Sunday, 23 April 2017

Yoga anatomy bites - piriformis

The piriformis is one of the group of muscles known as the external hip rotators. There are six of these. It exits the anterior surface of the sacrum, that triangular bone at the bottom of your spine and attaches to the upper, outer corner of the femur, thigh bone. It's function is to abduct the femur as in Tree pose and it also gives stability to the sacrum. It joins to the sacrum with fascia and adjusts with the movement of the leg creating stability in the sacroilliac (SI) joint, where the sacrum joins the illium.

The piriformis might be a small muscle but it can cause a whole lot of trouble if it gets overly tight. It needs to be tight to a certain extent to stabilise the sacrum but overly tight can cause problems. The sciatic nerve runs between the piriformis and the sacrum (in some people it runs through the piriformis). When the piriformis is tight, it presses on the sciatic nerve which causing symptoms such as buttock, hip and leg pain, or a burning sensation or numbness in these areas.  Good seated and standing posture is important to prevent problems.

The following yoga poses will help keep the piriformis  muscle stretched helping to prevent piriformis syndrome.

Pigeon Pose

You can come into Pigeon Pose from all fours or from Downward Facing Dog.  Bring your right knee to your right wrist and lower your hips, sliding your left leg back. Take your right foot towards  the left side of the mat.  If you are super flexible, you may be able to bring your shin parallel to the short edge of the mat but do not strain.  Keep your shoulders over your hips and centred so you do not lean to one side and square your hips to the short edge of the mat. Tucking the toes of your back foot and pressing into your toes can help square the hips. This is also helpful if you have a tendency to get cramp in the back foot.  Not comfortable? Try placing a cushion under your left thigh and another under your right buttock. Hold the pose for a few breaths then come back to all fours or Downward Facing Dog and repeat second side.

Eagle Pose

Take your right arm under the left and bend both elbows.  If your arms allow, take the left arm in front of the right and join the palms. To modify the arm position you can have the backs of the hands together with the right arm under the left, or simply have the elbows and palms together. Lift the elbows level with the shoulders and find a drishti, a gaze point. Softly bend both knees and take your weight into your left foot.  Take your right foot to the outside of the left, or take the right foot to the outside of the left calf or tuck the right foot behind the left calf. 

To come out of the pose, stretch the arms and right leg out as if you are flying like an eagle. Repeat second side.

Half Lord of the Fishes 

Sit with the legs outstretched on a block or a blanket. Bend the right knee and draw the leg close into the chest. Take the right foot to the outside of the left thigh. If you can keep the right sit bone and right foot grounded bring the left foot to the right hip, otherwise keep the left leg extended.  Take your right hand to the mat behind your right hip or to the block on which you are seated. Breathe in and lengthen your spine. Breathe out and bending  your left elbow, take your left arm to the outside of your right leg, palm facing forward (in the traffic stopping positon). Alternatively, for beginners, hug your right leg into your body with the left hand.  Work with the breath to deepen the twist.  Inhale, lengthen through the crown of your head, exhale start to twist from the abdomen, then the ribcage, then the shoulders, keeping the chin in line with the breast bone.  As you hold the twist, work with your breath. With each inhale lengthen, with each exhale, you may have room to twist a little more. If you have a good twist through the spine, slowly turn your head to look over the right shoulder. Come out of the pose in the same way as you went into it. Inhale lengthen, exhale release the neck, the shoulder, the ribcage and finally the abdomen. Repeat second side.  

You might also like-
Yoga to help relieve pain - piriformis syndrome

Please also see:-
'Yoga anatomy bites- flexion and extension'
'Yoga anatomy bites - adduction and abduction'
'Yoga anatomy bites- internal rotation and external rotation'
'Yoga anatomy bites - hamstring strength vs flexibility
'Yoga anatomy bites - foot flexibility and stability'
'Yoga anatomy bites - knee health'

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