5 Piriformis Syndrome Yoga Poses To Avoid (That Make The Pain Worse!)

I can’t even count the number of times I tried yoga stretches to help calm the unrelenting piriformis pain I lived with, only to end up stuck on the floor unable to get back up from the pain. 

I know that yoga is a very common practice among people who suffer from hip pain and piriformis syndrome and I’d like to share my experience with you…

I really loved my yoga routine. I bought a cute mat, candles, a bolster. I followed yoga Instagram profiles to get inspired. 

In the beginning, my goal was to release tightness around ‘locked hips’, and build flexibility. I believed that my piriformis pain was caused by hip tightness. As a result, I had to push through each stretch to unlock my hips. 

Unfortunately, it never worked out that way. I had to learn the hard way that yoga (at least the type I was doing back then) just made everything worse. I’m not a yoga instructor or claim to be an expert in yoga.

I followed the typical youtube channels with yoga flow routines with titles like…’hip opening routine’, or ‘sciatica relief routine’. The yoga flows usually targeted the hips, piriformis, glutes, and lower back. They were back to back poses with a 2-3 minute hold for each pose.

If you’ve pursued yoga because you’re hoping it’ll help relax the piriformis muscle, you’re not alone. I also only got into yoga after I started experiencing pain. I wasn’t sure if I had a flexibility problem or if my hips were just too tight.

I just read… and read, and it seemed like most articles online mentioned stretches or yoga. So I thought I’d give it a go.

Now, there is something important I’d like to say… You’re always going to find people who are so focused on their niche and expertise that they think their way is the only way…

… For example, I remember seeing a lot of yoga instructors saying that yoga was the answer to hip pain. At the same time, there are other health professionals who also promise their way is the only way to fix the pain.

I really encourage you to learn from every treatment modality, try it, and make it work for you.

I personally love to apply corrective exercises to fix muscular pain. It makes much more sense to me because it looks at fixing the underlying root cause of the muscle pain.

Recommended Program: Piriformis Control Program.

However, I also use other tools such as mindfulness meditation to work on the nervous system, some gentle yoga, and even acupuncture once in a while.

Find what works best for your body and stick to it. You don’t need to strictly follow one specific tool or treatment modality, especially if your body is not responding well to it.

Now in this post, I want to share the poses that made my piriformis pain worse, especially during a flare-up. I also want to share my favorite yoga routine that I did during flare-ups that helped me feel better. I truly wish there were more like it!

I do still love yoga. I’m not against it. It’s an amazing way to move your body, build strength and flexibility. It’s a great way to connect with your body too.

When you’re facing piriformis syndrome and trying to heal this pain, you just have to work with yoga in a different way. You want to customize it to your needs and where you’re at. That’s all.

Below, I’ll share the poses that should be avoided when you’re going through a piriformis flare-up as well as my favorite type of yoga.

The goal is to not stop doing the things you love but to just customize them for your body and the recovery level you’re at right now. So I hope I made my point!

5 Yoga Poses To Avoid If You Have Piriformis Syndrome

Warrior 3 Pose

Balancing the body on the hurting leg made my pain worse. I really liked how this pose looked, but doing it just felt terrible. As soon as I put the other leg down, my glutes and piriformis just spasmed like crazy. 

I remember clearly a few times where I couldn’t even move for a few minutes. I just stood there waiting for the pain to calm down.

Half Moon Pose:

This is where you transition from the warrior 3 into the rotation while reaching with your arm up. The rotation aspect, as well as the added challenge of reaching up, triggered more pain for me.

From looking at this pose, you’re basically performing a hip abduction and holding the contraction of the glute for as long as the pose lasts. I guess requiring my piriformis muscle to stabilize my hips while I hold this pose was just too much to ask.

Knee To Chest Pose

Lying on the mat and bringing my knee all the way to my chest actually kinda felt nice. But, the moment I let go to straighten my leg…the pain shot through my hip. It was awful.

I couldn’t get back up and had to slowly rotate my body (which was also painful) and use the couch or something to get back up.

I don’t recommend this stretch at all actually if you get hip pain. There are other ways to release your glutes then doing this. In addition, most people have very weak glutes and shouldn’t even be stretching their glutes like this.

Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Reclining Bound Angle Pose (1): I couldn’t find an image I can download for this specific pose but I can describe it for you… This pose is performed by lying on your back and starting to rotate your knees outwards while bringing your feet towards you until the bottom of your feet touch. As your hips open up, you should feel a stretch in the groin area.

Similar to the image below but you’ll be lying down instead:

This pose was brutal. I’m not saying this is a harmful yoga pose. My problem was not doing the pose but trying to get back up.

After lying down on the floor, arching my back and having my knees out rotated externally for a while, your knees will start to sink in to open up your hips even more (it’s actually the purpose of this exercise). And, coming out of this was extremely painful…

…I had terrible groin and glute pain trying to move my hips. I had to physically reach with my hands and push my knees inwards. Then, rotate to the side and slowly get myself back up.

Now, I actually prefer the reclining modification to this pose. Instead of lying straight on the floor, elevate your back with a couple of pillows or do it on the couch so it’s easy to control your hips. Or try this hip-opening variation you can do sitting I posted above.

hip opening yoga pose
A better alternative to open up your hips!

Pigeon Pose

This is a very common yoga pose that trigged pain about 70% of the time. The stretch was just too much for my hips to handle. However, the 90/90 degrees stretch was a great alternative to this. I do it all the time. It is a gentle and easier variation of the pigeon pose.

Read More Here:

Recommended Program: Piriformis Control Program.

Best Type Of Yoga For Piriformis Syndrome (In my Opinion)

yoga for piriformis syndrome

If you are experiencing piriformis pain, just hang in there my friend. It will get better. Your job right now is to do your best to avoid more triggers. Just don’t abuse your hips. I’ll get into what I think you should do below, but if you want to do some yoga, I highly recommend restorative yoga.

It’s extremely gentle and relaxing. What I really loved about it was I didn’t have to hold stretches for too long and most poses were very comfortable and supported with a bolster. This provided additional support for my hips. You can also just use a thick pillow or roll a blanket.

My Favorite Restorative Yoga Routine

I’ve done this routine so many times. I love it so much! It always helped me relax and feel great afterward. It promotes mindfulness, relaxation, and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. 

What To Do Instead Of Yoga?

As I explained in my post ‘Why Does Stretching make My Pain Worse‘, too much of anything can create an imbalance in the body leading to pain. If you all you do is yoga and stretching, your muscles will get very ‘loose’ failing to provide enough support and stability around certain joints that need it. 

Likewise, too much strengthening can lead to very tight and overactive muscles and stiff joints.

Some joints are designed to be mobile, while others do need a little tightness around them. It’s important to be aware of this. Stretching ALL muscles should never be your sole goal. Always aim at balancing your stretching with some strengthening.

In addition, if you keep getting piriformis pain, make sure you check with your doctor first to rule out any serious causes. If the issue seems to be mainly muscular, you should work on fixing the root cause of the problem.

I have a very thorough post explaining how to assess for piriformis syndrome causes here, and I also highly recommend you join my program Piriformis Control which will take you through a full assessment, as well as provide you with a plan to fix them.

A simple plan to fix the root cause of piriformis syndrome and get long-lasting relief.

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piriformis yoga poses to avoid
Coach Sofia
  • I have dealt with this type of pain since my freshman year of college, I am 33 now. I have degree in Exercise Science and many PT certifications.. been thru the whole 9 yards of surgeries,docs, more docs, you name it. I am thinking this is my pain- the piriformis, which I have read is caused by your hip adductors causing the piriformis to stay flexed constantly. I am starting some pretty intense PT now with some spiked balls to break up any adhesions. I am not wanting to strengthen anything anymore until this is fixed. How long did it take you to fix your issue and do you do these exercises as much as you do when you first started?

    • It took me about 7 years! But that’s because I also had other things happening at the same time: L5/S1 herniation and I was also diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis which is spinal arthritis. I was dealing and fighting with so many things and wasn’t sure what to tackle or what to do to fix everything at once. But for piriformis pain specifically, I found that actually doing less of what I was doing was more helpful. And focusing on fixing the root cause of the pain not just getting weekly massages that only address the symptoms.
      One form of therapy that was helpful for me was dry needling! Especially with the arthritis. It was very helpful. And It was mainly focused on the TFL and glutes. This seemed to have helped release the piriformis to let me do the strengthening worse.

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