Pilates helps more than your beauty, it works muscles in your core -- piriformis and gluteus medius -- that stabilize your pelvis and spine. Your gluteus medius is located on the side of your hip. It originates under the arching hip bone called the ilium and inserts on a knobby part, the trocanter, of your femur. Your piriformis muscle is deep underneath your buttocks. It orginates at your sacrum and sit bones and inserts at the posterior trochanter of your femur, or thigh bone.
Your piriformis and your gluteus medius together rotate your hip open, which is called lateral rotation. A Pilates, side-lying exercise, called the passe, specifically challenges these muscles in lateral rotation. Start by lying on your side with your legs stacked and your head resting on your outstretched arm. Scoop your navel toward your spine and rotate your top knee-cap up toward the ceiling. Inhale and raise your top leg toward the ceiling, bend it and touch your toe gently to the inside of your low leg. Exhale and slide your toe down the straight leg, keeping your knee pointing to the ceiling. Repeat five times, then reverse the motion. Roll to your other side and repeat.
Preventing Piriformis Syndrome
Pilates movements provide muscular challenge through full range of motion. This gives you flexibility combined with strength and helps prevent piriformis syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is a painful condition caused by an irritation of the piriformis muscle that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. Pilates requires few repetitions of each movement, which gives you strength without bulk. Enlarging the piriformis muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve, but keeping it strong helps prevent piriformis syndrome. Therefore, Pilates' exercises that target the piriformis and gluteal muscles provide the right dose of challenge.
The Pilates exercise called bicycle also strongly engages the piriformis, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and gluteus maximus. You only perform three repetitions in each direction. Start in a side-lying position with your legs stacked and your head resting on your outstretched arm. Scoop your navel toward your spine and keep it there to stabilize your posture. Raise your top leg a few inches. This is your active leg. Inhale and squeeze the active leg's buttocks muscle, which will angle your leg backward. Then, bend your knee to a 90-degree angle. Move your thigh forward to letter "L" position and straighten your leg. Complete the bicycling motion by slowly swinging your leg down to starting position. These are large, circular movements. Continue three times, then reverse the circling direction. Roll to the other side and repeat.
Grande Ronde De Jambe
The grande ronde de jambe move is advanced and requires strong abdominal support to maintain the side-lying position without wobbling. The name means large circle. Your leg will move in a large circle like holding a crayon between your toes and drawing a big circle on the wall. Begin on your side with your legs stacked and your head resting on your outstretched arm. Raise your top leg a few inches and move it forward into letter "L" position. Then raise it toward the ceiling and back around to complete the circle. Perform two in each direction, then switch legs.
- UW Medicine: Piriformis
- The Pilates Body; Brooke Siler
- Sports Physical Therapy Institute: Piriformis Syndrome
- Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images