One of the beauties of practicing yoga includes stretches that get at the muscles hidden in the nooks and crannies of your body. Yoga takes traditional stretches to new levels and provides ways to stretch safely tricky areas like the sacroiliac joint.
Sacroiliac Joint and Muscles
The sacroiliac joint rests at the lower back, to the right and left sides and slightly below below the lumbar curve of your spine. Believe it or not, even though that area feels like solid bone, there is a joint. The sacroiliac joint is where the bones of the hip and pelvis meet. The sacroiliac joint is responsible for shifting forces from the upper body into the pelvis and also serves as a shock absorber for both the upper and lower body. A solid network of tendons connect near the joint to form a massive safety net to hold the large bones in place and connect muscles of the back to the hip and pelvis. The major muscle groups connected near the sacroiliac joint include the erector spinae, iliocostalis lumborum, multifidus and quadratus lumborum.
Standing poses with rotation go a long way in pressing the sacroiliac button. Poses like revolving triangle engage the back muscles connected near the joint as well as incorporate the joint into the movement. Rotating around the center column of the spine while hinged forward at the hips is like wrapping the muscles and connective tissue of the joint around a solid post and gently stretching them. A simple standing forward bend also targets the muscles connecting near the sacroiliac joint. The forced curve of the lower spine lengthens the muscles attached near the sacroiliac joint and up the length of the spine. If the hips and hamstrings play nicely, the full forward bend completely inverts the trunk and gravity helps stretch the muscles and connective tissue at the joint.
King pigeon targets the sacroiliac joint on one of the sides, depending on which leg is forward. This pose offers a double bonus of a stretch: it pulls the glutes one way through the leg tucked under the body, and hinging forward at the waist pulls the muscles of the back the other way. Pigeon is like pulling taffy in two directions with the sacroiliac joint in the middle.
Lying Twist pose says it all just in the name. This pose gently rotates the entire network of back muscles around the spine from top to bottom. Additionally, the torque from the lower body focuses a good part of the stretch on the muscles and tissue around the sacroiliac joint. Dropping the legs to one side can be done with the knees bent or legs straight, depending on hip and spine flexibility. Be sure to turn the head in the opposite direction to ensure full rotation of the spine all the way up into the cervical vertebrae.
Play it safe and avoid exploring any poses in the midst of a serious flare up. Stay within the limits of experience and ability on any pose. And remember to repeat poses on both sides of the body to maintain symmetry.
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