How Underfiring Glutes Saved My Sanity and My Yoga Practice

For most of my adult life, I have struggled with hip, butt and leg pain. It started I don’t know how long ago—probably late teen years—and radiated straight through to today, going on age 28. It comes and goes, on both legs. Sometimes it prevents me from standing and squatting on one leg to put on a pair of pants. Other times I limp straight off my bed in the morning, feeling far too young to be moving this way.

I’ve categorized it as sciatic pain, when in its earlier years I experienced pain down through my calves and feet. Recently, and since I made the transition from circuit training and kettlebells to full-time yoga, I’ve called it piriformis pain.

What I’m finally learning is that these episodes almost directly correlate to some sort of emotional instability or disruption. It goes more deeply than emotions though: the legs, butt, etc. are related to the root chakra, the glowing red energy center at the base of the body that represents stability and our most basic needs: food, shelter, care, and, well, finances.

During teacher training, I was set out to heal my piriformis. I knew deep lunges and twisting lunges, or any split-leg moves, would crank up the pain. I got massages. I rolled on the foam roller and medicine ball. When I found anusara and did an immersion, I found that lots of inner spiral and muscular energy could save me temporarily, especially in the poses that gave me trouble. I rolled on a tennis ball. I made Jeff release the muscle with his elbow. It seemed to take…

This time, anusara wasn’t helping. Really, I wasn’t helping. Going through the motions of my practice wasn’t clearing my mind OR my body. After a near mental and emotional breakdown, Jeff suggested I take his planned session with our neighbor, a holistic trainer of sorts. It wasn’t just the yoga that was falling apart: I was falling apart. My relationship and household seemed to be crumbling in front of my eyes.

Three magical days later, three days of 90-second interval squats to retrain my body to fire my gluteal muscles instead of relying on the fine support muscles around my glutes (like the piriformis), I feel prana in my legs. The syndrome that has left me limping, uncomfortable and uneasy…is fading. It’s fading not because of someone doing something to me, but because I’m relearning how to move my body, how to fire the right muscles. How to breathe.

Every time we think we know something for sure, like practicing yoga, basic asanas, simple things like deep breathing and lower abdominal engagement, we often fall off. We struggle. We hurt. We need inspiration, training and grace, even if it’s something we think we’re good at.

By opening myself to an outside assessment, and asking for inspiration and guidance to set goals, I’m reminded that revisiting the basics—like movements to engage major muscle groups, breathing exercises, and basic (REALLY BASIC) goal setting—can reset a solid foundation for change.

For me, focusing on the physical aspects of my imbalance has helped me align my psychological imbalance. Fifteen minutes daily of physical work, paired with revisited and therapeutic yoga poses (great alignment and maximum weight-bearing), has enabled me to do other things that have greatly improved my life. I’ve found a part-time job where I’ll get to engage with PEOPLE, something I’m totally deprived of working from home. I’m planning a trip to St. Pete, a place I’ve wanted to explore since I started liking South Florida. My relationship is mending, healing and growing. I’m mending, healing and growing. Did I mention my handstand practice is taking off, too?!

Puppy love = celebration

Puppy love = celebration

I have no doubt I will have to remind myself of this post, of these moves and of these turn-around, aha moments again and again, year after year. But in the moment, I’m thrilled to say I’m walking without pain. I’ve overcome one of my hurdles, and it’s not the pain: it’s asking for help.

There is much more work to do…but for now, a little celebration.

From FreeWillAstrology, Leo for the week of June 5:

Declare victory, Leo. Even if victory is not quite won yet. Even if your success is imperfect and still a bit messy around the edges. Raise your arms up in elated triumph and shout, “I am the purified champion! I am the righteous conqueror! I have outsmarted my adversaries and outmaneuvered my obstacles, and now I am ready to claim my rightful rewards!” Do this even if you’re not 100-percent confident, even if there is still some scraping or clawing ahead of you. Celebrate your growing mastery. Congratulate yourself for how far you’ve come. In this way, you will summon what’s needed to complete your mission and achieve final, total victory.

2 thoughts on “How Underfiring Glutes Saved My Sanity and My Yoga Practice

  1. Congrats! That’s truly a reason to celabrate! The next time I come to Florida we will have to get together!

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