Sciatica and Tight Hips/Low-Back – Your Pesky Piriformis!

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Today I want to share some information with you about your piriformis.

It is considered one of the “six deep lateral rotators of the hip.”


In 80% of us, the piriformis muscle sits atop the thick sciatic nerve that passes from your low back down to your lower leg, but in 20% of the population the sciatic nerve actually passes through the piriformis instead of underneath it.  When it is in chronic contraction it can cause referred pain down the back of the leg and fixate the sacrum in a stiff and sore position. The muscle runs at an angle across from the sacrum to the thigh bone and is deep in the buttock underneath the three layers of gluteal muscles.

Though sciatica (or referred pain down the back or side of the leg) is often caused by bulging discs in the lumbar spine, it is sometimes this tight piriformis muscle squeezing the nerve, or some combination of disc + piriformis creating the problem.

Even for those of us who don’t have sciatic pain, keeping the piriformis muscle out of chronic contraction allows for healthy range of motion in the hips and sacrum and is beneficial for the low-back. Of course, as with the work to loosen the psoas, stretching the pirifomis should be combined with strengthening the core, especially the pelvic floor and transversus abdominus muscles.

That’s as technical as we will get for now – those of you who want a more in depth anatomy understanding in terms of yoga postures and sequencing are enthusiastically invited to the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind Teacher Trainings.

My clinical experience as a 20-year yoga teacher and bodyworker tells me this muscle often holds unexpressed anger or fear when in chronic contraction. Practicing yoga or receiving bodywork in a supportive space that values inner work and emotional awareness can be key in releasing this tension and bringing awareness to the mind/body issues it may represent.

My Grounding & Pleasure workshop coming up January 27th is such a space and will focus on the low-back, hips and legs as we explore first and second “chakra” themes around being grounded, pleasurably alive, sensually and sexually empowered, standing up for yourself, trust, and intimacy.

Here is a free short video for anyone wanting to work with their piriformis Please proceed carefully, breathe deeply and practice self-compassion!

Yogis – do you have much experience of, or knowledge about, this key muscle? Tell me about it below!


All the best,




Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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About Julian Walker

Julian Walker is the founder of where he supports new and established yoga teachers in living their dreams through business development. He is a writer who has been teaching yoga since 1994, and co-teaches the Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind Yoga Teacher Training in LA with Hala Khouri.Julian's writing is featured in the book 21st Century Yoga available on


6 Responses to “Sciatica and Tight Hips/Low-Back – Your Pesky Piriformis!”

  1. Tina Lynn Countryman says:

    Hey Jewels, I do those stretches, but I go even deeper; my pain when I do them is right where the legs connect to the bottom of the buttucks. I have all kinds of injuries and won't go into them here, but I have noticed, doing the hip/leg hold and rotating that part where it conects helps me achieve better breathing and even less low back pain. My legs still hurt like a SOB though…Love to you, hope you are well; if you have any advice I'd love to hear it…always, star/Tina

  2. Deborah McAdams says:

    I've had a specific pain on my left ischeal tuberosity since November, when I went to a three-day karate seminar and went from horse stance to half-lotus on a hardwood floor for hours. It doesn't radiate down my leg, but it constrains my forward bends because the pain on that particular point becomes so intense. I stopped running for nearly two months and have done Iyengar nearly every day. It doesn't seem to worsen, nor does it get better. When I roll that area over one of those styrofoam rollers, it's like hitting a speed bump. Have you ever dealt with someone with something like this? – Deborah

  3. yogijulian says:


    perhaps not exactly like this, but here are my questions, deborah:

    1) did you try the variations i demonstrated in the video above and if so how did they feel?

    2) have you had any focused bodywork on the area?

    3) how does a) happy baby pose and b) supine badakonasana with your feet close to your chest or face feel?

  4. Jennifer says:

    Hello Julian, pleased to meet with your creative thinking!! That yoga tutorial video is enormously good and seems to effective enough for back pain treatment. I'm following poses as well to treat lower back pain nicely. Thanks.

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