One of the more commonly tight muscles, the piriformis, can be a real pain in your …. well, you know. But stretching it out regularly will help reduce pain and discomfort in your … well, you know. The following stretches aren’t just for the piriformis though. They also help with the gluteus minimus and other external rotators of the hip (there are five others!).
Some indications that you may need to stretch your external hip rotators are:
- sciatic pain
- SI joint pain
- stiffness in the hips
- postural imbalances such as being ‘duck-footed’ (toes pointing out) or weight bearing on one leg (hip jutting out)
Without further ado, here are some stretches and modifications for the external hip rotators. Find one that best suits your flexibility level.
Pigeon Pose: Kneeling on all 4s, bring the right knee forward to the right wrist. Let the right knee sink out toward the ground so the shin is more or less perpendicular between your two hands. Then extend the left leg straight back, with your toes resting in a straight line behind you. If you are able to, fold the torso over the front leg. If you find this pose very challenging, put a book, block, or cushion under your bent right hip to help support you at a comfortable distance from the ground. Repeat on the other side.
Figure-4: Lying on your back, with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent toward the ceiling, place the right foot on the left knee. Reach through the triangle made by your two thighs to grasp the back of the left thigh. Slowly draw the left thigh towards your chest, bringing the right shin and knee in close. Straighten the left knee to lessen the stretch. Repeat on the other side. If you have trouble grasping the back of the thigh, wrap a belt behind the thigh and hold the two ends in your hands.
Figure-4 on a chair: Similar to the Figure-4, only you’re sitting. While seated, place the right foot on the left knee. This may be far enough for you to feel a stretch in the right hip. If not, slowly bring your chest forward over your legs. Repeat on the other side.
You will feel these stretches in your hip or buttock of the side being stretched. You may also feel them in the outside of the thigh, and in the low back. As long as you don’t have pain, enjoy whatever stretch you’re experiencing.
Remember to go only far enough so that you feel a delicious, comfortable sensation of lengthening. Pain means you’ve gone too far, and your muscles will contract and shorten, not stretch.
Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds on each side, or longer if you like.