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,
Why should I do post-run yoga? What happens when you stretch/ don’t stretch post-run?
I know how it is… You’ve finished a great run and you feel pumped – but you also feel worn out and hungry!
So, after a quick chat with your run buddies, you jump in the car to go get breakfast. Maybe you take two minutes before you head home to pull your heel towards your butt, as a post-run stretch token effort. You get home, eat your breakfast, and sit down to read the paper, or do some work…
After an hour or so, you get up to go to the bathroom and you feel so stiff! Everything has started to tighten and stiffen up and you feel pretty uncomfortable. You think to yourself… Maybe I should have stretched – I’ll do it later, or, I’ll do it next time. The next day you go to run again but you feel way stiffer before you run than you did the day before. You run anyway but it’s cold, so you go faster initially than perhaps you should… and before long, you feel a twinge in your calf (or hamstrings) that gets worse, and then you have to walk the rest of the way.
What you could have done after your initial run:
You have that quick chat with your buddies, as you all start to stretch. As you start to do more, you stop chatting and you focus on how you feel. You know that it’s only going to take around 10 minutes to do your post-run yoga or stretch out routine. You do it because you know that it’s going to help you to feel much better later on in the day and ready for your next run tomorrow.
If it’s a sunny day, you’ll do it straight after you run. Sometimes, you’ll drive home but as soon as you get home you’ll take your 10 minutes to do your post-run routine. Then you get your breakfast! Then you sit down to read the paper or do your work and, when you get up that hour later, you feel totally fine. More that time, you feel great, you feel mobile, nimble, you feel refreshed and you feel happy that you got your run done and guilt free because you know that you stretched out. You look forward to your run the following day, as you know that you’re going to feel great and ready for it.
So what happens when we don’t stretch:
Accumulated tension that’s built up through repeatedly contracting the muscles whilst we run, has no opportunity to release the excess we don’t need. The muscles shorten as they tighten because they have no opportunity to release and re-lengthen and remain this way if not stretched. It’s true, as runners we do need muscular tension – we want to be building strength for stability and joint protection; too much flexibility as a runner can be detrimental. However, without sufficient flexibility, our running technique is impaired.
Let’s consider the hamstrings. The hamstrings work, hopefully alongside the glutes, constantly contracting as we run. So the muscles are shortening and getting stronger. If we take the time to release just some of that tension that’s built up during the run, in a post run yoga routine, we’ll release a good amount of that excess tension. We’ll maintain some of it, but we also want to release some of it.
Also, if we don’t give our muscles the opportunity to re-lengthen, then they are at a greater risk of suffering injury. The shorter the muscle the tighter it gets, and the less mobility we have in the joints. The less spring like quality the muscle has, as it’s under more tension it’s much easier to tear or strain.
So try this 10 minute video. Here you go! It’s my go-to yoga routine for after my run. Just 10 minutes. You could do it straight after your run if you have your phone on you to follow it, or do it as soon as you get home. This is the routine I’ll use most often – I have another that I recently shared with you that’s all standing and I tend to do straight away outside. This one, I tend to do as soon as I get indoors and then as often as I can, I’ll do a more relaxing and restorative yoga practice that same evening, especially if I’ve gone the extra distance in my run. More on that next week!
Let me know how you get on in the comments below, as I always want to know how you get on. Tell me your stories and experiences. Are you making the time to do some yoga after your run, or is this a new habit that you’re hoping or trying to create? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments, in our Facebook community, or feel free to email me here.
Thank you so much for reading and for watching. I love building this community and see staying in touch with you.
All my best wishes, Helen.
Side body Strength
Let’s not forget our side body when we think about core strength. There are so many muscles that wrap around us from the sides, supporting our spine, hips and shoulders, yet the side body can often be forgotten.
Side plank is one of my favourite poses for a number of reasons: it strengthens the transverse abdominus, the obliques, the quadratus lumborum and serratus anterior, as well as the other rotator cuff muscles and the spinal extensors.
→ If we’re not actively strengthening all of the ‘core’ muscles, including the sides and the glutes, then something will be overcompensating, usually the low back.
It’s a simple pose – but not an easy one! It’s like trying to find Tadasana, your perfect standing posture, and then turning it on it’s side! It can be very easy to allow the spine to flex or extend, to let the hips sink or to lift them too high, and to let the supporting shoulder drop against gravity. But, one of the best things about the pose is the range of options it offers.
As with any pose that requires really good strength, working towards it in steps, in order to build efficient strength to hold the full posture is always better than struggling and persevering with the full thing!
You’ve likely practised a range of side plank variations in my classes, but there are two great progressions towards the full thing:
- Keep the lower knee on the floor. Start in Plank but drop the knees where they land. Take the right foot back, turn it parallel to the back edge of the mat. Turn the left foot and shin slightly off the mat at an angle. Push the left hand down and hug the shoulder in. Lift the hips but lengthen the tail bone to stay in line.
- Place the top foot on the floor. Start in Plank. Turn to the right, placing right foot on the floor in front of the hips. Drop the left heel so you are on the outer edge of the left foot. Push the left hand down and hug the shoulder in. Lift the hips and keep lengthening the tail bone, as before.
- The full pose. From Plank, turn to the side, stack the feet. Lift the hips, but not too high. Lengthen the spine, reaching from the crown of your head and the heels. Keep resisting gravity by pushing the balancing hand down and hugging the shoulder in, away from the ear.
This is a fun pose to incorporate into a flowing Vinyasa practice – I think so anyway! and is a great indicator of building more strength.
We’re going to be exploring many more variations of Vasisthasana in my next workshop, on Sunday 24th March in St Agnes, as well as other fun and focussed ways of strengthening and releasing the side body, using Myofascial Release, Yin Postures and Vinyasa Flow. Book your place here.
What is your experience with this pose? Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you so much for being here,