Sciatica refers to an inflammation of the sciatic nerve which can be found in the lower spine. If you have sciatica, you will experience a sharp pain that will usually radiate from the lower buttocks down to your feet. The pain caused by sciatica can range from being mild to painfully excruciating! It can also cause people the inability to perform daily tasks due to the pain.
The pain is due to the compression of the sciatic nerve and/or tightness in the piriformis muscles.
Sciatica can be experienced due to spinal degeneration as people age or if a person has lived a sedentary life and then exposed to physical activities that have put too much pressure on the sciatic nerve.
If you are thinking about joining a yoga class to either improve your sciatic, please make sure to consult your doctor first.
Yoga Does NOT Have to Hurt
If your doctor gives you the ‘go-ahead’ signal to commence yoga classes, you still have to listen to your own body. If a certain pose starts to give you pain, stop! Remember that yoga is not meant to hurt.
It may be challenging at first, but it should not hurt. The primary goal of yoga, if you have a sciatic problem, is to strengthen the area around your sciatic nerve without further inflicting yourself with more pain.
The Importance of Ujjayi Breathing and Your Sciatic Pain
The best way to start your yoga sessions is to perform Ujjayi breathing first. When we hold our breath we tend to tighten our muscles and if fear begins to creep in, such as with the fear of experiencing pain, we find ourselves becoming even tighter. To be able to prevent this tightening reflex and instead allowing your lower back muscles to relax, you need to connect to your breathing first.
Ujjayi breathing will help make it easier for you to release that fear of the sharp shooting pain of sciatica. Once you are done with performing Ujjayi breathing, you can now start with your yoga postures.
The following is a list of yoga postures that may help alleviate the pain of sciatica and reduce your need for pain medications.
- The Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
The locust pose allows you to bend your back gently and this has been found to be beneficial for sciatic pain sufferers because it helps strengthen the area near the sciatic nerve. As you perform this pose, you will increase oxygenated blood flow into your lower back which can have a soothing effect to the injured area.
- Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
If your sciatica is caused by the tightening of the piriformis muscles then this particular yoga pose will prove to be very helpful. Bring yourself to a comfortable seated position. Bend your knees and as you inhale cross your left leg over your right knee. Once you achieve this position, proceed by crossing your right elbow over your left knee. You should be feeling a lovely stretch down your left buttocks and into your thigh. Remain in this position for 10 breaths and then switch sides. If the stretch is too difficult or intense for you, try folding a blanket and then place it under your buttocks.
- The Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
This pose is also good for strengthening the muscles that surround your sciatic nerve. It also enables sending more nutrient-rich blood to your lower back. If the tissues and muscles in your lower back are not used, you will experience pain from lack of muscle strengthening. This is when yoga can become beneficial. It will give you plenty of opportunities to use those muscles that you may not use too often.
Although sciatic pain can make you feel like you don’t want to exercise, it is highly recommended that you do some sort of exercise like yoga. It helps improve your muscle tone and prevents more back injuries in the future.