I’d like to introduce you to a hidden gem in your behind that's begging for your attention. Meet your piriformis muscle!
After teaching a Yoga Tune Up® class at our retreat this summer, I received an e-mail note from one of our attendees that read “Thank you for teaching me the Alpha ball rolling techniques to release over twenty years of awful, limiting hip and glute pain. The weekend positively changed my physical and mental health and inspired me to continue yoga practice!” I was delighted and grateful but not surprised. Yoga Tune Up® has worked on so many levels in my own body and that of my students at our studio that I have chosen it as my primary focus of teaching! Back to your backside...one of the main areas we therapeutically rolled out that day was the piriformis. It’s definitely a muscle I believe we should all get to know a little better to maintain a pain free, “do what we love to do” life! So here goes....
A LITTLE ANATOMY LESSON:
Your piriformis, works uber-hard for you every single day but gets very little attention until you make it crabby by mis-use, over-use and under appreciation. The piriformis is one of your deep six lateral hip rotators located deep under the gluteus maximus muscle. It attaches to the front surface of your sacrum (inside of the pelvic bowl) and inserts onto the greater trochanter on the outside of the femur (thigh bone). The piriformis is joined by a band of connective tissue, or fascia that stretches across the sacrum just above the tailbone which acts as a stabilizer for the sacrum and sacroiliac (SI) joint. THE IMPORTANT PART! It is the only hip rotator whose location overlies the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body and in 15-22% of the population; the sciatic nerve actually passes through the piriformis. The location of the piriformis is important to know because if it gets excessively tight or spasms it puts the big squeeze on the sciatic nerve causing burning pain, numbness and tingling down your leg or foot as well as wreaking havoc in all kinds of other uncomfortable ways through its fascial connections up your torso and lower limbs ie: low back pain, pelvic pain, knee pain and/or a deep pain in the buttock and hips. If it gets really grumpy you might get an unwelcome gift of sciatica or piriformis syndrome. Gifts that nobody wants to receive!
Learn what your piriformis does for you and more importantly what you can do for it to maintain
healthy happy hips
Every single day your piriformis is multi-tasking big time! It's responsible for abducting the leg, lifting the leg away from the midline of your body, while the hips are in flexion (like when you are seated stepping out of your car or when you're riding a horse or bicycle. It is a lateral rotator of your hips. We use it when we run, walk,anytime we shift our weight from one foot to another. It is also used to maintain balance, stabilizing the sacrum and sacroiliac (SI joint) and in sports that involve lifting and rotating the thighs which is almost all of them! Runners and cyclists need to give extra love to their piriformis due to the repetitive contraction and release use of this muscle. Another thing to watch out for is your body alignment. Many of us have a habit of standing or walking with one or both feet pointing out (external hip rotation) which can chronically shorten, tighten and weaken the piriformis. With all this responsibility it’s no wonder the piriformis gets uptight becoming a pain in your butt and beyond!
Keeping yours happy! Below is a video demo for one of my all-time favorite Yoga Tune Up® exercises called 1/2 Happy Baby Mini-vini regularly taught in our Yoga Tune Up® classes at the studio. Give it a try. I like to teach this a bit slower than the demo here. It's all good!!! This sequence will not only help keep your piriformis happy but it also lights up all the surrounding muscles and tissues as well! I've also included a therapy ball video for you to try. NOTE: I like to use larger PLUS or ALPHA balls for a gentler release either on the floor as in the video or working on the wall which allows more control to regulate the intensity of the massage work. I invite you to join us for a class or workshop to experience the positive effects a full Yoga Tune Up® practice can have on your body! Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls are available at our studio.
Curly girl, teacher of yoga, anatomy, healthy lifestyle coaching, facials and fascia. Passion: Teaching people how to find happiness & strength in their analog bodies & souls in this fast paced 21st century world.