My Personal Journey with Yoga Butt
Funny thing, my Yoga Butt didn’t even come from Yoga. I was taking off from home plate to first base during a company softball game. During that plyometric burst, I heard and felt the pop. Yes, I made it safe to first (of course)! This was 2005. I didn’t do anything about it. I continued to play softball, indoor and outdoor co-ed soccer as well as working out at the gym a couple times a week and running a few times a week, including up hills in Vermont, The point being I did not slow down one bit. I simply continued all my movement in pain. I got so used to the pain. It became a part of my life and my story.
What is Yoga Butt Anyway?
It’s when the hamstring become inflamed at the attachment or even tears away from the sitting bones through an acute injury or overuse through time. It can be very painful and can take a long time to heal. There are so many really great anatomy specific articles on the subject that I thought instead of regurgitating and adding to the mix, I would write about my personal journey and what worked and doesn’t work for me. To this day, it’s still something I am mindful of, especially now being a yoga teacher and continually stretching my hamstrings.
When we traveled for 1 year in 2006-2007 I had ample time to rest and my butt felt great! No pain at all. Even though we were doing adventurous activities on our trip like biking, hiking and surfing, my daily hard core training regimen was nonexistent. Sure we did push ups in our room and ran on the beach periodically, but the lack of daily grind kept the injury at bay. Lo and behold, the moment I returned back to “life” – working at a gym, running regularly, and adding yoga back into the mix (I had done my first training at the end of that trip in 2007), the same old nagging dull ache started back almost immediately. With the radiating pain down my leg and golf ball size scar tissue, I decided to finally go to PT. This was 2008 – 3 years after my initial injury! I went to PT twice a week for a month then once a week for a second month plus got a massage once a week during this time. During PT we started doing Pilates. I knew we had it at the gym so I began taking classes there and loved it. 2010 was when I decided to do a Pilates training and began teaching it in Toronto. I did another Beginner and Intermediate Power Pilates Training while living in Philadelphia in 2012 and even though I don’t currently teach a formal Pilates class, I certainly add some in to my Bootcamp classes with an emphasis on core, low back and the gluteus medius muscles. I’m a big fan of building strength and stability from the inside out and since I still love doing so many different activities really attribute Pilates in helping to keep me in the mindset of prevention as opposed to damage control.
What worked well for me:
- Regular massage – I do not consider it a luxury, but part of cross training and rehab. Build it into your budget!
- PT – insurance may even cover it. I try to have massage and PT in same place for efficiency.
- PNF style stretching, sometimes called “Resistance Stretching” – I did a 30 hr training called Ki-Hara in Chicago.
- Yin Yoga – I discovered it in 2010 at a studio in Toronto and have incorporated into my practice ever since.
- Strengthen the hammies, glutes and the whole back body (including lower traps)! It doesn’t serve me to just stretch all the time.
- Back off – less is more. Like the Beastie Boys say – Check yourself before you wreck yourself!
- Core work (transverse abdominis, low back QL muscles and glute med) usually helps everything from longterm stability to helping me float and fly in my practice.
During forward folds – I appreciate a lot of different approaches. I am not one to subscribe to repetitive motion. I tend to bend knees slightly in standing forward folds. While seated I tend to keep legs straight, I only come down partially, keep my chest lifted and reach sternum forward. I sometimes do an active technique where I bend my knees during seated forward folds, with feet hip distance apart I really root through the heels so the back line is engaged, instead of taking the stretch passively so that I am strengthening as well. If I want more of a relaxed version I take a bolster or two for support under my chest to lay on. A rolled up towel under my knee also feels good. I also try to draw my sitting bones together like an active squeeze. I get good relief plus it feels really supportive. Sometimes I sit on a blanket to neutralize pelvis and lift the spine (creating space).
Things that exasperated the problem:
- Forward folds in general – you start to notice how many there are in yoga, especially in the Ashtanga Primary series!
- Sitting for long periods of time – chairs, cars, flights. Think about how your hips are in flexion when sitting – it’s basically a forward fold.
- Running, hiking, even walking long distances.
- I cringe when a teacher says “separate or spread your sitting bones” or “remove the flesh from your sitting bones” First of all, that’s just gross, but I really don’t need that sitting bone to feel even more vulnerable. That flesh helps me feel protected and supported during forward folds. I won’t say it’s wrong to say those things. It just doesn’t work for me.
- Overdoing in general whether yoga, running or even sitting.
- Because I was often going to full range of motion on the right side and not the other, through time my left side started flaring up as well.
- I am not a doctor. These are my personal observations based on my personal experience through the years. If you are battling an injury such as this, try some different things out and see what works best for you.
- Acute injuries as opposed to chronic usually through time or overuse, the tissue is freshly damaged. You have to be careful to not re-injure every single time you practice which is easy to do!
- I had an injury and didn’t do anything about it for years which led to scar tissue. For me, using an Acuball or Yoga Tune – Up balls on the golf ball in my butt was brilliant, but for some, may cause more damage if the tissue is fresh and sensitive.
- Remember if you are a yogi, this is a life long practice! We customize the practice to become more sustainable and fit our daily needs. We don’t just stop practicing. We modify and change just like anything else as to not become stagnant. I personally want to practice yoga for the rest of my life. I know it has helped in my quest to not only age gracefully, but to continue to be a badass even at age 45!
Do you have Yoga Butt? What has helped you?
I currently have it and find that doing hamstring exercises on my TRX help. And working that part of the hamstring (that attaches to my butt) with weights on my legs. This is something I’ve had for years but kept it at bay. It started flaring up again when I got busy and couldn’t find time for strength training.
Thanks for the tip Emily!