Sciatica is one of the most frustrating pains I have ever come across. It’s a chronic nagging “pain in the butt” that you can’t quite get to. The sciatic nerve is the longest one in the entire body, so when it is aggravated, it can cause shooting pain up and down from your spine all the way to your foot. Sometimes it’s caused by the piriformis muscle pressing on the sciatic nerve. It can also be associated with a herniated disk, bone spurs or tumors that press on the nerve. For this particular article, we will focus on the common piriformis muscle issue. In most cases, it will mend itself with patience and time, but there are some great yoga poses you can practice that will help alleviate the pain. Here are five yoga poses to help with your sciatica.
1. Pigeon Pose
Start on your hands and knees for this pose. Extend the left leg straight out behind you and pull the right knee forward. Slide the outside edge of your leg from the knee all the way down to the foot out so that it rests on the floor. The closer your right foot is on the left leg, the easier the pose will be. You can place a blanket under the cheek of the right buttocks for support. Make sure your hips are level. To take it deeper, you can fold your upper body over the leg, resting your elbows and forearms on the floor. Take 8 to 10 deep breaths then counter balance the pose by pressing back to downward facing dog. Reach the right leg up, bend at the knee and point your right toes toward your left shoulder. Stay there for about 8 to 10 breaths then release and switch sides.
2. Seated Spinal Twist
Spinal twist is such a comfy and beneficial pose you may want to stay in it for quite some time. This pose will help stretch out your spine, hips but most importantly that piriformis muscle. You may want to take it in stages because if the piriformis muscle is stretched too much, it can cause even more pain. You will start in a seated position. Set your feet flat on the floor and thread your left foot and leg under the right one. Begin by just holding the knee with your chest lined up with your right thigh; to go deeper, you will eventually take the left arm and wrap it around the right leg. This will help to stretch and lengthen the spine and piriformis. Take approximately ten breaths here or hold longer if it feels good, then switch sides.
3. Lizard Pose
I am guessing lizards are sciatic pain-free…honestly, I don’t even think they have a sciatic nerve, but I could be wrong. Thank goodness I don’t teach yoga to reptiles because I would be terrible at it. At any rate, this pose is indeed great for relieving sciatica. Begin the pose in downward facing dog, reach the right leg up to the sky then engage your core muscles and pull that right knee in toward your chest. Step the right foot to the outside edge of your right hand until you reach a lunge position. Drop the left knee to the ground then push the right knee away from you to intensify the stretch. Hold the pose for 8 to 10 breaths then switch sides.
4. Eye of The Needle Pose
This is an ideal pose for the sciatic nerve and can help prep you for other poses that can get you deeper into your problem area. It stretches out the hips, particularly the piriformis muscle that is one of the most common causes of sciatic pain. Lie flat on your back on the floor. Walk your feet in toward your bottom and separate your feet and knees hip distance apart. Lift the right foot off the ground and place it, so the outside edge rests on the left thigh right above the knee. Flex your right foot to protect the knee and splay your knee out, so the right leg makes a figure four position. Depending on the tightness and amount of pain, this might be enough. To go deeper into the pose, thread the left hand between the legs and grab onto the back of the right thigh or the shin. Allow your left hand to meet the right and invite your legs in toward your chest. Use your biceps to pull the legs in and keep your head and back relaxed on the ground. Take approximately 8 to 10 breaths then release and work the other side into the same pose.
5. Reclining Toe to Head Pose
You will want props for this one. Preferably a resistance band! It will help stretch out your hamstring, glutes, and lower back. The area that gets all tight and painful when you are being tortured by sciatica. Lie flat on your back, keep the left leg extended out in front of you and pull the right knee into your chest. Place a strap or band so the center of it rests on the ball of your foot where your foot is strongest. Hold onto the band with both hands and extend the leg straight up. Begin to pull the leg toward your face until you feel the stretch. Hold this for 8 to 10 breaths then switch sides.
Like all injuries and medical conditions, please contact your health care professional to figure out what exactly is going on before you start practicing these poses. I think you will find that if it is indeed the piriformis muscle that is aggravating the condition, then these poses will speed up your recovery process.