Sciatica pain is more common than you think, affecting about 40% of people in the United States. Millions of people around the world suffer from sciatica pain, though, and it can prevent them from carrying out the simplest of activities or daily tasks. An even sadder reality is that most people with sciatica pain live with the pain without knowing the benefits that are available through different yoga poses.
What Is Sciatica And Can Yoga Help?
The sciatic nerve originates in the buttocks/gluteal area, and it is the longest and thickest nerve in the body. It is made up of five nerve roots, two of which are from the lower back in the lumbar spine. The other three roots are from the final section of the spine, the sacrum. These five roots come together to form the right and left sciatic nerve. Sciatica often stems from an injury to the sciatic nerve or lower vertebrae, nerve irritation, or compression. Tight, overused, or injured muscles can also cause this intense pain, which is a sharp, throbbing, and often burning sensation that radiates from your lower back down your leg.
A small 2013 study found that certain yoga poses, especially Cobra Pose and Locust Pose, were useful in improving sciatica symptoms. Separate research from 2017 confirmed that yoga has the ability to reduce chronic lower back pain, improve limitations in activity, and reduce the use of pain medications. Let’s explore how the following yoga poses can help relieve sciatica pain.
The Knee Raise
A gentle pose that requires you to focus on keeping your lower back flat on the ground, maintaining square hips. Lie flat on your back and bend your right knee to draw it into your chest, keeping the left leg straight. Interlace your fingers around the outside of your right shin and pull towards your chest until you feel a stretch along your right glute. Make sure to keep your lower back and shoulders pressed into the floor. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
A soothing pose that helps to stretch and strengthen the spine, simultaneously promoting circulation and flexibility. Lie flat on your stomach and bend your arms to place your hands flat on the ground next to your chest. Keeping your elbows tight to your body, inhale and lift your head, chest, and shoulders up, engaging your pectorals to press up. Maintain a slight bend in the elbows and open the chest. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, engaging your thighs, lower back, and abdominals for proper form. Release and then repeat the pose one to tow more times.
Child’s Pose is a great way to invite relaxation into your life, while lengthening and stretching the spine in the process. Ideally, you should feel your hips open and stretch in your lower and upper back. Begin in a tabletop position with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Angle your knees out to the sides a little and touch your big toes together. Sink back into your hips to sit on your heels, keeping your arms extended in front of you. Lower your forehead to the floor and completely relax your torso. Take deep breaths, focusing on deepening the stretch with each exhale. You can hold this pose for up to five minutes.
Working to promote circulation and flexibility in your hips, Locust Pose is great for stabilizing your core and back. It also helps to strengthen the spine, glutes, and thighs. Lie flat on your stomach with your fingers interlaced at the base of your spine. Lift your chest, head, and arms up as high as you can without causing tension or strain in the lower back. Bring your arms up and away from your body, engaging your glutes and abdominals to hold the position for about 30 seconds. Release the pose to return to the starting position, resting for about 30 seconds before repeating one to two more times.
Reclined Pigeon Pose
By engaging this pose on your back, you work to support your lower back and put less pressure on your hips. Reclined Pigeon Pose aims to stretch your glutes, hips, and the piriformis muscle. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and heels flat on the ground about six inches from your glutes. Bend your right knee and place your right ankle on your left thigh just above the knee. If you already feel a deep stretch, remain in this position. To achieve a deeper stretch, draw your left knee in toward your chest, interlacing your fingers behind your left hamstring to pull towards you. Try to hold for up to a minute and then repeat on the other side.
The Seated Twist
The great thing about this stretch is that the gentle twist stretches the glutes and the lower back. Just make sure that you don’t over-stretch because that can cause further injury. Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your right foot flat on the ground just outside your left thigh. Bend your left knee and keep your leg on the ground while bringing your left foot to your right glute. Twist to the left, placing your right hand on the ground behind you and the left elbow on the outside of your right knee. You should feel a stretch along the right glute and the left side of your lower back. Hold this position for 20 seconds before repeating on the other side.