Back in 1999/early 2000, shooting, burning pains down my left leg were diagnosed as piriformis syndrome. That was ultimately a good thing, first of all because it wasn’t sciatica, and second because it started me on the journey to rebalancing my body and learning more about the anatomical structures beneath the surface.
As with any muscle that has an imbalance, I found it important to stretch and strengthen—stretching the overtight left side and strengthening the right side—to bring my sacrum back into balance. Back in 2000, foam rollers were not the ubiquitous presence they are today and Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls still remained to be invented. Now I use the Therapy Balls to keep my piriformis healthy and supple (either rolling out one side at a time at the wall, or rolling out on the floor either with one ball or two). The new YTU® Alpha Ball is a particular joy to use, as the larger diameter and surface area help to distribute the lines of force over what feels like the whole muscle surface, hiding there underneath the gluteus maximus.
Since starting on my hip health program to keep the piriformis and other lateral hip rotators juicy and happy, I’ve found the following poses particularly beneficial to both strengthen and stretch this significant hip mover: abductor lifts/adductor slides, the Gomukhasana variation (with shins approximately at right angles to the thigh bones), and reclined Leg Stretch #3 (which you can see in the video clip below).