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Yoga Butt

Who doesn’t want a yoga butt?! Well, it may depend on which definition you’re using.

‘Yoga Butt’- once the phrase for a supposedly enviable perky derriere – is now a term often used to refer to a pesky overstretch injury at the top of the hamstrings. This pain in the butt is marked by inflammation of the tendons that connect the hamstring muscles on the back of the leg (semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris) to the sit bones (ischial tuberosities), and in some extreme cases, tearing or rupture of the tendons.

image: www.ericcressey.com
 
This is the most common yoga injury I see working privately in yoga therapeutics with clients, and it is completely avoidable.
I have found that many yogis incorrectly self-diagnose themselves as suffering from sciatica, when in fact they have irritated hamstring tendons. Here are some signs you may have strained these tendons:
  • Pain at the top of your thigh, bottom of the butt in forward folding poses (uttanasana, paschimottanasana, upavista konasana, etc)
  • Tingling at the top of thigh/bottom of your butt in forward folds such as those listed above.
  • Pain around your sit bone when seated, especially for long periods of time.
(Contrast the above with discomfort from sciatica, which shoots from the sit bone down the back of the leg, even into the calf. The so-called ‘yoga butt’ is much more localized than sciatica.)
Interestingly, the cause of the strain is often not using one of the first gifts of a committed yoga practice- strong butt muscles! Whenever you contract the hamstrings and glutes, you are making them stronger, and thus knitting the tendons back together. Belly-down backbends like salabasana are great for hamstring toning and repair, and need to be an important part of regular yoga practice:
And don’t keep re-tearing those muscle fibers in your forward bends! Here’s what you need to know to stay safe:
  • You should never EVER have sensation up near your sit bones in yoga class, especially during forward folds. Look for sensation solely in the middle, belly part of your thigh muscles, not at all at your butt, behind your knees, or at the top sides of your shins.
  • If you’re in pain, back out of the pose, and engage your legs more completely. Get a teacher or friend to check that you’re not hyperextending your knee (as shown, below left) in straight-leg poses. When your leg is straight, the center of your hip should be directly over your knee, directly over your ankle, as seen below, on the right. Your shin bone will be vertical.
image: blog.corewalking.com
  • Keeping your legs straight (not hyper-straight) in forward folds is the first part, then finish the repair by working your butt. Yes, this means SQUEEZE IT.  In all forward folding poses, lift your navel towards your spine, squeeze your butt muscles strongly (especially gluteus maximus), and pull your buttocks down towards your heels as you stretch your spine.
  • Remember, if you feel the stretch up at your sitbones, you’re re-tearing the injured place, again and again. Back out and work salabasana variations, and less depth in your forward folds, until you have complete repair.
Be sure to seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional if needed.
If you’re interested in the simple alignment tricks to stay safe in a yoga practice over the long haul, join me this January to look at upper body and lower body yoga therapeutics.
If you have any hamstring or related questions, leave ’em in the comments. To a healthy yoga butt, and a happy practice!
xoxo
Justicia

 

 
  1. Lyndsey Scott

    Ahaaaa. So that's whats going on with my left sitsbonesbutt area. truth, I came here to find some booty-bump exercises to boost my flatness but this was prolly more helpful. So clear and specific, Steesh! made me remember your first (?) yoga article in the confluence. . . . ThanKs for sharin fruits of yr practice. <3

  2. Maha Yoga

    Hi Lyndsey, great to hear from you! What's so cool is you'll get the booty-bump and heal your hammie with the same exercises: belly-down backbends, and other moves where you lift your leg behind you. Love 🙂

  3. Pingback: What Is "Yoga Butt"? This Common Injury Can Be A Real Pain In The Ass | Viral Stuff