Costa Rica Yoga JournalMark Goldstein

Yoga is a pain in the Butt!

King Pigeon Pose
King Pigeon Pose

By Mark Goldstein

This month we are concentrating on your periformis muscle, your back pocket muscle, your pain in the butt muscle. Why? Because it feels so good to stretch and release this muscle. and opening up this muscle can have a huge effect on your life. 

Have you ever had sciatic pain? That pain that can go down the back of your leg? It can hurt so bad that all you can do is lie down. Some people get sciatica it so bad that lying down hurts almost as much. The muscle that is the cause of this pain is very often the periformis muscle, and coincidently, the cure to this issue is opening up this very same muscle. If you have sciatic pain, then opening up this muscle can help. If you don’t have sciatica, then these poses and stretches can help greatly to keep you out of this crazy amount of pain. 

Playa Yoga

First, I have to say that sciatica can occur for more then one reason, and a tight periformis muscle is just one of them. The good news is that it can’t hurt to apply these methods, and it just might be exactly what you need. 

I include at least one pose in every one of my yoga classes which addresses this muscle. Often we do more then one. This month we will be focusing a bit more on really opening up our lower backs and internal hip rotating muscles by using these methods illustrated in the photos. They feel great, and can truly make a difference in your life. If you come to one or two classes, you will have plenty of knowledge to take home with you, if you come to classes all through the month, then even better. If you really want to treat yourself, then let me do all of the work and experience the amazing healing results of a Traditional Thai Yoga Massage! Either way, let’s get started. 

Reclining Pigeon Pose
Reclining Pigeon Pose

There are always various ways to go about accessing this deep hip rotating muscle, and you should always practice the one that is most comfortable to you. In the photos you can see that there are several variations. King Pigeon pose is seen as the deepest and perhaps the most complicated. Some people with knee issues will opt to practice a reclining pigeon pose. Still others will get this deep stretch as part of their Thai Yoga Massage session. 

There are two main rules that you need to be aware of: one, that you need to be comfortable, and not strain your self. It is best if you can fully relax for a minimum of ten breaths. This means that you do not have pain in any of your joints (knees, hips, spine). One way to look at it is to make sure that you don’t look like someone is making you do it. Try to imagine yourself in a photo that anyone would look at and say to themselves “ Mmmm that looks like it feels good”

Two, if it doesn’t give you an “ache” in the butt, then it’s not going to work. Remember the title of this article: Yoga is a Pain in the Butt! 

Thai Yoga Massage
Thai Yoga Massage

Here’s why. Your sciatic nerve runs right through your periformis muscle. When we take any of the positions in the photos, we are stretching, or elongating, the muscle. When we do this, it presses on the nerve. This results in a “nervy ache”. It should not be overwhelming, and should not go down your leg. Rather you should feel this ache right where your “back pocket” would be.

I tell my students, or massage clients, that it is ok to feel this, but you need to relax around it. This will take away any feeling of intensity, and have it feel much more therapeutic. 

So, after warming up the area, find your position, and breath deep. On your inhalations, take a survey of the area that you are stretching, feel what is going on. For your exhalations, release any feeling of intensity by allowing your face to relax, your shoulders to relax, your whole body to relax. 

In any yoga pose, in any stretch, always remember to scan your body and check: what muscles do I need to use to be in this position? Do I want to go deeper, or am I at my limit? More importantly, which muscles am I using that I can let go of? When you do, you effort less, and you have the opportunity to go deeper onto the pose. 

You can perform many of the poses and stretches that open up this muscle on your own, even better, when you are in a class, your instructor can help you along with the pose. Even better, allow an experience practitioner perform a Traditional Thai Yoga massage on you; I happen to know one that is pretty good! 

We will be practicing all month here at our retreat in Manuel Antonio. Our retreat is named “Prana Rainforest Retreat”, and it is the home of PranaVida Wellness. Come and join one of our classes, and find out hoe wonderful a yoga class, or massage, can be! 

Mark Goldstein lives in Manuel Antonio, and is originally from the United States. He is a licensed Massage Therapist, Instructor of Traditional Thai Massage, and a Yoga Instructor. Mark is the owner of PranaVida Wellness, which is located at Prana Rainforest Retreat here in Manuel Antonio. For information call 8388-6960, visit