Yoga For Sciatica
Yoga is good for relieving and healing sciatica. However, you need to get smart about what poses you choose. Like with any movement practice, there will be poses that help and ones that aggravate.
Sciatica And Me
I suffered from sciatica for a long time after the birth of my second child back in 2003. Even something as simple as walking would cause a burning sensation down my leg and sometimes it would go completely weak and buckle out on me. I also suffered from pins and needles which could sometimes be quite painful.
If you are reading this and are suffering (or have suffered in the past) my heart goes out to you – been there, worn the t-shirt and am now luckily out the other side.
In a moment, I will share with you my top 5 yoga poses for sciatica relief but before I dive in, it is helpful to understand what causes sciatica.
What Is Sciatica?
Sciatica is where the sciatic nerve, which runs from your lower back to your feet, gets irritated or compressed.
There are two ways in which this can happen:
- The first is a compressed disc in the lumbar spine (where the sciatic nerve emerges from).
- The second culprit can be a tight piriformis (a small deep hip muscle). The nerve can pass above, below or for some directly through it. Any tightness in the muscle can compress the nerve causing pain.
If you are not sure what is causing yours, please do get it checked out as it will give you valuable information on what poses will help you the most.
For example, if your sciatica originates from the lumbar spine, you may find it helpful to avoid forward bends, especially seated and standing variations (e.g. standing forward bend). You can read up on more about sciatica and its causes here.
My Top 5 Yoga Poses For Sciatica
The following five are good all-rounders. They help by rebalancing the muscles which sit on, above, below and through the pelvis.
At the end of the day if you can help make the muscles work together as a team – doing the jobs they are meant to do – your pelvis and spine will sit in a more neutral position. This leads to better posture.
When your posture is better and more balanced sciatica tends to resolve itself.
If you read all the way to the end, I also describe a bonus move that will stop an episode quickly – my emergency sciatica attack remedy. This move saved my sanity so many times – it is a magic quick fix.
Crocodile (With Knee Slides).
- Lie on your belly with the legs relaxed behind you – legs may be wider than hip-width apart.
- Bend the arms at the elbows and let the head rest on the palms.
- If you feel any pinching in the lower back place a cushion underneath the pelvis to help you lengthen it and find some space.
- Stay here and breathe in the side and back ribs.
- If you feel any compression whilst you are resting here it is helpful to shake the booty a bit. Focus on keeping the legs and butt relaxed and this can really help release the nerve giving you some welcome release.
For a little stretch on the thigh, you can slide up one knee towards the outer hip on the same side.
Knee To Chest
- Begin lying on the floor with the knees bent, hip-width apart and feet flat on the floor.
- Stay here for a moment to allow your back to relax into the floor
- When ready, draw both knees into the chest and give yourself a hug. If it feels comfortable gently rock from side to side to massage out the lower back.
- From here keep the right knee hugging in and drop the left foot back onto the floor with the knee still bent.
- Spend a moment drawing the right knee towards the right shoulder. The upper body should stay relaxed and the pelvis should stay grounded on the mat.
- If appropriate allow the left leg to stretch out long, rolling the inner thigh towards the floor as you do so. You should feel a very good stretch along the front of the thigh of the straight leg. Continue to hug in the right knee and hold for a minute or longer.
- Release and repeat on the other side.
Reclined Leg Stretch
This is actually a forward bend for the spine (you are just lying down). I find the supine version much safer for the spine as it helps you keep a more neutral position. That way you feel the stretch where you are supposed to and will avoid putting unnecessary tension in areas that may aggravate your sciatica.
This pose relieves tightness in the hips and glutes while also opening up the hamstrings. This can help those suffering from sciatica to improve their range of motion and ability to forward bend.
- Lie on the floor with a strap handy.
- Start with both knees bent.
- Wrap the strap around the right foot so that it is in line with the toe mounds.
- Stretch the right leg straight up towards the sky (the knee can be bent).
- Keeping the back of the pelvis and the tailbone on the floor gently stretch out the back of the leg keeping both sides of the waist long.
- From here, take the strap into your right hand and place the left hand on your hip (as a guide).
- Rotate the leg bone in the socket and lower the leg out to the side making sure that you do not let the left hip come off the floor.
- You can also stretch out the inner legs by taking the strap in the right hand and dropping the leg out to the right. Rest the leg on the floor (if it reaches) or place a bolster (or similar) to bridge the gap between the leg and the floor.
Supine Pigeon to Supine Pigeon Twist.
One of my favourites and out of all the poses listed, one I used to go to again and again. This stretch relieves compression of the sciatic nerve by stretching the glutes, piriformis, and lower back.
- Begin by lying down on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet on the ground, hip-width distance apart.
- Bend your right knee and place your right ankle above your left knee on the thigh. Use the right hand to push the right knee away from you. Feel how the pelvis becomes level and the tailbone roots down into the floor.
- You may like to stay here. If you want to increase the stretch pick the left foot off the floor and thread your right hand through the legs and interlace the hands behind your left thigh or on top of the left shin.
- Continue to anchor the tailbone on the floor. Breathe into the stretch for at least one minute before changing sides.
You may like to take the shape into a twist. Say, the right ankle is on the left knee, keep the shape and drop the knees over to left. Land the right foot on the floor and relax the tailbone towards the end of the mat. Breathe and hold for a minute. Repeat on the other side.
This gentle yoga pose relieves compression of the lower back and hips.
- Start seated on your mat.
- Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together.
- Allow your knees to fall outwards to a butterfly position. For further support (and I would advise this) allow the knees to rest on a block or cushion so they are not hanging in mid-air.
- Hold this position for at least 5 minutes.
- To come out, move the blocks or cushions out of the way and windshield the knees from side to side to release.
Yoga For Sciatica – Bonus Move
When sciatica hits you want to relieve it as quickly as possible. Below is a great fix it now ‘move’ which I teach to all my clients to help soothe a sciatica attack.
- Come to all fours.
- Stretch out the effective leg back curling the toes under.
- Now, bring the weight to the kneeling leg, toes, and both hands so that there is no weight on the affected leg.
- Shake out the affected leg. Let it go loosey goosy and shake it out.
- This action helps relieve the pressure off the nerve and give you some relief.
I hope you have found my thought on yoga for sciatica helpful. If nothing else please try the bonus move for some quick relief; I promise you it works.
If you would like to see some of the moves in action (plus a few more), watch my yoga for sciatica video below.
If you would like some 121 help with improving your sciatica why not reach out for some private yoga tuition? Contact me here and let’s chat.