Are you a little tight around the back of the hips? Does your backbend and your hips tilt forward? If so it is time for you to start implementing a supine piriformis stretch into your daily stretching routine.
What Is a Piriformis Stretch?
The piriformis muscle is located beneath the gluteal muscles. Their function is crucial to hip flexibility and stability. The Piriformis laterally rotates and stabilizes the hip. The piriformis works with the hip rotators to turn the hips and upper leg inward and outward.
When you have a tight piriformis you may experience pain behind the knee or in the lower back known as sciatica.
Due to a tight piriformis, your hips can pull down towards the front of your body and your back will bow. This will create a number of alignment issues and dysfunction in the body.
Piriformis Stretches & Exercises
How To Stretch Your Piriformis
Step 1: Come to a seated position on the floor with bent knees.
Step 2: Lay down with a flat back and ensure your lower back is flat to the mat. We don’t want the hips to be tilting downward.
Step 3: Bring your ankle to meet just below the knee in a right angle position. You want to keep the foot flexed at all times to protect the knee.
Here is a front view of the right angle you need to take with your right leg.
Step 4: Bring your hands around the leg with the foot on the floor. In this instance, it is the left leg. Your hands want to reach around until they meet your shins.
Step 5: Draw the shin towards your chest keeping it in the same plane. You should feel a good stretch here.
The Role of Agonist and Antagonists
Agonist’s muscles are muscles with force while the antagonist is relaxed.
As you can see in the images below we have two body positions with opposite agonist and antagonist’s muscles.
In the left photo, the antagonist’s muscles are engaged through the chest shoulders and triceps, while in the latter you have the back glutes and thighs and hip flexors as the antagonist.
What does this have to do with your piriformis? If your piriformis is tight then it will affect the front of the hips as the piriformis range of movement is restricted.
I personally suffer from a tight piriformis and hip flexors. No matter how much stretching I seem to do it is never enough. Because my piriformis is tight it pulls my hips to a downward-facing tilt.
This now interferes with my hip flexors. Why? Because of the angle of the pelvis. Instead of it being straight it is now facing forward. This will naturally begin to tighten my hip flexors. The tighter the hip flexors become the more my hips will continue to move downward on a tilt. This syndrome is known as anterior pelvic tilt.
So as you can see we will need to treat both the agonist and the antagonist. Depending on what is going on in your body you may need to strengthen your agonist. In this instance that would be my lower core.
When we have dysfunction in one area of the body is affects more than one muscle group.
Here are four great exercises for your hip flexors.
Hip Flexor Stretches
Hip Flexor Stretch #1
Runners lunge. When you lean into runners lunge you want to keep your pelvis tucked under. Lean as deeply as your body allows without compromising your posture.
Hip Flexor Stretch #2
Dynamic Runners Lunge
This is a more advanced version of runners lunge. Engage the leg on the mat and press down into the floor through the top of the foot. This will allow the leg to move upward and off the mat.
Fingertips are ever so lightly used to maintain your stability. To take it even further you can go hands-free. I am not there yet otherwise I would have a photo for you 😉.
Hip Flexor Stretch #3
Activated Deer Pose
There are a few key differences between deer pose and pigeon pose. Deer pose your front leg is at a complete right angle. The foot remains flexed to protect the knee.
After your front leg is in place the back leg engages and lifts off the mat by engaging your glutes and quadriceps. If you can’t get your leg as straight as mine then slightly curl the back leg towards your glutes.
Here are another four hip flexor exercises!
Stretching The Superior Gamellus
Because my piriformis is tight the tightness in the hip affects the entire muscle group, not just the singular muscle. The superior gamellus is the deep muscle just below the pirimormis.
Step 1: Come to a seated position with a flat back.
Step 2: Cross the left leg at a right angle. The ankle should meet the left leg just above the knee. Keep the foot flexed to protect the knee.
Step 3: This position may be enough for you. If you need to deepen your stretch simply lower your chest. Keep the hips square and in a neutral position. If you curve your back you will not get the correct stretch or any stretch at all for that matter.
Step 4: To take it even further you can bring your chest towards your shin. Just remember to keep the right alignment discussed in step 3.
I hope you find some relief with these stretches. Which one was your favorite? Mine is the supine piriformis stretch. If you want me to do an instructional post on a certain part of the body simply comment below and I will make one for you.
In Happiness and Health,