Yoga for Sciatica: Stretch Your Way to Relief Today

yoga for sciaticaSciatica is a pain that stems from the sciatic nerve, which is the longest and largest spinal nerve in the human body, running through the lumbar and sacral plexuses in the lower back and down through the buttocks and into the thighs. Sciatica is not a condition, but a symptom of other problems, such as a herniated or slipped disk, spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, and even sometimes caused by the extra weight gain due to pregnancy. This prenatal yoga course will help moms-to-be with any potential discomfort. Some of the various pains associated with sciatica include pain in the buttocks and leg, a burning or tingling sensation in the leg, weakness or numbness in the legs, and other various shooting pains that may make it difficult to stand and walk.

For more severe cases of sciatica, medicine, physical therapy, and even surgery may be necessary, but for those who have milder cases may want to try yoga to alleviate the pain. These poses will help restore and heal those suffering from this painful and uncomfortable malady, and when combined with the information found in this course on lower back pain, you can hopefully kick your sciatica to the curb.

Because there are several different areas that may be affected by sciatica, you’ll want to do poses that focus on your specific problem areas. Make sure you check with your doctor before beginning yoga to make sure it’s safe. If you’re new to yoga, make sure to don’t overdo any poses, stopping if painful, and always remembering to breathe. These poses are all pretty rudimentary and should not be too physically taxing. To learn some basic yoga poses, this course brings down the veil of mystery surrounding some poses.

NOTE: Make sure you have a yoga mat, a towel, or something similar to put on the floor when doing these exercises.

Downward-Facing Dog

This  is one of the most basic yoga poses. It stretches your back and your calves and is a good introductory pose.

  1. Beginning on all fours, with your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders, lift your knees up from the floor, exhaling as you do that. Keep your knees slightly bent at first and your heels lifted from the floor.
  2. Now exhale and push your thighs back, straightening your legs, and move your heels flat to the floor. Be sure to not lock your knees. Firm up your arms and press your palms into the floor. From this position, firm your shoulder blades against your back and widen them as you draw them toward your tailbone. Relax your head between your arms, fixing your gaze between your legs or up to your belly button.
  3. Finally, after staying in this position for 1 to 3 minutes, bend your knees to the floor, exhale, and rest.

Here is a photo of downward dog to use as a guide.

Seated Spinal Twist

This is a pretty simple yet effective pose that stretches your hips.

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and you feet flat on the ground in front of you. Place your right foot under your left knee, and continue moving it to the outside of your left hip, with your right knee now pointing forward.
  2. Next, there are two options for where to place your left foot. If you’re a novice or feeling particularly stiff, go with the milder pose, placing your left foot on the floor on the inside of your right knee so that it is pretty much in line with your hip. If you’re feeling adventurous or really need that extra stretch, place the left foot on the outside of your right knee. Once you’re comfortable and balanced by holding your left knee with your hands and shifting your weight between your buttocks so you don’t fall over. Lengthen your spine upward and you should start feeling the stretch in your hip. If not, gently pull your left knee across the mid-part of your body. Do this for about 20 seconds to warm up.
  3. Now place your left hand on the floor next to you while still holding your knee with your right hand. Don’t straighten your back too much, keeping its natural curve, then inhale and exhale as you twist your body. Make sure to use the hand on your knee to bring it closer to your chest, thus extending the stretch.
  4. Stretch both sides if you have problems with the other hip.

This photo shows how to properly do this pose.

Open Lizard

Another pose that focuses on the hips, the open lizard opens them up and stretches them out.

  1. Starting with the downward-facing dog you learned above, move your right foot forward between your hands.
  2. While keeping your hands on the mat, lower your left knee to the ground, pointing your toes behind you.
  3. Next, slowly lower your right knee until it is positioned just to the outside of your resting right foot.
  4. Keeping your arms straight, push out your chest. This will lower your hips and give you a deeper stretch.
  5. Hold for five breaths, then switch sides.

Locust

The locust focuses the stretching on the back. It’s not only effective but relaxing, as well.

  1. On your mat, lie flat on your stomach, legs together, arms by your side with you palms facing up.
  2. Inhale, lift your legs, your head, and torso up off the floor, with your hands still on the floor for support. As you hold the pose and continue breathing, extend your head away from your toes and lengthen as much as you can through the spine.
  3. Hold for five breaths, release, then repeat as necessary.

Reclining Big Toe

This final pose will work the hamstring, a common problem area for sciatica sufferers. This is another relaxing pose.

  1. Lying on your back, left knee slightly bent and left foot flat on the floor, lift your right leg into the air while keeping your pelvis flat to the ground. Hold your leg by the lower thigh or hold a strap placed over the arch of your foot. Stay relaxed.
  2. Hold for five breaths, then switch legs.

These simple and relatively low-intensity yoga poses should be a godsend to those with a mild case of sciatica. They’re also natural alternatives to any prescription meds your doctor may recommend, which your body will appreciate, though make sure to speak to your doctor to ensure any new fitness routine you try is safe. If these poses really got you pumped up about yoga, try this course about yoga for neck and back pain for a more regimented approach. Hopefully we did get your started on a natural approach to helping your pain and suffering, and remember to not overdo it.