by Karli Taylor
If we are talking about aesthetics, the term “runner’s butt” might sound like a compliment, but when used to describe a tight piriformis, it’s really quite a pain in the A#@!
Tightness in the piriformis muscle often occurs when runners bump up their mileage too quickly or introduce speed sessions or sprints. Left untreated, it can lead to an injury that at can sideline runners for weeks or months at a time. Because of its proximity to the sciatic nerve, an injured piriformis muscle (Runner’s Butt) can cause pain that shoots down the length of the leg and up to the lower back as well.
This month we will focus on stretching that pesky little piriformis while strengthening some adductor muscles that will help take pressure off of it while running.
Ardha Matsyendra , or Half Lord of the Fishes pose, is a seated twist with a number of benefits the include stretching the shoulders, neck, back and piriformis muscles.
Start by sitting with your legs outstretched in front of you. If you find it difficult to sit up tall, sitting on a block or pillow to raise your hips slightly will help. Place your right foot on the outside of your left leg, around knee height. Place your right arm behind you and press into the ground with your fingertips to help you sit up tall as you twist. Bend your left arm and hook your elbow around your knee as you twist to the right. If you are unable to hook the elbow, place your hand on your shin.
Once you settle in to the pose, use your breath to deepen the stretch. With every breath in, press your fingers into the floor to allow you to sit up a bit taller. With every breath out, hug the knee in toward your torso a bit and twist a bit further.
Crossed Ankle Bridge is a variation on the classic glute bridge that you will feel more in your inner thigh muscles, or adductors. Perform this exercise before your seated twist to take some of the power away from the abductor muscles allowing you to get a deeper stretch in your piriformis.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent. Feet should be as close to your rear as you can maintain comfortably with full feet on the ground. Cross your right ankle over your left ankle and plant both feet. Squeeze your thighs toward each other like you are trying to hold a piece of paper in between them. Keeping your eyes on the ceiling, lift your hips off of the ground while you continue to squeeze your thighs together. Hold your hips at the highest comfortable point for 20-30 seconds. Lower slowly and switch the cross of your legs.
Try adding these two poses to your routine. Remember to do them after your run while you are nice and warm and focus on taking long deep breaths. Often when a position is uncomfortable, we hold our breath or allow our breath to get short and choppy. When we do this, our heart rate goes up, our muscles tense up and that pose that was kind of uncomfortable becomes downright miserable!
Other Pace Setter articles by Karli Taylor:
Yoga for Runners: Lesson 1 – Stretching Hip Flexors
Yoga Exercises to Help in Stability