Coach Joanne's battle with Piriformis Syndrome
Pain is a great motivator. I started doing yoga because I was in pain just about every day. I was in my early twenties and I was beginning to think that it was a normal part of adult life.
I started going to the gym on the advice of a Doctor but I just hated it. Everything about the gym just felt like a chore. Luckily there was a yoga class at my gym, and it took just one class for me to get hooked. Yoga helped me to feel healthy and strong again; my body started to respond and the pain subsided. After about 8 years of practice I did a yoga teacher training and began teaching. I wanted others to be able to experience the same freedom that I had.
Flash forward, 14 years later and teaching over 18 classes a week, it is a different story.
If you do yoga 4 times a week you will likely feel amazing. You will get stronger, more flexible and you will probably feel a deep sense of calm pervading your entire life. If you teach 4 or 5 yoga classes a day you will probably feel like a train wreck.
That was me, a train wreck.
To be fair, it wasn’t just yoga and my exorbitant teaching schedule. It was a combination of things that brought me to piriformis syndrome. I had limited strength in my hips, especially my glutes. In Goa, I wore a hip bag for many years that hit my hip in such a way that it aggravated my condition further.
My battle with Piriformis Syndrome started in 2014, that was the first time I notice pain while walking. I was in Goa and managing a beautiful yoga retreat center. On days when the group checked in, I would walk the length of the center 20 times over. The pain continued when I arrived in Dubai, of course there would be good days when I thought it was gone and then I would somehow trigger it again. In 2018, I found myself unable to walk 10 minutes to work without excruciating pain in my hip. Each step was a lightening blot that radiated from my entire right side. Yoga and walking, two of my favourite things, were the worst culprits for aggravating my pain. That was the final straw, and I realized that it wasn’t going away. I put aside my endless hours of internet scrolling, self-diagnosis and faith in Doctor Google and I saw a physiotherapist.
Piriformis syndrome was my official diagnosis. Piriformis is one of the external rotators of the hip, it sits behind the glute running extending from femur to the sacrum. Piriformis syndrome occurs when the muscle becomes tight, short or spasms, from either injury, overuse or underuse and compresses the sciatic nerve. I was shocked that my condition was so severe. I was also relieved that I could finally be proactive and remedy the situation.
I needed to strengthen all of the muscles in and around my hip, especially my glutes. I also needed to release the tension in my piriformis through stretching. I went straight to the gym to do all of my physio exercises...and I hated it! It felt like a burden. I knew it wasn’t going to work, but I was in so much pain and I needed to do something.
A friend suggested that I try the classes at Reform Athletica, on the megaformer. She said that the trainers were amazing and it was ideal for building strength. I booked my first class and with high hopes made my way to the beautiful, boutique studio located in Jumeirah 1, in Dubai. I was greeted by Roberto and I immediately confessed as to why I was there. Throughout the class, he continued to check in with me, adjusting exercises and offering modifications. Although I couldn’t do everything, he made me feel that everything that I was doing was a move in the right direction.
Walking; pardon me, I mean hobbling, down the stairs after my first class I knew that I found my solution. It was the perfect combination of focused strength building exercises, upbeat class environment, supportive and knowledgeable trainers in a beautiful venue. I bought a package and never looked back.
It’s been over a year, I am still working on my strength and healing my condition but I don’t have pain when I walk anymore and that feels incredible. When the opportunity came up to teach the Reform Method myself, I jumped at the chance. I knew that I had to share it with others. It is such an incredible compliment to a yoga practice or any other fitness routine.
Ideally, we want to be strong and stable in our day to day activities, flexibility and mobility are also of the upmost importance but ultimately living in a pain free body is absolutely crucial.