Piriformis is a small muscle in the centre of the butt, under the glutes. It runs from the sacro-iliac joint to the top of the thigh bone and its function is to externally rotate the hip joint ie. turn the leg outward.
Now, whether you knew it was your piriformis or not, you’ve likely been aware of it – as it has a tendency to get super tight – either from over-use, or under-use!! When it seems like you just can’t win, there are a few things that we can be doing regularly, as part of our yoga practice, to keep on top of it.
In this video I’ll be showing you 3 different exercises and yoga postures, that together, will help to:
→ release tension in the piriformis muscle
→ build strength in the smaller, deeper external hip rotators
If we can recruit the other, smaller muscles to pull their weight, we can take workload off poor piriformis, relieving potential pain.
You might be familiar with Pigeon pose (I’m going to share a great variation on this next month) but it’s certainly not the only – or the best, in my opinion – pose to release piriformis tension. So, in addition to the strength work, this video features a supine figure 4 pose, and a supine Garudasana, that both really effectively provide a stretch to Piriformis, without compromising the knee with body weight.
Always think strength + stretch when trying to treat an area.
The releasing poses should feel good, if intense – any sharp or nervy pain, stop and get it checked out.
Thank you for reading and watching. I’d love to hear from you now – do you enjoy working on this area? I find it’s a love/ hate relationship!
All my best,
The abbreviation: ITB, is thrown around a lot in running circles, sadly usually because so many runners have complaints there! But, just in case you are unaware of what the term actually refers to, the Iliotibial Band, or ITB, is a long band of thick fascia that runs along the outer thigh.
Its main job is to help keep our knees in place when we move, so it needs to carry a certain amount of tension to do this. Plus, we cannot stretch it, even if we wanted to!
But too much tension can be created when the muscle that it attaches to, the TLF (I talked about this last week), itself gets too tight, pulling excessively on the ITB, which in turn pulls on the knee causing pain.
In this video I’ll share a couple great ways to relieve tension in TFL and one simple exercise we can do towards helping to prevent it getting too tight in the first place.
The key take away here is that, if you have ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome), or knee pain, we cannot fix it through sports massage and foam rolling, although these can both help. We need to get to the root of why the pain has come about in the first place.
The poses and exercises in this video can give you a really great indication:
- we start with the side lying abductions – can you do this easily, for 15 repetitions? Does it get tiring more quickly on one side to the other? Can you isolate the movement to feel the primary engagement coming from the gluteous medius? Or, can you only feel it in the centre of your butt? If it is difficult, fatiguing, difficult to isolate then this could be an indication of weakness that you need to develop. Or, you just need practice in switching on the right muscles! It does take some focus, and this is where yoga is so much more than movement. This is the focus that we take into our running to avoid bad ingrained habits and start recruiting the most effective muscles for efficient running.
- we then use the strap to try to find a stretch into TFL – how does this feel? Subtly here is a good thing. If you feel a lot here, and actually I recommend this to everyone anyway – get a LAX ball in here by lying on your front/ side. More on this in a future video 😉
It’s all lying down, so enjoy!
I look forward to hearing your thoughts, comment just below 👇🏼
Have a great rest of the week,
PS. Next week we have another brand new video focusing on the hips, in particular piriformis. See you then!
Last week, I talked about two main reasons runners suffer with knee pain: Over-tight IT Band and lack of pelvic stability – but that if you have one, you most likely suffer with the other!
Remember, everything in the body is linked and a problem cannot be isolated to one specific area…
That’s why yoga is so amazing! We get to work on the whole body, in a holistic approach, that over time balances out our major misalignments.
So, if there’s a lack of pelvic stability because of insufficient strength in gluteus medius (primary pelvic stabiliser), then something else will overcompensate…
In this case, it’s often the TFL (tensor fascia lata) that gets over-worked and tight, pulling the IT Band and adding to the knee pain you may have from the pelvis dipping! (How to release TFL tension, coming up next week!)
Today’s video is an extension of last week’s. It takes you through the Sun Salutes as a great warm up, you’ll re-visit the Chair Lifts (any easier?), plus another great effective pelvic stabilising posture, Tiger.
I use so many variations of Tiger in my classes (as you’ll know if you’ve been on my retreats!), as it works core, hips and upper body all together.
A quick note – there is absolutely no need to know your anatomy, so please don’t worry about looking up and remembering those muscles. But I know for some of you it’s useful to know exactly why you’re doing something 😉
How’s your progress/ practice coming on? Write to me just below!
All my best,
Piriformis has the function of externally rotating the hip joint, with the help of the deeper and smaller GOGOQ muscles. Weakness in the GOGOQs can lead to Piriformis over-working and accumulating an excess of tension – as can over-use and a lot of sitting!
In this video, I show 5 poses that can help strengthen and stabilise the deeper hip rotators and release tension in Piriformis.
This has been my most viewed video on YouTube, so it’s clearly an area that many people suffer with! Here is what one viewer has said:
“Hi Helen, I just wanted to let you know your particular exercises in this sequence completely changed my life. For 4 years, I have been dealing with a major issue where I couldn’t sit comfortably anywhere and hold my children or pick up groceries or do very simple tasks because of my piriformis muscle. I did have back surgery which fixed a herniation the back pain 2 years ago but I still had trouble sitting or being mobile. After a few more years I got another MRI and EMG and found everything was clear but I still had pain. The doctor suggested I had Piriformis syndrome & an IT band issue. That night I found this video and immediately felt a release of that muscle! All of my mobility came back 100% so thank you!!!!! They were the perfect exercises!!!”
If you are new to yoga, or suffering with an injury or complaint, I recommend getting medical advice before you begin a yoga practice.
Do you suffer in this area? Let me know if these poses have also helped you, in the comments below 🙂
Very best wishes,
Knee pain is unfortunately a common affliction in runners – and yet, there are so many things we can do in yoga to help!
Obviously, knee pain can be caused by a whole range of reasons. But, there are two particularly common culprits:
- Over – tight IT Band
- Lack of pelvic stability
If you have one of these, you are likely to have both!
Today’s video guides you through a few rounds of my Runners Sun Salutes, which are ideal to warm up before running. It also includes a really simple way to help strengthen the pelvic stabilisers – gluteus medius being the primary muscle in this group.
We need sufficient strength here, so that our pelvis remains level when we run. Lack of strength here, causes dipping from side to side, resulting in unwanted pressure in the knee joints.
Do this video before any run, or on a non-running day and we’ll continue this topic next week!
All my best,
PS. Let me know what you think in the comments just below!