written by Tiffany, Pure Pilates Teacher

Whether it’s too many hours working at your desk or driving in the car heading out for a vacation, sitting for too long can cause hips and low back to become tight. Take a break and try the Figure 4 Stretch to release the hips and ease tension in the low back. 

The stretch specifically targets the gluteus medius, which is the muscle that aids in hip movement and hip mobility and is responsible for stabilizing the hip joint. 

The stretch not only targets your glute medius but also your piriformis muscle. The piriformis is responsible for rotating the femur (thigh bone) during the hip extension and abducts (moves away from the midline) the femur during flexion of the hip. 

Stretching your piriformis can relieve pain associated with sciatica since the sciatic nerve runs through the piriformis.  A tight piriformis can cause slight compression of the sciatic nerve.

Here are 3 different ways to do the Figure 4 stretch. All the variations have the same benefit. Choose the one that works best for you. We recommend holding the stretch for approximately 30 seconds and repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times on each side.

On you back:

Lying on your back to stretch allows your back to be supported and may be easier to relax into the stretch.

Seated

When sitting in a chair, hinge the upper body forward while pressing the bent knee down to increase the stretch.

Standing 

Use one or 2 hands to support your body while stretching in the standing position.  Sitting deeper towards the floor will increase the stretch.