Two years ago, I attended an intensive yoga workshop that involved at least 3.5 hours of daily practice over 3 days. I found myself having to deal with a pain in the butt for the next couple of weeks, literally, at the back of my right leg, just at the point where the thigh met the bum. It was quite a strong pain that didn’t hurt while walking or sitting, but hurt only when I pressed on the exact point or went into poses like Padagusthasana, or other poses that stretched my hamstrings. I couldn’t figure out why I was experiencing this pain since I didn’t remember experiencing a pull or an intense pain while doing the exercises during the workshop. However, when Master Satya was teaching us about the Piriformis muscle a couple of days ago, I quickly realised that I it was probably an injury to the Piriformis that was causing the discomfort.
The Piriformis muscle is located in the buttock region and originates from the lower spine and inserts into the top of each femur (thighbone). The Piriformis muscle is one of the muscles responsible for lateral rotation of the hip and the Sciatic nerve runs down from the back to the leg, between the Piriformis and the Obturator Internus muscles. The Sciatic nerve also runs through the Piriformis in a small set of the population. Irritation, tightening, swelling or inflammation of the Piriformis can therefore lead to pain in the back of the thigh, calf or foot due to irritation of the Sciatic nerve.
Though I’ve been practicing yoga for a few years, I never really understood how people could get injuries from yoga since I considered yoga to be a relatively ‘low impact’ sport compared to other activities I enjoyed, such as running or body combat and conditioning classes. However, I now understand the importance of ‘listening to your body’ and not pushing my body into certain poses without proper conditioning. This is a reminder for those who consider themselves relatively fit, to exercise caution and humility in yoga asanas, since it is likely that weaknesses in the body will be discovered through constant yoga practice, since other sports tend to repeatedly use a more select group of muscles.
Rachel L – YTT Jan 2017