Proximal hamstring tendinopathy - more often referred to as “yogi butt” - is the most commonly experienced injury amongst yogis. This injury is not unique to the yoga realm (in fact, it’s quite prominent across runners as well), but it certainly pops up a lot amidst yoga practitioners. Characterized by a sharp pain at the sit bone (where the hamstring originates -- connected by a tendon to the ischial tuberosity), yogi butt is usually brought on by not a single movement, but rather a series of microaggressions. These little tears and inflammations build up until the pain becomes prominent and, ultimately, debilitating.
What Causes Yogi Butt?
Yogi butt can be brought on by a variety of triggers and, as mentioned above, is likely a culmination of many moments / movements as opposed to a single one. Forward folds are one of the most obvious perpetrators, though. When the fronts of the legs are active, the backs are relaxed -- that is, if the knee caps are lifted and the thighs are firm, then the calves and hamstrings are entirely passive. Add in a movement like a straight-legged swan dive, and we see a recipe for pain -- the practitioner often over arches the low back which puts a serious strain on the hamstring attachment which, while entirely passive, has no way to protect itself. This leads to strain in both the back as well as the hamstring. It’s therefore incredibly important to practice with a microbend in the knees until the practitioner is confident in their muscle flexibility (or even after!).
How to Heal the Injury
As mentioned above, bending the knees in forward folds (asymmetrical and symmetrical) will help greatly. Additional things that can help include:
Rest by taking a few days off, and avoiding all rigorous activity
Limit jumps which cause the hamstring to load and then move with more “explosive” motion
Engage the glutes -- think of shortening the distance from glute to hamstring (you’ll feel the glute tense a bit here). This is a great one to find while in shapes like downdog, lunge, pyramid pose, and the warrior series, and it will protect the hamstring tendon
Isometrically draw the feet back -- especially in a fold, think of drawing the feet back as well as bending the knees a bit. This will keep the back sides of the legs engaged, preventing over-stretching
Strengthen the glutes -- bridge lifts and lowers, single leg bridges, leg lifts from table top, and eventually hamstring curls will all help strengthen the glutes & hamstring in a way that will ultimately be preventative to this happening again
Massage the area by sitting on a massage ball and rolling over the area (imagine the ball “plucking” the hamstring)
All in all, this is a tricky and pervasive injury to heal. Give yourself time and patience, and move through your practice very slowly and cautiously, allowing yourself time and presence to adjust to each movement / shape. If it hurts, explore minor adjustments until you find something that feels okay. And continue forward. As they say, injury truly can be the greatest teacher...if only we are open to listen to it.
Brooke is a contributing author for Tada Rugs. Tada Rugs is a 5x7 yoga mat disguised as an artistic area rug that you never have to put away. Tada is short for tadasana, or mountain pose, and our own backyard in the San Juan Mountains of Durango, Colorado is where we find our inspiration. Check out our new designs, enter for a chance to win a new Tada Rug, and be sure to follow us for deals and insider specials! Like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, or contact us through our website! Tie a room together and bring your practice home.
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