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Piriformis Release and Piriformis Stretch?

The above video is one of our favorite exercises that uses a piriformis release to access a piriformis stretch, as well as including and itband stretch and a hip flexor stretch. As with many of the exercises we offer involving tight hips everyone feels things differently as everyone’s body needs and does different things.

It goes without saying that if you are in pain you want to get out of pain. The question is how to get relief. The piriformis muscle, along with the psoas (sz-oas) is one of only two muscles that connect the legs to the spine. They tend to work overtime to hold us up and it is very easy for them to fall into dysfunction. We believe that sometimes it is better to release tension from muscles before you go about stretching or strengthening them.

The piriformis muscle turns your feet out or helps you get out of a car. If you walk or stand with your feet turned out your piriformis muscle is chronically tight simply because of your everyday posture, and we have found that all the piriformis stretches in the world won’t change things if your deeply rooted habits don’t change.

The above pose is called ankle to knee and in one direction it is a strong piriformis stretch deep in the buttock of the top leg. Though very often if the tight hips  are a major issue, all of the feeling will be associated with the It band and the hip flexor, next door neighbors of the piriformis.

If you know that you have very tight hips start by crossing the right ankle over the left knee with left leg straight out in front of you and bend forward. If you feel this as a stretch in the hip maintain this position; if you feel this as a hamstring stretch at the back of the leg go into the full pose.

There is a neat trick involved in this exercise. On the surface it is a piriformis stretch and if you stack your shins and go forward you should feel it as such, though again you might only feel it in the IT Band or the hip flexor, and if you have really tight hips what you feel would defy the definition of stretch.

But then we move into the piriformis release as we try to move or lean backwards onto our forearms. From my perspective what happens now is the IT band stretches and the hips flexor stretches (again different strokes for different folks), which doesn’t happen often, and the piriformis releases.

Stay here for a couple of minutes if you can, trying to relax, and let the higher leg go if possible. We think that the piriformis release coupled with the it band stretch and the hip flexor stretch, creates an environment for you to sit up and then bend forward feeling the piriformis stretch in a very new way.

This exercise is one of our favorites in the never-ending quest to release and open tight hips.

The CoreWalking Program was born out of Jonathan FitzGordon's personal and professional experience with changing the body's habitual movement patterns through self-awareness and repetition. To try The CoreWalking Program visit our store now.

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7 Responses to “Piriformis Release and Piriformis Stretch?”

  1. Tamsin

    Jonathan, I can’t see a contact email to send you a note of general thank you, so I’m just picking one of the *many* fabulous posts to send you a message. I *love* your blog. I, too, believe firmly that there is so much to learn from how we walk and sit. I am slowly reading the backlog of your posts, having so many eureka! moments it’s unbelievable. I particularly appreciated the full explanation of backbends, which is in short supply. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain (and many a bellydancer will have cause to thank you too, in future). Blessings.

    Reply
  2. Debbie

    Did your stretch on the above video. The problem wasn’t going back to rest on forearms the problem was when I went to stretch forward.

    A few yrs ago I had a hamstring repair (it popped off the bone) then I was in a car accident broke my knee and ripped a disc in half. Even though I’ve been doing hamstring stretches, I feel that I’m not getting the “right” spot. Or they’re not effective. When I do a squat, even though I think everything is even, when I look in a mirror the left (uninjured) side goes down about 3 inches lowere than the right side.

    Any suggestions for other stretches.

    Reply
  3. Ian

    I just want to thank you very much for your blog post on the remedy for tight hips. I found your blog yesterday and already the stretch seems to be making the pain go away! I’m actually amazed at how well this exercise/stretch works.

    Reply
  4. Zach

    Hi,

    I am having trouble doing this exercise (backwards). I have very tight hips, particularly my right hips. When I go backwards I can’t keep both glutes on the floor at all. My piriformis is extremely tight. Are there poses I can do to build up to this?

    Reply

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