Sciatica is defined as pain running along the sciatic nerve from the lumbar region of the body through the glutes and down the backs of the legs. It can be described as tingling, burning, or pins and needles. For some it’s temporary but, if ignored or left untreated, sciatica can potentially develop into long-lasting, debilitating pain.
Yoga can be a useful and soothing treatment for sciatic pain as it builds body awareness and has innumerable benefits. With yoga, we learn to recognize what our bodies truly need through alignment, breath, and stretching.
This increased self-awareness and connection can result in the prevention and effective treatment of conditions like sciatica.
Here are a few poses specifically helpful in the healing of sciatic pain. Discuss these with your doctor and an experienced yoga teacher.
1. Bound Angle
Opening the hips, inner thighs and lower back will alleviate pressure on the sciatic nerve.
How to: Sit on your mat with the soles of your feet together, knees opening out to the sides.
Focus on sitting up with a straight spine, engaging the core by drawing the belly button in and up. Relax your shoulders. Place your hands on the sides of your feet.
If the hip flexors are tight, your knees may be reaching up away from the floor. If so, you can sit up on a blanket for support. Keep your attention on maintaining a flat back. Tilt your pelvis forward slightly to find a neutral lower back.
If this is your edge, this will be your full posture for today.
For a deeper stretch, hinge at the hips and fold forward. Apply pressure to your knees with your elbows to facilitate a deep opening in the hips.
Breathe for five to 10 rounds of breath.
Cobra pose strengthens your core and offers a deep stretch for the lower back.
How to: Lie down on the mat. Place your hands under your shoulders, squeezing the elbows to the sides of your body.
On an inhale, press the tops of the feet, thighs, and hips down into the floor as you straighten the arms and lift your chest up. Engage your core to protect the lower back. Draw your shoulder blades together as your heart reaches forward.
Hold for five to 10 rounds of breath.
3. Downward Facing Dog
This pose offers a full-body stretch, opening the hamstrings, lower back and strengthening the core.
How to: Start on your hands and knees with your wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Tuck your toes and press your tailbone up while drawing your hips back. Knees may be bent.
Draw your heels toward the floor while your hips reach up.
Plant the hands into the floor and externally rotate the arms, elbows back and in toward your ears. Press into the knuckles of the hand, especially the thumb and first finger, to protect the wrists.
Relax your shoulders and release your neck, looking behind you between your feet.
Hold for five to 10 rounds of breath.
This posture is therapeutic for lower back pain and the pinching of the sciatic nerve along the outer thigh and hip.
How to: Stand in mountain pose, pressing firmly into both soles with feet hip-distance apart. Shift your weight into the right foot and cross left knee over the right knee.
Extend both arms, palms facing up, in front of you. Cross your right arm over your left arm. Backs of the hands should be facing each other. Bend your elbows.. Shift your left hand slightly toward your face and your right hand away to bring palms to touch.
Standing firmly on your right foot, bend your right knee and squat into a one-legged chair pose, raising the elbows at the same time.
Hold for five full breaths and then practice on the other side. Repeat a total of two times on each side.
This pose deeply stretches the legs, outer hips, and lower back.
How to: Start in Warrior II. Straighten your front knee.
Moving as though you’re standing between two panes of glass, legs firmly planted, hinge at the hips as you reach your right hand forward and then drop it towards the floor. The hand can rest on your shin or touch the floor if you’re flexible.
Rotate your heart open to the right and raise your right hand to the sky. Your right hand is at 12 o’clock and your left hand is at 6 o’clock.
Hold for five to 10 rounds of breath. Repeat on the opposite side.
6. Fire Log
Fire log is an intense pose that opens the hips and glutes. This is an opportunity to develop self-awareness while also exploring your boundaries.
How to: Sit in easy pose and bring the right foot on top of the left knee. If possible, square the angles of your bent knees to stack the right shin on top of the left.
It’s not necessary to have 90-degree angles at the knees, which can be a very intense stretch. Explore what’s possible and adjust to your body’s needs.
With the right shin and ankle stacked on top of left, you’ll immediately feel an opening in the outer hip and glutes. Sit with a straight spine and breathe. You can also hinge at the hips for a forward fold, which will make the stretch even deeper.
Hold for a minimum of 10 breaths. It’s not necessary to stretch to our maximum capacity to reap the benefits from this posture. Be kind and attentive towards yourself.
7. Half Lord of the Fishes
This satisfying twist stretches the outer hips and glutes.
How to: Start seated with legs extended. Bend both knees, bringing the soles of the feet on the floor. Tuck your right foot under your left hip and let the right knee drop down to the floor.
Right foot can stay where it is, or you can cross your right leg over your left knee so that the sole of the right foot comes to the floor on the outside of the left knee.
Hug your right knee and sit up tall. Raise your left hand and twist to the right, bringing the right hand behind you as the left arm wraps tightly around the right knee.
Place your right hand on the floor behind you, supporting your back and straightening the spine.
Use the breath to create opening and relaxation in this pose: As you inhale, draw the crown of your head up toward the sky. As you exhale, deepen the twist.
Take five to 10 full breaths in the pose.