In the winter of 2008 I started experiencing sharp, shooting pain that radiated from my left buttock all the way down my leg, sometimes burning a hole into the sole of my foot. At the time I was under a great deal of stress – I had just moved across the country, was teaching a ridiculous amount of yoga classes, and charging up and down the hills of San Francisco like a mad woman (not wearing proper footwear to boot). Later I discovered that all of these conditions definitely could have contributed to the tightening and overuse of my piriformis, resulting in the constant pain pulsating down the back of my left leg.
Before long the pain was so bad that it kept me awake at night, cramping and aching so badly that I wished I could just unscrew my leg and set it aside to get some rest. I called upon my massage therapist friend who could barely help due to my violent twitching and flinching whenever she laid her hands on my booty. Eventually I saw an orthopedist who recommended an MRI – what a terrifying experience that was! The scan revealed two herniated disks, but I had never sensed any discomfort in my lower back. The doctor recommended cortisone shots to reduce the inflammation and/or surgery. Intuitively I knew that wasn’t what my body needed, and I decided to SLOW DOWN, ease up on the forward bends and urban hiking, take a lot of baths, and just breathe like a good yogi should.
I imagine that the disks in my lower back are still herniated, however the pain is long gone since I got my piriformis to relax a little and let its hair down. I know now that as a woman with hyper-mobile SI joints and a piriformis that is likely bisected by my sciatic nerve, regular maintenance is required to prevent that agonizing pain in the you-know-what.
In Yoga Tune Up® there are several different piriformis syndrome stretches and yoga exercises that can be used to help prevent or keep this condition at bay. The most direct is working with Yoga Tune Up® Roll Model massage balls, massaging right into the piriformis muscle to inspire release. I’ve included the video demonstration below, which is also part of the 5 Minute Quick Fix for Hips video. Gravity and the weight of your body can work to your advantage here while you rock, roll, cross-fiber, stripe, or apply sustained compression to the overwrought piriformis.
Read part 1 of this article about the Pesky Piriformis.
Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.
Watch our Free 5-Minute Quickfix: Hips Video