Turning to yoga for sciatica pain relief can be a great compliment to your sciatica recovery.
Sciatica is no fun, but what exactly is it?
What is sciatica?
Sciatica is where the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your feet, gets irritated or compressed.
If you have sciatica, your:
- back of your leg
- feet and toes
- painful – the pain may be stabbing, burning or shooting
- tingling – like pins and needles
- or weak
Sciatica usually improves within 4 to 6 weeks, but can last longer for some.
During those weeks, you can use yoga for sciatica relief to help to to work through the pain.
(Remember, your doctor should always be your first port of call)
How can yoga for sciatica help?
Yoga for sciatica sufferers can be a great tool to alleviate pain and discomfort.
There have been multiple studies which have indicated that yoga for sciatica can help to alleviate sciatica symptoms.
During yoga for sciatica sufferers, the focus should be on gentle, easy, movement with a focus on proper spinal alignment and safety above all else.
Let’s get into the 5 poses!
Yoga poses to avoid when you have sciatica
Using yoga for sciatica pain relief can be incredibly beneficial, but it is good to know which yoga poses to avoid all together when you have sciatica.
And it turns out, its highly personal when it comes to yoga for sciatica.
Because sciatica can feel so different for different people, what’s most important is to listen to your body and honour how it feels. So if that means no not doing a pose because it just doesn’t feel right, do just that.
Your body knows best.
It’s important to avoid poses that cause any type of pain entirely. Experiment, this might be different on any given day.
As a general rule, when it comes to yoga for sciatica sufferers, seated and standing bends (aside for Downward Facing Dog) should be avoided. This is because they have the capacity to cause further strain on the lower back and pelvis.
If you still want to keep doing forward bends as part of your yoga for sciatica practice, you can modify yoga for sciatica by practicing forward bends as you lay down face up (the supine position). Performing forward bends this way means that the ground is there to support your lower back.
You may find, since sciatica often only affects one leg, that you are able to hold certain yoga poses on one side of your body, whilst it is too painful to do so on the other side. This is totally normal, don’t worry.
You can often modify yoga for sciatica by bending your knees in any pose you need to or by placing padding under your knees in seated poses that cause any discomfort.
If you suffer from sciatica during your pregnancy, it is strongly advised that you avoid doing any yoga poses that put any pressure or strain on your stomach. You should also avoid strong backbends and twists.
Feel free to use bolsters and cushions liberally.
Now we know what not to do, on to the amazing yoga for sciatica poses!
#1: Child’s Pose (balasana)
Child’s Pose is a fantastic yoga pose for sciatica. It provides a way to tune into and relax your body. It lengthens and stretches your spine, and promotes flexibility and openness in your hips, thighs, and lower back.
- Begin on all fours in the table top position. Your wrists should be stack directly under your shoulders, knees stacked directly under your hips.
- From here, exhale and lower your hips so that they are resting on your heels. Untuck your toes so that the tops of the feet are flat against the floor. You can use a blanket between your heels and buttocks if it’s difficult to come down fully.
- Gently bend your torso forward, hinging at the hips and bringing your forehead to rest on the floor. Your sit bones should still be resting down on your heels, and your arms relaxed alongside your torso.
- Experiment here. Find what is most comfortable for you, or what provides the greatest stretch. Maybe this means spreading your knees so that they are mat-width apart and having your chest closer to the mat, or maybe it means resting your head on your palms.
- Stay here for 5 minutes or more, breathing deeply and actively pressing your belly down towards the mat. Relax the muscles in your face, especially in the jaw and forehead, where we tend to tense up when stressed or in pain.
- For a variation that deepens the stretch and opens up your shoulders and chest: try extending your arms out to the top of your mat, hands shoulder width apart, palms on the floor, and fingers stretched. (This is known as extended child’s pose)
#2: Downward Facing Dog (Adho mukha svanasana)
This forward bend helps bring your body into alignment, which can relieve pain and tightness. Downward Facing Dog promotes strength in your entire body and can help to correct imbalances.
- Begin on your hands and knees in tabletop position. Wrists directly under your shoulders and hips stacked on top of your knees.
- Rotate your arms by wrapping your shoulders back so that your elbows face towards the back of your mat.
- With your palms down on the mat, picture sliding your hands towards each other. This will activate your chest muscles.
- Curl your toes under and lift your knees, pushing your hips up and back.
- Align your shoulders between the hands and the hips. These three should form one straight line.
- Create an extension through the spine by lifting up through your pelvis and pressing down into your hands.
- Once you are here, it might feel nice to pedal out your feet, stretching down your legs and settling into the pose. This is especially nice if this is your first downward dog of the day.
- Settle your feet so that they are slightly pigeon toed, with your big toes lightly pointing inwards, creating a gentle internal rotation of the legs.
- Bring the gaze straight down to the mat so that your ears are in line with your biceps.
- If you can’t get your heels to drop all the way to the floor today, don’t worry. With time and practice, your downward dog will evolve.
#3: Half Cobra pose (ardha bhujangasana)
This can be a powerful yoga for sciatica pose. The Half Cobra Pose has the capacity to realign your spine by counteracting the hunched position many of us adopt at our desk jobs.
This pose opens up our chest and gently stretches our lower back.
- Start your Half Cobra Pose by coming down to lie on your belly.
- Tuck your pelvis in and draw your navel towards your spine.
- Keep your heels hip width apart and press the tops of your feet firmly into the earth.
- Place your palms nice and close to your body nestled underneath your shoulders, fingers facing forward and elbows tucked in and pointing towards the back of the mat.
- Hug your shoulders up and back and squeeze your shoulder blades in together and down.
- Inhale in, extend through the crown of the head and slowly dip your forehead to the mat.
- On an inhale, press into all ten fingerprints, press into your foundation and slowly lift up, heart extending forward.
- Focus on a full awareness all the way down your spine.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together and look forwards, shoulders dropping down and back away from the ears.
- Avoid forcing yourself into this posture by pressing yourself up with your hands. Use the power in your back to being you into this pose.
- If you want to check to see whether you are placing too much weight in your hands, turn your hands around so that your palms are facing the ceiling. Can you maintain the posture?
#4: Cobra pose(bhujangasana)
If the Half Cobra Pose feels good for your back, you can gently make your way into a full Cobra Pose by pressing down into the mat and rolling your spine further up into an upright cobra.
But be sure not to force yourself into this position. Yoga for sciatica sufferers sound be painless and gentle.
#5: Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
This pose can feel incredible as a yoga for sciatica pain reliever. The gentle twist can give you that much needed rinse and release.
- Beginning seated just above the centre of your mat, legs outstretched in front of your body.
- Bend your left knee so that the sole of your foot is flat against the floor.
- From here, bend your right knee and bring it underneath your left leg, using your hand to assist you, so that your right heel is next to your left buttock.
- Keeping both of your sit bones on the floor, take your left leg and fold it over your right, so that the outer side of your left foot is next to your right knee.
- Keeping your back straight, and your spine long with your shoulders back and down, inhale as you raise both arms to the ceiling.
- As you exhale, twist towards your left, placing your left hand on your mat behind you and your right elbow on the outside of your left knee. Gaze falling over your left shoulder.
- Hold the pose five to ten deep breaths, lengthening your spine as you inhale and stretching deeper into your twist as you exhale.
- Release and repeat the sequence on other side.
More back healing yoga?
Now that you’ve learned what the 5 best yoga for sciatica poses are, why not get inspired to make caring for your back an integral part of your life?
What better way to give your back some loving than to take a short break from your desk job and try some chair yoga!
Check out these 9 Best Chair Yoga Poses You Can Do At Your Desk