Contributed by SYU L1 Student Corrinne Horton

The sciatic nerve is made up of multiple nerves branching off from the discs in the lumbar spine.  They join together, becoming the largest nerve in the body, and run behind the pelvis and down each leg.  The nerves branching from the lowest discs are most common causes of sciatica issues.  Pain results when these nerves become irritated or compressed. This pain can be felt in the buttocks area, usually on one side, where the nerves originate from the spine, or they can extend all the way down the leg. Other common symptoms are pain that intensifies when sitting, numbness in the leg, difficulty moving the affected leg, dull constant aching in the legs and sharp shooting pains that intensify with certain movements.  

To help alleviate the pain related to sciatica, yoga and stretching can be done to release compression in the spine. The spine is the major focus because, when a nerve is pinched at the top, it creates an abnormal pressure at the bottom. There are many yoga postures that can reduce spinal compression.

Below are some beginning level postures that can be done at home or at work to help address sciatica issues. Of course, it is always best to check with a doctor to determine what is going to be most helpful for you. In addition to at-home practice like the below, every Scholé Yoga class features yin yoga postures that often target these areas. RESTORE classes hold many postures for longer, helping the body to slowly let go and heal itself over time.

Seated Neck Stretch

Sit with your legs outstretched and the bottom of your feet against a wall. Sit up straight and place your hands on the back of your head, interlacing your fingers. Very gently, put a little weight in your hands and allow the head to drop down and the back of the neck to stretch. If you are feeling no sensation here, do not force your neck to go deeper. Simply move on to the next pose.

Variation of Sleeping Swan Pose

Begin lying on your back. Bend both knees and plant your feet on the floor. Place your right ankle on top of your left knee, letting your right knee fall out to to the side as the right hip opens. If you feel sensation, you can stop here. Gently press the knee away from the body and see if that changes the sensation. If you are not feeling any pain, try picking up the left leg, grasping the underside of the thigh and pulling toward your chest. Repeat on the left side.

Sphinx Pose

Begin lying on your stomach. Bend your elbows and bring both hands underneath your shoulders or slightly more forward. Plant your palms on the mat. Your forearms should be parallel to your body. Press into the forearms and lift the chest into the air, creating a slight arch in the back. Keep the chest and shoulders strong.

Balancing Table Pose

Begin on your hands and knees. Make sure your shoulders are above your wrists and both knees are weighted equally. Begin to unweight your left knee and straighten the leg out behind you. Once you find stability with your leg extended, pick up your right hand and extend the arm forward.  Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Knees to Chest Pose

Begin lying on your back. Bring both knees in, toward your chest. Try to wrap your arms around them and grasp both hands. If you are not feeling as much sensation, try grabbing the elbows. Hold here for 30 seconds.

 

As you explore these postures, listen to your body. Add other movements that feel natural, and observe how holding longer makes your body feel. Try doing the postures in a different order to work out what is best for you. As best you can, bring your awareness to your breath to help you focus throughout your practice.

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