This stretch can feel great for anyone experiencing tightness in their piriformis or gluteus muscles, and people with sciatica symptoms because loosening these muscles is one step in reducing tension on the sciatic nerve.
There are many ways to do this stretch, so you have many options depending on your preference, but the thing each has in common is that you cross the leg of the side you are stretching over the other so that your legs sort of make a figure four and your ankle rests across the other thigh, and then bring your leg toward your chest so you feel the stretch between your hip and butt.
Furthermore, pay attention to if your lower back starts rounding as you stretch. While this may help you to pull your legs closer to your chest, it puts slack on the muscles you are trying to stretch taut. To prevent this, think of sticking your tailbone out while doing the stretch, to keep your pelvis from moving.
- Lie on your back and pull your non-stretching thigh toward your chest.
- Cross your legs while sitting, and lean down toward your legs.
- Use a table, railing, or any surface that is at the right height for you and cross your leg on top of the table, leaning in until you feel the resistance.
- For those who can stand on one leg, you can simply cross your legs and squat down as you balance on the uncrossed leg. Unlike the girl in the picture, try to keep the shin of your standing leg vertical so you don’t put strain on the structures of the knee.
5. Bring your crossed leg towards your chest as you lay on top of it, with the other leg stretched out behind you. Keep your hips facing forward, and your front knee in line with your hip.
There are even more varieties than this. Pick the one that seems most stable and beneficial to you, or try them all. Remember:
- Ease in and out of a stretch slowly
- A gentle, gradual stretch is more effective than rushing or pushing through it
- Stretch both sides, even if only one seems to be giving you problems
Preventing piriformis tension:
Ever notice how we often turn our feet out, or how many people sit with their legs spread out wide? There’s nothing wrong with that, but as I’ve explained in other posts (Slouching, Doorway, etc.), muscles adapt to the way we repetitively use them. Once in a while, check in with how you are sitting or standing. If your feet tend to be turned out, or even if they turn in: that’s normal. Normal here means that everyone tends to let their feet deviate in one way or the other, but they “should” be mostly pointing forward. Being mindful of your hip and leg postures can change these habits over time.
A couple other ways to help your piriformis muscle out are to sit less often in general, and if you are sitting, don’t have your wallet or phone in your back pocket. This puts pressure on the muscle, which if done continuously over time, can lead to increased tension.