Garudasana (Eagle pose).  here the arms are crossed above the elbow and then intertwined in front of the chest.

The muscles which make this motion possible are the pectoralis major and the anterior, front, deltoid.  Pectoralis major is the muscle mass which spreads over the entire chest, which runs between the central third of the collar bone, breast bone, and the cartilage of the first six ribs.  This muscles helps support the shape of the breast from below.  This muscle also contracts when the shoulder rotates internally and  during shoulder depression. 

The anterior section of the deltoid muscle is visible as the rounded contour of the front of the shoulder. The main motion whihc involbes adduction fo the shoulders is when the arms cross each other in front of the chest. This motion is used as a means to protect our emotional and physical hearts. 

Yoga Techniques which involve Abduction and Adduction

Utthita Trikonasana




Areas which These Movements benefit

Abduction and adduction, the two yoga movements are significant to a set of yoga techniques which help benefit a  particular area related  to one’s health, as mentioned here.

Yoga for Arms

Yoga for legs

Yoga for Shoulders

Yoga for Hips

Yoga for Thighs