- Sciatica causes, symptoms
- Yoga & Sciatica
- Best poses
- Cobra pose
- Bridge pose
- Child’s pose
- Reclined Pigeon
- Downward dog
- Reclined cow-face
- Knee-to-chest pose
- Half moon pose
- Half lord of fishes pose
- One-legged pigeon pose
- Poses to avoid
Sciatica is the most common pain experienced by up to 40% of people once in their lifetime. Actually, sciatica pain comes from a nerve that runs through the lower back and extends through the thighs along the sides of the legs reaching the feet.
Sciatica pain aka sciatica neuritis is a painful condition caused by the compression or damage of the sciatica nerve which doesn’t only sounds terrifying but also is heart-wrenching.
Well, don’t worry, there is yoga for sciatica that has got your back. A 2019 study 1 has shown that yoga stretches for sciatica are effective in relieving its pain.
What causes sciatica?
Before stepping into yoga for sciatica, it’s better to understand its root causes and symptoms on yoga can really help with
The major causes of arousal of sciatica pain may include:
- Herniated disk – The presence of a herniated disk in the lumbar region or growth of bone on your vertebrae or sometimes a tumor might compress sciatica nerve.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis – This is defined as the narrowing of the spinal cord in the lower back that could cause sciatica pain.
- Piriformis syndrome – The sciatica nerve runs in between the piriformis muscles located in the buttocks. When the piriformis muscles tighten or get spasms, it can irritate and compress the sciatica nerve.
- Diabetes – Diabetes can also be associated with sciatica as it causes diabetic neuropathy which damages the nerves in the hands, legs, and feet.
- Obesity – Obesity is also one of the causes that put stress on the lower back and might induce sciatica pain.
- Some other causes include increasing age, sedentary lifestyle, osteoarthritis, back injury, occupation that involves carrying heavy loads, etc.
Symptoms of sciatica
The pain and effects of sciatica vary from person-to-person widely. Sometimes the pain seems mild that is bearable to some extent. However, there are times when the leg comes completely immobile.
Besides these wide-ranging symptoms, every sciatica patients experiences:
- Pain in the lower back, back of the legs, usually at one side of the body.
- Inability to flex ankles and walk on heels which is known as foot drop.
- Reduced reflexes in Achilles tendons and knees.
- Numbness, tingling sensation, and inflammation.
- Weakness that buckle up knees while standing up from the seated posture.
How does yoga help relieve sciatica pain?
Yoga is proved to be relieving sciatica pain due to its ability to cure the root cause. Especially yoga stretches for sciatica works on the spinal issues and piriformis muscles that usually aggravate the sciatica pain.
Yoga is the most natural way to relieve sciatica because of the following assertions:
- Yoga for sciatica is designed to sooth the pain in and around the spine, legs, or feet.
- It ensures proper alignment of the vertebrae and pelvis to eliminate any pressure on the sciatica nerve.
- It aids in strengthening the muscles and provides correct balance within the body.
Trying yoga for sciatica pain relief is the most suitable and cost-effective way involving basic stretching poses that positively stimulates sciatica nerve.
10 Yoga Poses for Sciatica Pain Relief
The therapeutic application of yoga on sciatica is evident in a case study 2 where a sciatica patient gradually and successfully recovered through sciatica practicing some yoga poses consistently.
Following a similar approach 10 gentle yoga poses are described below which are known and proved to heal sciatica:
1. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra pose is known to provide muscular strength to back muscles. It improves the flexibility of back muscles bringing an enhanced flow of blood to this region.
This pose has showed therapeutic effects on sciatica pain in a 2013 study 3 along with Ayurvedic therapy involving body massage.
- Lie down on your stomach placing hands under shoulders.
- Inhale to lift the head and chest off the floor pressing the palms on the floor and squeezing the elbows into the body.
- Arch the back slightly stretching the spine and core muscles keeping the elbows slightly bent.
- Hold the pose engaging the thighs, lower back, and abdominals for 30 seconds.
Holding the bridge pose exerts pressure on the feet while stretching the thighs, hips, and spine.
As it works on the lower back, glutes, as well as activates the inner thighs, hence, bridge pose is suitable for relieving sciatica pain, no matter what the origin of the pain is. It benefits the sciatica nerve from top to bottom.
- Lie on your back bending the knees and placing the feet on floor.
- Slowly lift your pelvis off the floor.
- Try to reach your feet with your hands straightening the arms.
- Hold this pose for up to one minute.
Child’s pose is the most relaxing pose often practiced while switching between yoga poses.
This pose works on relieving sciatica pain as it stretches the spine fully and improves the flexibility of the lower body. Therefore, any tension accumulated around the hips that can induce compression of the sciatica nerve is removed.
- Begin holding the table top position.
- Push your hips back onto the heels drawing the knees closer.
- Stretch the arms forward bringing your forehead to the floor.
- Hold this pose relax breathing deeply for up to 5 minutes.
Reclined pigeon pose is a deeply relaxing pose for the buttocks and spine. It is a highly recommended pose for removing tightness from the lower spine and hips.
This yoga stretch for sciatica relief works by providing relaxing effects to cure piriformis syndrome 4, one of the major causes of sciatica.
- Lie on your back bending the knees.
- Lift your right foot to place it on top of the left thigh.
- Stay here for a while feeling the stretch.
- Now, lift your left leg and push the left knee towards the chest.
- Extend your arms to grab the left thigh to pull it closer.
- Hold this pose feeling the stretch for up to 1 minute and then repeat it switching the legs.
Down dog is a great stretch to improve the spinal alignment and balance of the body. This forward bend due to its alignment characteristics removes any tightness or pain in the lower back.
The proper alignment of the vertebral column and stretching of the legs strengthens the spine and legs which is beneficial to get remedial effects on sciatica.
- Come to your all fours on the ground.
- Pressing your palms on the floor raise your buttocks towards the ceiling.
- Drop your head towards the floor between the arms tucking the chin in towards the chest.
- Try to bring the heels to the floor or rock back and front on your your feet and hands.
- Hold this pose for a minute then release back into the floor.
6. Reclined Cow-Face Pose (Supta Gomukhasana)
Practicing reclined cow face pose activates the lower back and leg muscles. It is practiced to relieve the pressure that the sciatica nerve might feel due to long sitting hours.
Providing deep stretch on the piriformis and hip flexors, this posture is effective enough to relieve sciatica.
- Lie down on your back on the floor.
- Lift your legs off the floor crossing them so that the right knee is stacked over the left and feet pointing out to the sides.
- Grab the outer edge of the feet with the alternative hands.
- Keeping the knees stacked and lengthening the tailbone pull the feet outwards to align both the shins on the same plane.
- Bend the elbows while pulling the legs and flex your feet to activate the toes.
- Feel the stretch for five deep breaths and then repeat it switching the leg position.
This yoga posture is assumed by hugging the knees to the chest. It stretches the back of the thighs and tailbone.
The stretching effects of apanasana are effective for the treatment of sciatica pain by soothing the sore muscles around the sciatica nerve.
- Lie on your back bending the knees and placing the feet on the floor.
- Lift your heels to draw the knees towards you.
- Wrapping your forearms around the shins to squeeze the knees and pull them closer to the chest.
- Keeping the back flat on the floor and shoulders relaxed tuck your chin to the chest.
- Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds with slow deep breaths.
Half moon pose is a pose to find stability and balance within the body. Besides this, it stretches the spine, glutes, and thighs which are the major points where the effects of sciatica pain are strongly felt.
- Stand keeping the feet together then take a stance as if to perform side-lunge with right foot out in front.
- Bending your right knee shift your weight onto the right foot and keep your left hand on the hip.
- Bend sideways from the hips to reach the reach the floor with the right hand.
- Simultaneously, lift your left leg keeping it straight until it becomes parallel to the floor.
- Gradually open your hips towards the left keeping the head in line with the neck.
- Now extend your left arm towards the ceiling and turn your neck to look up, stay there for one minute.
- Slowly bending your right leg bring the left leg to the floor and repeat it switching the sides.
Assuming this twisted posture, stretches the lower back and enhances blood circulation. Stretching the lower back, opening the hip flexors, along with rotating the torso make it an excellent counterpose for removing the ill-effects of a sedentary lifestyle on the posture.
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose promotes spine elasticity along with preventing the muscular tension in the legs, thus alleviating the symptoms of sciatica.
- Sit extending the legs in front.
- Lifting the right knee place the right foot outside the left knee.
- Bend the left leg to draw the left foot on the outside of the right hip.
- Place the right hand behind you and extend the left arm to hook the left elbow on the outer edge of the right knee.
- Twist the torso to the right keeping the shoulders square.
- Try to hold the left shin or right ankle with the left hand deepening the twist and stay there for 5-8 breaths.
- Release to come back on staff pose and then repeat it on the other side.
10. One-legged Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Kapotasana)
One-legged pigeon relieves sciatica by relieving muscular tension that compresses the sciatica nerve.
It opens the hip flexors and stretches the spine, thereby removing stiffness and pain in the lower back. Thus, it is beneficial in relieving sciatica pain.
- From down-dog pose, bring your left foot forward.
- Lower the left thigh and shin to floor extending the right leg straight on the floor with right toes pointing out.
- Pressing the hands on the floor arch the back, then, bend your right knee to lift the foot off the floor.
- Extend your arms backward to grab to lifted toes with both the hands.
- Pulling your right shin back increase the arch keeping gaze forward.
Yoga poses to avoid when you have sciatica
Yoga is all about exploring oneself, respecting the body’s limits, and gradually expanding the potentials. Sciatica is already quite a painful experience hence it is better not to push the body off the limits even with yoga.
Hence, there are some specific yoga postures that you must avoid including in your yoga sessions to prevent any further muscular injury or strain.
- Avoid seated and standing forward bends as there is a high risk of straining the pelvis while holding these.
- Refraining from wide-angle seated forward is a must for anyone suffering from sciatica.
- A backbend intended cobra pose can also worsen the sciatica pain. Hence, if a sciatica patient performs a cobra pose, then the stretch must be focused on pulling the chest forward avoiding the backbend and creating space in the low back.
- Do not practice Bow Pose and Dancer pose as they contract the gluteal muscles that can trigger pain in the sciatica nerve.
- Do not try twisting postures that also involves forward bends like Revolved Head-to-Toe, Revolved Triangle, and revolved chair pose. These poses pressurize intervertebral discs in the lumbar spine that can aggravate pain and discomfort.
- Besides these, while practicing any posture it is inevitable to avoid losing spinal integrity and slouching.
- If pregnancy has aroused your sciatica then it’s better to avoid poses that pressurize the belly and don’t hesitate to use props like bolster or cushions to modify backbends or twisting poses.
Relieve your sore muscles around the lower back, hips, and legs by practicing the above poses and alleviate the pain and other symptoms of sciatica.
Above all, keep the safety measures before attempting any yoga for sciatica relief. Try practicing these poses under an expert to get enhanced relieving effects and get rid of sciatica once for all.
- The Therapeutic Application of Yoga on Sciatica: A Case Study | International Journal of Yoga Therapy | Allen Press
- A preliminary clinical evaluation of external snehan and asanas in the patients of sciatica Singh AK, Singh OP – Int J Yoga (ijoy.org.in)
- Piriformis Syndrome Video https://www.spine-health.com/video/piriformis-syndrome-video