Rethinking Yoga Anatomy – Piriformis stability

As we have seen over the past few practices (starting with Week 95) imbalance in the body causes a limitation in movement, connective tissue strain and joint instability. Muscles that get locked long, or short, are both considered weak, as they don’t have full range of motion or usage of their function. 

  • Concentric contraction is actively engaging the muscles, they shorten. 
  • Isometric contraction is actively holding the muscles engaged. 
  • Eccentric contraction is actively lengthening, stretching the muscle. The opposing muscles are balancing this action out. 

We sit most of the day, our hip flexors are locked short, bum muscles are locked long and we slouch. The natural antidote to this is to stand up and do some stretching because moving dissolves the build up of collagen and promotes elastin within the connective tissues. There is an innate wisdom in our bodies that seeks balance, when you are tired physically, mentally and energetically, you activate and engage muscles to release their holding pattern and wake them up by yawning and stretching. This is called pandiculation. 

However, when we stand up we then notice an imbalance within our posture which is shown as lower cross syndrome. 

  • If the pelvis has an anterior tilt, the hip flexors and lower back are locked short and tight, then the abdominals and glutes are locked long and weak. 
  • If the pelvis has a posterior tilt the hip flexors and lower back are locked long and weak, then the abdominals and glutes are locked short and tight. 

Either way sitting and slouching for long periods of time, weakens the glutes and locks them for a very long time where they fall asleep!

This class we will focus on balancing this out by knitting the abdominals, zipping up the zipper extending out of the pelvis and maintaining a tall integral posture while focusing on the glutes, specifically the piriformis muscle, awakening the posterior parts of the pelvis and toning the muscles for healthier engagement. 

The piriformis attaches on the front of the sacrum and crosses the back of the pelvis to the outer femur bone called the trochanter. Piriformis is a lateral rotator and stabiliser, this means it externally rotates the leg bone out whether the leg extends back behind the body or lifts forward higher than 90 degrees of the pelvis. The piriformis works to hold the legs in relation to the pelvis by stabilising, this can be felt by bringing the weight in the heel of the foot. Yoga bricks will help us explore this phenomena by isolating movement in the toes (meant for mobility) and heels (are for stability). With weight in the heels, we can feel the tone and integrity rebound up the body creating tensegrity, (interconnectivle tensile force of awakened integral tone of engagement). 

Remember during your practice – No muscle acts alone, so feel how everything is interconnected and use the breath to both (inhale) invigorate and feed the muscle that energy, then (exhale) calm and nourish the tissues. 

We will repeat this piriformis engagement, working on stability first and then mobility over and over in this class to wake up and energise these muscle groups, balancing out our imbalances. 

To read more and to practice with Zephyr Wildman, click here

To support Zephyr Yoga Podcast, donate here.

Published on September 25, 2023