I am a runner. With that regularly comes tightness and pain, particularly in my piriformis muscle. The piriformis muscle is a small muscle that lies deep within the buttock region below the gluteal muscles. It has a significantly important role as it helps to rotate the thigh outward and inward. As running increases activity in that region, it is common to find runners with tight and overworked piriformis muscles. This tightness can be painful in and of itself; however, it also commonly leads to sciatic nerve pain.
The piriformis muscle lies directly above the sciatic nerve, which is the largest nerve in the body and runs from the top of the leg to the foot. When the piriformis muscle is over-active and tight it can compress against the sciatic nerve, causing pain and tingling along the leg and foot.
So what is the best way to combat this sciatic pain? Personally, I have found that stretching the piriformis helps to soften that muscle, alleviating the pressure on the sciatic nerve. There are a series of yoga postures that are incredibly helpful in targeting this piriformis region and in reducing the pain. However, for purposes of this article, I am singling out my favorite posture, which is Pigeon Pose, demonstrated in the photo above.
I find that the best way to get into this pose is from Downward Facing Dog. From here, lift your right leg to the sky, bend it and bring it forward, externally rotating your right hip so your right knee moves towards the right outer edge of the mat and your right ankle is placed near your left wrist. From here, place your right shin and knee down at about a 45 degree angle, and extend your left leg back. If your hip does not touch the floor, support it with a blanket, block or bolster. You can lean forward in this pose to deepen the stretch to the piriformis muscle. Once you are done stretching your right side, alternate sides and proceed accordingly.
IMPORTANT: As with any yoga pose, the most important factor is SAFETY! If you have any conditions, such as bad knees and/or hips, that could be exacerbated by doing Pigeon Pose, this is not the right pose for you. Do not worry, there are a series of modifications to this pose that can be done, in addition to other piriformis stretches. If you are interested in learning more, I recommend reading articles pertaining this subject. Here are two articles that I have enjoyed reading. http://www.yogabody.com/keep-your-knees-safe-in-pigeon-pose/ & http://www.nutritionbyangelique.net/2016/05/yoga-poses-sciatica/