Yoga Poses For Sciatica Relief

It’s estimated that over 43% of us will eventually develop symptoms of sciatica. If you’re one of those unlucky sufferers, you know how debilitating the pain can be. But there’s good news! Yoga can help alleviate the pain if done on a regular basis. The gentle stretches described below are a good place to start.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is not a condition in itself but is the term used to describe the pain caused by compression or irritation of one or more nerves residing in the lower spine that make up the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, starting in the lower back, down through the hips and buttocks into each leg.

Sciatica sufferers often complain of symptoms such as constant pain in one side of the back, buttock or leg, which often becomes worse when sitting, or sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand or walk. Sciatica is usually described as sharp, shooting pain, or numbness and needles as opposed to an aching sensation.

What Causes it?   

A number of conditions can cause sciatica, but it commonly comes from nerve compression in the low back. Most often, sciatica develops over time and is not tied to any one event or injury. Some causes include a herniated disk, arthritis, infection or trauma. Although rare, nerve compression can come from a tumor. Because there is no single cause for the condition, it’s important to receive a proper diagnosis before you begin any treatment plan.

How Yoga Can Help

Yoga can be helpful in relieving sciatica pain. Similar to physical therapy, certain yoga poses can strengthen and stretch affected muscles, and bring awareness and recognition to physical and mental habits that aggravate the condition. Yoga can also help relieve chronic tension that exacerbates the symptoms and teach mental habits to deal with pain management. Many professionals consider yoga to be the best way to treat and prevent symptoms. With that being said, as with any medical condition, check with your doctor before attempting any exercises. Be gentle and listen to your body. Don’t try to stretch beyond your limits. If you feel any pain, do not continue.

Knee-to-Chest Pose

This pose is one of the best ways to stretch your lower back. It is especially good to do in the morning before getting out of bed.

While lying on your back, bend the knees keeping feet hip distance apart. Take a gentle, full breath in, then exhale and hug your left knee into your chest, hooking your fingers behind your left thigh. If this is uncomfortable for your shoulders, feel free to use a yoga strap or belt around your leg instead. Stay here for a few breaths, gently pulling your leg into your chest with each exhale. Relax your body and soften your breath. Repeat with the other leg. Once you’ve completed with each leg separately, try pulling both knees in at the same time.

Eye-of-the-Needle Pose

This is a gentle, hip opening pose which specifically targets the muscles around the sciatic nerve.

Lie on your back with bent knees, feet on the floor, hip-distance apart. Bend your right knee, placing your right ankle on your left thigh. Use your right hand to gently push your knee away from your chest. Stay here for a few breaths. If you’d like to deepen the stretch, pull your left knee into your chest, reach between your legs gently and hug your left thigh into your chest. Stay here for a few breaths. Repeat on the other leg.

Supine Supported Twist

You’ll need a blanket or towel for this one. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Place a folded towel or blanket on the floor next to your right thigh. Take a deep breath, then exhale and drop your thighs and knees onto the towels. Relax your shoulders and turn your head to the left. You should feel a comfortable stretching sensation on the side of your back and hips. Adjust the height of the towels as needed. Stay here for a few breaths. Return to center and repeat on the other side.

Caring for sciatica should be part of your daily routine, not something to be done just when symptoms are present. Additional care should include minimizing stress on the lower back, especially when lifting, maintaining good posture and supporting the lower back when sitting. Try to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time. As with anything, preventing the problem before it begins or worsens is easier than recovery.