I was so right: Pigeon pose is the Holy Grail of asanas for runners with piriformis syndrome. It’s true because it says so in this illustrated book.
On Sunday night, I was afforded the rare opportunity to take a yoga class in the house in which I was staying. But this wasn’t just any house; the class was held in a spacious room with floor to ceiling windows, a view of the Potomac River, and a worldly decor.
The group was intimate; just 6 of us lined up with our yoga mats, ready to restore our bodies from the weekend while preparing them for the week ahead. As for me, I was looking for a really good stretch after months of avoiding my usual classes. In times of financial restraint, yoga is unfortunately the first frivolous hobby to get the axe. My running typically suffers from the decision.
Fortunately, the class was just that: restorative. So restorative, in fact, that I found myself practically lulled to sleep by the flow of poses. The main vinyasa segment was not at all intense (fine by me, I had already run that day anyway), and the class concluded with hip openers, piriformis-friendly poses (seated spinal twist and other such variations), and my introduction to a little tool known as the Yamuna ball, which I am now officially in love with.
Yamuna balls serve a similar purpose as a foam roller, but with its small, flexible nature, it’s easier to adjust for intensity and to access smaller, harder to reach areas. For the piriformis muscle, this little toy is a godsend. Amazon: Expect an order placed within the next 24 hours.
All in all, my piriformis muscle and sciatic nerve received all the attention they deserved, and I woke up on Monday morning feeling amazing – albeit totally sore from holding poses for longer than I have since perhaps October.
At least in my case, there have been a handful of yoga poses that have allowed me to keep running healthily despite my faulty hip and glute muscles. It’s why I was able to participate in the Queens half marathon despite having to take a month-long break and why I haven’t sat on the sidelines since.
Not long ago, I was stupid. I didn’t listen to my body when it said stop. I didn’t listen to my muscles when they said stretch. But thanks to some amazing yoga instructors, advice from fellow runners and a bit of self-awareness, I’ve been able to avoid any long periods of time in which I’m unable to run. Today, thanks to delicious poses like pigeon and seated spinal twist, I can manage my muscles much more efficiently – and run stronger because of it.