Healing Sciatica With Yoga
What is Sciatica?
Sciatica is a pain that radiates from the lower back down to the legs often to the foot. Most people point to their legs when they talk about sciatica. It can also cause tingling, numbness, or weakness in the leg. These symptoms can occur randomly and can last for weeks.
What causes Sciatica?
The Sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body that begins in the lower back and extends into the leg.
Any irritation or inflammation in the sciatic nerve causes sciatica nerve pain. It could be due to pinched nerve in the lumber area of the lower back, or due to nerve irritation in the surrounding area, spinal arthritis or due to enlarged uterus during pregnancy. The piriformis muscle in the buttock can also cause irritation to the sciatic nerve.
Yoga is very helpful to those suffering from Sciatica.
A daily yoga practice, proper posture and taking care of the back when lifting heavy objects can go a long way towards keeping the sciatica pain away. Always check with your doctor first.
Those with tight hips and weak lower back muscles experience sciatica pain when bending forward. In general we should bend forward through the hip joints so that the sits bones are lifted and the pelvis tilts forward, otherwise there is a strain in the sciatic nerve.
Strengthening of the muscles around sciatic nerve and improving circulation in this region is needed to prevent sciatica pain. Hamstring stretches are a relief. A yoga practice that takes you from gentle seated poses to downward dog and standing poses and back to supine poses, all incorporating twists along the way help align, lengthen, and strengthen the lower back and reduce tension. All hip opening poses offer tremendous relief.
- In general Seated Forward Fold / Paschimottanasana should be avoided in case of sciatica pain. Instead Head To Knee Forward Fold / Janu Sirsasana is recommended, especially when experiencing lower back pain. Try both sides of the Janu Sirsasana to see if any one side is more effective than the other, for it depends on where the pain is shooting from – the lower back or the buttocks. It helps to bend the knee on the side the pain is not felt in case the pain is coming from lower back and the same side if it is in the buttocks. If neither side help, the seated forward fold should be avoided completely.
- Bending the knees in forward standing bends and downward facing dog help with sciatica pain.
- Slow Vinyasa movements like Sun Salutation / Surya Namaskar help increase blood circulation and help sciatica
- Cobra Pose / Bhujangasana, Bow Pose / Dhanurasana and Salabhasana / Locust Pose strengthen muscles and increase circulation. If lifting of legs cause pain then the legs should not be lifted.
- Bridge Pose / Sethu Bandhasana, Half lord of the Fish Pose / Ardha Matsyendrasana, Pigeon Pose / Bakasana help sciatica due to opening of the hips and twists.
Remember that just because the pain went away does not mean that you should stop the yoga practice, for sciatica pain can recur! You breathe every day, don’t you? Indulge in yoga everyday too and keep the pain and stresses away from your life. ~ Umang Goel