Yoga Poses to Help with Your Sciatica Pain
Sciatica has become a common problem – if you haven’t experienced it yourself, someone you know probably has. By definition, sciatica is tenderness and pain that can occur anywhere along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerves are the longest nerves in the human body. There are two nerves – one in each leg – originating from several nerve roots that exit from the spinal cord, passing between layers of the buttock muscles through the muscles at the back of the thigh and down through the outer edge of your leg to your foot.
The Facts: it is estimated that more than 10 % of the adult population in India suffers from sciatica. Furthermore, an individual has a 40% probability of developing sciatica over a lifetime.
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The Symptoms of Sciatica:
Sciatica frequently flares up when bending over, running and sitting (particularly when driving).Symptoms for sciatica typically include:
- Pain in the lower back, buttocks, back of the thigh and/or calf
- Fatigue, numbness, or loss of feeling in your legs and/or feet
- Tingling, burning, pinching, pins and needles
- An inability to flex your ankles enough to walk on your heels
- Reduced reflexes in the Achilles tendon (the muscle above the heel) and the knee.
What is the Cause of Sciatica?
It is important to get to the root of the problem first and discover what is causing your sciatica. This entails seeking advice from your family doctor and getting a proper diagnosis before proceeding, he will provide immediate relief by prescribing pain killers, then you should consult with our Ayurvedic physician for a cure.Generally, there are two main contributors to sciatica:
A Herniated Disk: Pain that is caused by a bulging or ruptured disk that pinches or irritates the nearby nerve.
Piriformis Syndrome: Sciatica that is caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve by a muscle in the buttocks called the piriformis. The muscle can push the sciatic nerve against the tendons beneath it, resulting in buttock and leg pain.
The Good News: How Yoga Can Help
Mindful, targeted yoga practice can help you overcome the pain.
For a Herniated Disk: Opt for a yoga practice that progresses from gentle poses to basic foundational postures, which include a variation of standing poses focusing on alignment, lengthening and strengthening your lower back. Prior to practicing yoga, ensure that surgery is not required.
For Piriformis Syndrome: Opt for yoga postures that stretch this muscle. Your approach should be gentle and progressive, as overworking this muscle may lead to spasms and deep buttock pain.
What follows is a series of yoga poses that predominantly target the piriformis, helping to relieve sciatic pain:
1. Reclining Big-Toe Pose
Beginner’s Tip: To make this pose slightly easier, raise the lower-leg heel off the floor by a few inches, or place it on a foam block or thick book for extra comfort and support. You may also use an elastic strap, placing it around the ball of your foot. Place a folded blanket under your head for added comfort.
1. Lie on the floor, keep your legs strongly extended with your feet flexed. Exhale and bend the right knee, drawing your thigh to your torso, hugging it to your belly. Keep your left leg extended, pushing actively through the heel.
2. Loop a strap around the arch of the right foot, holding the strap with both hands. On your next inhalation, extend the knee straight, pressing your heel up toward the ceiling. Reach your hands as far up the strap as possible, until your elbows are extended.
3. Keep your shoulder blades broad across the back, pressing lightly into the floor. Keep your collarbones wide, reaching away from the sternum. Your sitting bones should be firmly planted on the floor.
4. Hold the pose for 10 deep breaths. Then lower the leg slowly by bending the knee towards your chest and slowly releasing it to the floor. Repeat on the left side.
2. Staff Pose
Beginner’s Tip: This is a basic seated pose, which aside from relieving sciatica, will also help improve posture. Lay a 10-pound sandbag across the top of your thighs at the hip crease to help keep your thighs grounded. You may also practice this pose by keeping your back against the wall.
1. Sit on the floor, extending both legs in front of you. Keep your legs together and your torso upright. If your torso is leaning back, sit up on a blanket or cushion to help lift your pelvis. If practicing against a wall, your sacrum and shoulder blades should touch the wall, but not the lower back or the back of the head.
2. Sit on the front parts of your sitting bones, keep your thighs firm, pressing them down against the floor, rotating them slightly toward each other. Keep your ankles flexed, pressing out through your heels. Keep your spine long, as if you’re being pulled by a string from the crown of your head. Hold for one minute taking long, deep breaths.
3. Pigeon Pose
Beginner’s Tip: This pose stretches the piriformis. Place a thick, folded blanket underneath you hip for extra support.
1. Start on all fours. Bring the right knee forward and out between your hands. Slowly sink your hips to the floor. As you do so, release your left leg onto the floor behind you, slowly sliding it back while bringing your body forward. Keep your left toes pressed down on the mat.
2. Your right heel should be in line with your left hip and your shin should be at about a 45 degree angle. If you feel yourself tilting over to the right hip, place a blanket underneath for extra support. Keep your hips parallel to the front of your mat as much as possible. Use your fingertips to support your torso and keep your spine long, shoulder blades drawing close together. Hold for 10 deep breaths and repeat on the other leg.
4. Standing Twist
Beginner’s Tip: To reap the benefits of this pose, place a chair against the wall, using both the chair and the wall for extra support, enabling you to twist deeper.
1. Stand with your right hip against the wall with your body facing the chair. Put your right foot up on the chair, keeping your knee bent. Also keep it in line with your ankle. Your standing leg should be straight. Press your right hand against the wall, to help you balance.
2. Slowly lift your left heel up and turn your torso towards the wall, supporting your hands with the wall for extra support. Exhale and lower your heel to the floor, staying in the twist for a couple more breaths. Slowly return to the starting position, repeating on your left side.
5. Preparation for Spinal Twist
Beginner’s Tip: Sit on the corner of a folded blanket for extra support in the full seated spinal twist pose (see below).
1. Sit with your knees bent and your feet out in front of you. Release your right leg on the floor, taking your right heel to the outside of your right hip. Then bring your left foot around, placing your left heel by your right hip. Your weight should be evenly distributed across your buttocks.
2. Interlock your fingers over your left knee, while focusing on lengthening your spine. Hold this position for several breaths. Then proceed onto the next pose.
6. Simple, Seated Twist
1. From the preparation pose described above, turn your torso (from your waist, not your hip) toward the left knee. Place your left hand behind you, using it as a lever to twist (your weight should not be supported by your left arm). Hold onto your knee with your right hand.
2. It is vital that you do not go too deeply into the twist, as doing so will worsen piriformis syndrome. Repeat on the opposite side, starting with the pose above.
7. Cow’s Face Pose
Beginner’s Tip: For extra support in this passive stretch, sit on a blanket. If in the pose you notice that your left leg is not touching the floor, or the left knee locks or hurts during the stretch, roll up a second blanket or towel and place it under your knee.
From staff pose (number 2), bend your right knee, bringing your right leg across the left leg. Bring your right foot close to your outer left hip.
Move your left leg towards the mid-line – it should be slightly diagonal to your body. Your right hand should be on the floor while your left hand holds your right foot. Keep your spine extended, holding the position for a couple of breaths, then repeat on the other side.
Stretches for Sciatica Relief
Sciatica is an intense and searing pain, sometimes experienced as numbness or tingling, that can be felt around your lower back and shoots all the way down to your legs. This routine was developed at the University of Washington’s Physical Therapy Department, by Jennifer Howe. It’s especially designed to target herniated discs, bone degeneration and tight hip muscles, all of which cause sciatica. Even if you don’t know which of the three factors is causing your pain, try all the stretches and see which one helps.
Tight hip muscles
The following stretches will loosen the muscles in your hips. They might be pressing on your sciatic nerve, causing your pain.
Knee to opposite shoulder
Lie on your back with your legs extended and your feet flexed. Raise your right leg and hold your hands behind your knee. Pull your right knee gently across your body until it reaches your left shoulder. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat once more. Switch to raise your left leg to your right shoulder. Hold this position twice.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and place your feet flat on the bed. Cross your right ankle over your left knee forming a 4-shape, as seen in the photo below. Hold your hands behind your left knee and gently pull your legs towards your chest while pressing the right knee away from your chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat it another 3 times. Switch legs and repeat the exercise 4 times.
Stretches for bone degeneration
Create spaces between your vertebrae with these moves. These will help prevent them from pinching your sciatic nerve.
Knees to chest
Lie on your back and hug your knees to your chest, while allowing your lower back to curve. Hug your knees in this position for 30 seconds. If this stretch eases the pain in your legs, repeat this position another 3 times.
Posterior pelvic tilt
Lie face up on your bed with your knees bent and your feet flat, and place your arms behind your head. Lower yourself until your entire lower back touches the bed, as you see in the photo. Hold this position for 5 seconds and then return to the start position. Repeat this exercise 10 times.
These two press-up stretches can help create distance between the bulging discs in your spine. This relieves the pressure on the sciatic nerve.
Lie on your stomach and position your elbows directly under your shoulders, placing your forearms flat on the bed parallel to each other. Lift your chest and stretch your spine from the tailbone to the top of your neck, slightly arching your back. Hold this position for 30 seconds while breathing deeply. If the pain in your leg subsides, repeat this exercise two more times. If you don’t feel any relief, skip the press-up extension (the next and last exercise).
Once again, lie face down with your hands flat next to your shoulders. Press your palms into the bed while lifting your upper body, making sure to keep your hips and pelvis on the bed. Stretch your spine from your tailbone to your neck while slightly arching your back. If you feel pressure on your lower back, stop lifting your chest. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then slowly lower yourself back to the start position. Repeat this exercise 10 times, making a set. Do 3 sets of this exercise in total.