by Daniel Bubnis: What is sciatica and how can yoga help?

awaken-10 Yoga Poses For Sciatica Pain Relief Child’s Pose


The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back and runs deep through the buttocks and thighs and along the side of the legs. Sciatica is caused by compression, irritation, or injury of the sciatic nerve or lower vertebrae. Tight, overused, or injured muscles can also cause sciatica.

Sciatica pain is a sharp, throbbing, or burning sensation that shoots or radiates down your leg. You may also feel numbness, tingling, and inflammation. Often sciatica is felt on only one side of the body.

Sometimes sciatica is nothing more than a minor nuisance causing moderate discomfort, but it can cause serious pain.

A small 2013 study found yoga poses such as Cobra Pose and Locust Pose to be useful in improving symptoms of sciatica. Research from 2017Trusted Source points to yoga’s ability to:

  • reduce chronic lower back pain
  • improve limitations in activity
  • reduce the use of pain medications

Let’s take a deeper look at how you can use the therapeutic applications of yoga to prevent, soothe, and heal sciatica.

1. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child’s Pose is a wonderful way to tune into and relax your body. It lengthens and stretches your spine, promoting flexibility and openness in your hips, thighs, and lower back.

For more support, place a cushion or bolster under your thighs, chest, and forehead.

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Bring your knees together and sink your hips back onto your heels.
  2. Extend your arms in front of you or allow them to rest alongside your body.
  3. Allow your torso to relax completely as you fall heavy into your thighs.
  4. Focus on deepening your breath to relax any areas of tightness or sensation.
  5. Hold this pose for up to 5 minutes.

2. Downward-Facing Dog

This forward bend helps bring your body into alignment, relieving pain and tightness. Downward-Facing Dog promotes strength in your entire body while helping to correct imbalances.

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  1. Start on your hands and knees. Press into your hands as you lift your hips toward the ceiling.
  2. Drop your head down to bring your ears in line with your upper arms or your chin all the way in toward your chest.
  3. Bend your knees to tilt your pelvis slightly forward.
  4. Intuitively move your body through any variations that feel appropriate.
  5. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.

3. Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Half Moon Pose strengthens, stabilizes, and balances your body. It increases flexibility, relieves tension, and stretches your spine, glutes, and thighs.

Stay supported by doing this pose against a wall. You can place a block under your hand.

  1. Start in a standing pose, such as Triangle, with your right foot in front.
  2. Bend your right knee a bit deeper and yield your weight into your right foot.
  3. Bring your left hand to your hip.
  4. Slide your left foot forward a few inches as you reach your right hand to the floor in front of and to the right of your right foot.
  5. Lift your left leg so it’s parallel to the floor, pressing out through your left heel.
  6. Rotate your torso and hip open as you gaze forward.
  7. To go deeper, lift your left hand up toward the ceiling and turn your gaze upward.
  8. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.
  9. Slowly release by bending your right leg and lowering your left leg to the floor, returning to the starting position.
  10. Repeat on the opposite side.

4. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

This soothing pose strengthens and stretches your spine, promoting circulation and flexibility.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders.
  2. Squeeze your elbows into your body.
  3. Inhale to lift your head, chest, and shoulders.
  4. Maintain a slight bend in your elbows and keep your chest open.
  5. Engage your thighs, lower back, and abdominals.
  6. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
  7. Release the pose, rest, and repeat 1–3 times.

5. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

This pose strengthens your spine, glutes, and thighs. It stabilizes your core and lower back. It also promotes circulation and flexibility in your hips.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your fingers interlaced at the base of your spine.
  2. Slowly lift your chest, head, and arms up as high as you can.
  3. Bring your arms up and away from your body.
  4. To go deeper, raise both of your legs or 1 leg at a time.
  5. Engage your glutes, lower back, and abdominals.
  6. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
  7. Release the pose and return to the starting position.
  8. Rest and relax your body for a few breaths while gently moving your hips from side to side.
  9. Repeat 1–2 times.

6. Knees-to-Chest Pose/Wind-Relieving Pose (Pawanmuktasana)

This is an excellent pose to relieve tightness in your lower back, hips, and glutes.

To feel the pose less intensely, do one leg at a time.

  1. Lie on your back and draw both knees in toward your chest.
  2. Draw your ankles and knees together as you reach your hands around the backs of your thighs or around your shins.
  3. If your hands reach, interlace your fingers or take hold of opposite elbows.
  4. To deepen the stretch, lift your head and tuck your chin into your chest.
  5. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.

7. Reclined Pigeon Pose (Supta Kapotasana)

Doing Pigeon Pose on your back helps support your lower back and puts less pressure on your hips. Reclined Pigeon Pose stretches your glutes and hips as well as the piriformis muscle.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels in toward your hips.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring your right ankle to the bottom of your left thigh.
  3. Stay here if you already feel a deep stretch.
  4. To go deeper, lift your left foot and draw your left knee in toward your chest.
  5. Interlace your fingers to hold behind your left thigh or shin.
  6. Hold for up to 1 minute.
  7. Repeat on the opposite side.

8. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

Bridge Pose stretches the spine, relieving pain and tension. Its gently stimulating effect on the body boosts circulation. Plus, it works your legs, glutes, and core.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels in toward your hips.
  2. Bring your arms alongside your body with your palms facing down.
  3. Slowly lift your spine from the floor, raising your hips as high as possible.
  4. Place a block between your knees or thighs to maintain alignment.
  5. Slowly lower back down.
  6. Repeat this movement 10 times.
  7. Relax your body in the starting position.
  8. Hold the pose in the top position for up to 1 minute.

9. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

This twist stretches and lengthens your spine, relieving pain and tension. Feel the movement from this twist starting in your lower back.

  1. Start in a seated position. Bring your right foot to the outside of your left hip with your knee pointed forward or to the side.
  2. Move your left foot to the outside of your right thigh.
  3. Bring your left hand to the floor behind you, staying supported on your fingertips.
  4. Wrap your right arm around your left thigh or bring it to the outside of your left thigh.
  5. With each inhale, lift and lengthen your spine.
  6. With each exhale, twist a bit more to move more deeply into the pose.
  7. Turn your head to gaze in any direction.
  8. Hold for up to 1 minute.
  9. Repeat on the opposite side.

10. Legs-Up-the-Wall pose (Viparita Karani)

This is the ultimate restorative pose, allowing your body to rest, relax, and recover.

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For more support, place a cushion or bolster under your hips.

  1. Sit with your right side against the wall.
  2. Lie back and swing your legs up along the wall, bringing your hips as close to the wall as is comfortable.
  3. Place a pillow or folded blanket under your head.
  4. Bring your arms into any comfortable position.
  5. Allow your body to fall heavy as you completely relax.
  6. Remain in this pose for up to 20 minutes.

Yoga poses to avoid when you have sciatica

There are some yoga poses you should avoid when you have sciatica, since they can make the symptoms worse. Listen to your body and honor what you’re feeling without trying to push yourself into any uncomfortable poses.

Experiment to see what works best for you on any given day. Avoid any pose that causes any type of pain.

Seated and standing forward bends (aside from Downward-Facing Dog) should be avoided since they can cause further strain in the pelvis and lower back. You can do forward bends from the supine position (lying down, faceup). This helps support your hips and lower back.

Since sciatica usually affects only one leg, you may find that you’re able to do certain poses on only one side of your body. This is fine. Feel free to bend your knees in any pose. Place cushions under your knees in any seated pose that causes discomfort.

If you have sciatica during pregnancy, avoid doing yoga poses that compress or strain your stomach. Avoid strong backbends, twists, and poses that put pressure on your belly. Use bolsters and cushions to modify poses as needed.

The takeaway

If you have sciatica pain, the poses above may help you feel better. Practice ease, gentleness, and safety above all else.

If you can, go to a yoga class or schedule a private yoga session. It’s a good idea to check in with a professional at least once a month to make sure you’re on the right track. Even if you don’t have a private session, you can chat with your yoga teacher before or after class.

See a doctor or a physical therapist if you have sciatica pain that lasts longer than a month, is severe, or is coupled with any unusual symptoms.

Source: Health Line