Piri-who? Piriformis syndrome is a condition that affects millions of Americans each year, including me. Like many before me have quipped, it can be a real pain in the butt.
A mild form of sciatica, piriformis syndrome feels like a deep, intense ache lodged deep in the flesh of the buttock. As it worsens, the crippling pain can radiate down the thighs and legs and up to the lower back.
PS typically plagues runners (a la me), swimmers and workaholics, the condition which is caused by jogging on uneven surfaces, forward-moving athletic activities and sitting for extended periods of time. Symptoms include spasms (from mild to agonizing) and an uncomfortable tightening of the piriformis muscle.
In recent years, Botox injections have emerged as a popular treatment for the syndrome (Botox relaxes the tight muscles). But for many, going under the needle is almost as unpleasant as the pain itself. So why not try yoga first?
These seated yoga poses will help stretch out and loosen up the muscle, bringing relief to your lower back, legs and buttocks. Hold each pose for a minimum of 20 counts, and remember to breathe deeply.
Half Spinal Twist: Ardha Matsyendrasana
How to do it: Sit in plow pose with both legs extended directly in front of you. Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Thread your left foot underneath your right leg and place it on the outside of your right hip. (Your left knee should now be on the floor). Bring the right foot over the left thigh, placing the foot on the outside of the hip. Your right knee should point toward the ceiling.
Extend your left arm up to lengthen the spine. Twist right, placing your left elbow on the outside of the right knee. Place your right hand flat on the floor behind you. With each exhale, twist a little further. Repeat on your left side.
Where you'll feel it: When you flatten your knee so that it rests or comes close to resting on the floor, you'll feel it in your piriformis muscle and the tissues surrounding your sitz bones. That's a good thing.
Pigeon Pose: Eka Pada Kapotasana
How to do it: Start in downward facing dog. Lift your right leg. Bend the right knee in toward the chest and place your knee on the outside of the right hand. Your right leg should be parallel with the front of the mat. Release down into this awkward split-like position.
Adjust your body and square your hips to the front of the mat. Place padding under your right knee if it's raised off the ground. Repeat on the other side.
Where you'll feel it: Pigeon pose is one of the best hip openers you can do. It stretches the backs of the thighs, the groin and the lower back all along the sciatic nerve, relieving the discomfort of piriformis syndrome.
Editor's note: Because of piriformis syndrome, I was told to stop running and working out for more than a month. I hated every minute of it. If you've ever been forced to sit on the sidelines due to PS or any other injury, we'd love if you shared your story-and how you overcame it-here.