Yoga for Sciatica
As you probably already know, sciatica is a medical term for a series of symptoms that describe a stabbing pain sensation that starts in the lower back and goes down the leg. There are many different things that can cause sciatica, with the main one being pressure applied to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body, and it starts in the lower back and goes down the leg all the way to the toes. Problems and pains associated with this nerve almost always start when the root of the nerve, located between the L5 and S1 vertebrae, get compressed by a herniated disc. Sometimes the herniation is so severe that the only treatment possible is surgery. Most people experience significant improvement in their condition after surgery, but it’s very invasive and therefore not the best option for every case of sciatica.
Sometimes many of the sciatica symptoms can be managed and reduced with yoga. There are a few different types of yoga, depending on where they originated, and all of them use literally thousands of positions, called asanas, to help you achieve both physical and mental balance. With just a bit of research, you can learn which of these asanas target the area affected by sciatica the most. The wide variety of sciatica yoga poses makes them suitable for every level of expertise and mobility, so you can be sure there are at least a couple dozen ones that will work for you. The stretches and exercises you’d do in physiotherapy are no different than this sciatica yoga stretches, making them at least as safe and effective.
Most of these yoga stretches target your hamstrings and spine because it’s the fastest and safest way to relieve your nerve from the pressure it’s under. Your hamstrings are very close to the sciatic nerve and making them stronger and more flexible can relieve the pain even better than over-the-counter painkillers.
Yoga Exercises for Sciatica Pain
- Standing back twist
The standing back twist is a great pose suitable for both beginners and experts. Start by putting your leg on a chair with your knee bent. Place the opposite hand on your knee, facing outward, and start turning your upper body as much as you can with your hips facing forward. Go as far as you can without feeling any pain. When you reach the furthest point where you’re still comfortable, hold the pose for at least 30 seconds and let go slowly. Repeat several times per leg, and focus more on the leg where the pain is more severe. This is a great warm up for people who are more flexible, and a great stretch for those who aren’t on the bendy side.
- The two knee twist
Lie on your back and stretch both of your arms so you form a letter T with your body. While keeping your shoulders pinned to the floor, slowly turn both of your knees to one side. The goal here is to keep your back straight and not lift your shoulders while trying to get your knees as close to the floor as possible. Keep the position for as long as you can if it feels nice and comfortable, and if not, try holding it for a minute at a time. This stretch helps your lower back and pelvic muscles relax and shift the pressure from that one painful spot in the sciatic nerve elsewhere. You don’t have to turn your knees all the way for it to have an effect, just make sure you’re on a hard and firm surface.
- The knee raise
While lying on your back, bend your leg at the knee and pull it closer to your chest with your arms. Keep your back and shoulders straight and pinned to the floor, and try to pull your leg as closer to your chest as possible. Don’t go further than you’re comfortable, though – it won’t make the stretch more effective and it can hurt you in the long run. Try keeping the position for as long as you can, preferably at least 30 seconds or more. When you let go of your leg, lower it slowly and carefully to extend the stretch even more. This targets both the muscles that are deep in your butt and pelvis, as well as the surface muscles at the upper part of your thigh.
- The cat pose
Although to a healthy person this pose might seem like it’s too easy to have any effect, it really does wonders for people suffering from sciatica. Get on your hands and knees and start with your back straight. Try to relax your back, and while taking a long, deep breath arch your back outwards. Pull your shoulders and your pelvis inward and keep your stomach relaxed. Stay in the position until you finish breathing in and hold your breath for a couple of seconds. When you start to exhale, pull your shoulders outward and arch your back in the opposite direction, closer to the ground. Lift your hips out and keep your abs nice and tight. Hold the position for as long as it takes you to exhale completely, then repeat. Do this as many times as necessary as it can only do you good. The cat pose relieves you entire back from stress and stiffness, making your posture better, which in turn lowers the pressure on your spinal disc.
- The fire log pose
It’s as simple and easy as it is effective at reducing pain your sciatic nerve. Start by sitting down on the floor with your legs bent and your feet on the floor. If the surface is too hard, you can always use a blanket or a yoga mat. Then, slide your left foot under your right leg, and place it as close to your butt as you can without sitting on it. Lay the outer leg on the floor and keep it straight. When you get used to the position, stack your right leg on top of the right, with your right ankle on the knee of your left leg. Keep your lower back arched, your shoulders pulled back and your elbows close to your hips. Hold the position for as long as you and see how it alleviates the pressure from your outer hips. This pose targets the piriformis, a muscle located deep in you buttocks, which is often most affected by sciatica.