The Update: The Demon, the Yogi and Piriformis Injury

Many of you may remember this article on my injury from January, The Demon, the Yogi and the Piriformis Injury. I have recently had a few questions about it and I wanted to give you an update.

The injury is gone! I am  now left with tightness and probably scar tissue that I am working to get rid of.  I used the techniques  I learned from Kino Macgregor and my fellow teacher, here in Charlotte, Tanner Bazemore. For more details, go to the original article, but here is the quick and dirty. From the time I discovered what I needed to do and stuck to it, it took about 5 months to feel “normal”.


How I Healed My Angry Right Leg


Engagement at all times

Engagement of the Bandhas , during practice, at all times

Engagement of the whole entire leg at all times. Quads and even backs of legs.

Pushing down thorough the feet at all times.

When on the floor, pushing down through the backs of the legs at all times.

I felt like the tin man and probably looked like one too. It locked the muscles in place and it stopped my ability to fold any further  then what I could do from the hips. It stopped me from over taxing and over loading the  injured muscles in my leg. This allowed me to keep my yoga practice while the injury was healing because I was not re injuring or aggravating the area.

Moving Super Duper Slow

In order to engage so much, I had to move super slow. The minute I let myself flow like my pre injury self, I would aggravate the injury which added more healing time.


With breath, comes awarness and management of pain. The injury was still there and so was the pain.  The damage was done.  Even during the healing, it was there. The techniques I used kept the pain where it was and than it started to dissipate.

Not Over Doing It

I used to practice during the day and stretch at night. That was way to much for my tender injured body.

Squaring the Hips Whenever Possible

It was important to keep the pelvis as neutral as I could.

Second Series

Primary Series had way to many forward folds for me at that time. I am not saying that anyone should skip Primary and do Second because they have a hamstring or piriformis injury. I am saying that since I was already a Second series practitioner, doing more Second gave me a good solid practice while still giving my leg more of a rest.  My Second Series did take a beat down because of the injury, but it felt way better than Primary. The backbends did not bother me. Neither did Pincha Mayurasana,Nakrasasana, Bakasana, the Headstands and all the twisting. I did have to slow down a little for the leg behind the head portion but on a good day, it was still doable.


When I did do Primary, it was heavily modified. In the beginning, I could not forward fold. Period. I couldn’t even do most of closing because the act of lifting my legs in the air for shoulderstand was excruciating.   For forward folds, I would just stand there or sit there engaging and breathing. For closing, I would put my legs up the wall. I was working on a little bit of third before the injury and I dropped that all together. It was a new series to me and I felt that I had enough to deal with.


Heating pad, hot showers, hot baths and heated yoga. There is no way I could have made it through this period without a heater. I have always had a love hate relationship with Hot Yoga. However, when my body was full of inflammation, I would  wake up in the morning feeling  like my  bones were pumped full of lead. The heater allowed me to keep a daytime yoga practice.

Practicing Later in the Day

I honestly believe that, if I would have practiced at the traditional 6AM time during this period, that my body would have fallen apart. The morning was the worst time of day for me and my injury. I felt like an uncoocked noodle. Hard and fragile. As the day progressed, inflammation went down and mobility went up. My best practices where in the afternoon.

Getting Back to “Fighting” Form

Primary in Full Force

My hamstrings tightened up something fierce. In my 11 years of practice, I have done many different forms of yoga but hands down Primary Series has been and still remains the single most transformative practice I have ever done. After any illness or injury it always hits me right where I need it. It gets my body and mind back where it needs to be and it feels amazing.

Almost back to normal but not quite

I can forward fold and do closing. It still doesn’t look like it used to but  still not shabby. I have no plans to add back any of Third. I want to reestablish ease in Primary and Second. Here are some recent pictures of me.

ardhabaddhapadmapaschimotanasana334 marichyasanaB331 marichyasanaA334 legbebehindtheheadme lotus813 mepincha ddog2

I am not a doctor. Take my advice at your own risk. However, if you have any questions, send them to shanna@wellnessfrominside.com.

Join the movement. Submit your Ashtanga pics and stories to shanna@wellnessfrominside.com

Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail shanna@ashtangayogaproject.com.

One Comment

  • Rachel

    Hi Shanna,

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve been struggling with piriformis injury for about 7 months now, on and off. No doctor has been able to offer me much solace, and most of what I’ve found online has been horrifyingly depressing!

    I know that my body can heal itself if I just allow it. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor, who is an absolute godsend and has me working on strengthening my pelvic floor muscles with various breathing and other very small movements.

    After only a few weeks, I am no longer in an upsetting amount of pain. It is still there, and it flares up when I’m standing on my feet for a long while, but I know that with dedication to the exercises to strengthen the muscles I need to strengthen, it will heal.

    Your exercises and recommended youtube videos will complement the ones I am already doing – so thank you again. I may even re-incorporate yoga into my fitness program again (as I had initially considered it the reason for my injury and switched to strengthening my body through weight training and cardio)

    Many thanks from Sydney, Australia,
    Rachel XX

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