The standard form of this exercise (as demonstrated by Kit here) can be hard to get in to. Olivia's variation relieves some of the limitations, and is much better than the one-leg-straight version. This exercise stretches piriformis, one of the external hip rotators. This can be very helpful for some kinds of hip pain and sciatica.
*Please note that all Stretch Therapy "stretching" techniques are also strengthening techniques, too, because we use isometric contractions as part of the process. The contractions strengthen the muscle in the part of the range of movement they are applied in, and if excessive tension is the cause of the pain you are experiencing, the same contractions result in a relaxation of the muscle.*
Hey, Olivia here. I want to just show you a few modifications to the seated hip piriformis exercise, which is usually done with both legs bent in. And I've always struggled with that position, even though I'm relatively loose in the big bolster piriformis exercise, doing this version with both legs bent, I've always struggled with because my knees don't particularly like it. So I've just been playing around with using a block and also keeping one hip off the floor and I'm getting a massive stretch in piriformis different to the bolster piriformis. So I want to just share those modifications with you here.
So the exercise done in its purest form would have both legs bent in like this. And the key form point we ordinarily use is to first get that hip down on the ground and then all the other things. But for me, doing that first movement, in particular the lower knee doesn't like that. And then you don't want to persevere with exercises that hurt your knees. So here's the way I've been modifying it very successfully. Using a block underneath that lower knee so it doesn't have to travel quite so far onto the floor works. This foot is grounded. The usual form is reached through with the opposite arm and hold like this. But what I've been doing is not putting this hip down on the floor at all, using the cue of lifting the chest along the leg, and then by driving my weight down through that foot, the top leg's foot, and just sticking my bottom out or untucking the pelvis — that gives me a fantastic stretch with no discomfort in the knees at all.
Then you do the normal contraction, which is to try and sweep that held knee away from the body five, four, three, two, one. Stop, take a deep breath in, lift the chest along the leg, push down through that top leg's foot and then as you relax into the movement, you'll find you can get this hip a little bit further down towards the floor, but with this lower knee supported, there's no discomfort in either knee. And it gives me a very, very, very good stretch in this hip. Breathe and relax in that position. If you want to, you can also use a support arm here and add a little bit of rotation into the movement. So with this hip in free space, my emphasis on with driving through the top leg's foot, sticking my bottom out or untucking the pelvis to get the stretch that I need.`
To come out of it. Just rock off to the side and stretch the legs out to the front. So give that one a go.
Find the audio file of this video at https://supplementary-material.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/Piriformis+stretch+variation%2C+for+sciatica+_+Olivia+Allnutt+from+Stretch+Therapy.mp3.