Sciatica is pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve and it's branches. Your sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from your spinal cord to your buttock and hip area and down the back of each leg.
Sciatica is a symptom not a disorder. The pain associated with sciatica signals another problem involving the nerve, the most common being a herniated disc. Another common cause of sciatica is called periformis syndrome. The piriformis muscle extends from the side of the sacrum to the top of the thighbones at the hip joint and passes over the sciatic nerve. When a tight or short piriformis muscle is stretched it can compress and irritate the sciatic nerve. This can happen to athletes who overuse and stretch the piriformis. Other causes of piriformis syndrome are habitually standing with toes turned out, over use without proper warm up, prolonged sitting and obesity. It can also be caused by an injury or in many cases it develops from general wear and tear on the lower spine. Many people have found relief in a matter or weeks or months practicing specific yoga poses without having to resort to surgical treatments.
Before beginning a yoga practice it is very important to see a doctor to determine what is the cause of your sciatica. Get an MRI or other tests to help you identify which sciatic condition you have. This will determine which poses will be best suited for you.
If you are working with a yoga instructor be sure to tell them that you are experiencing sciatic pain. If you are taking regular yoga classes already then be sure to modify your poses or practice an alternative pose if a particular pose seems to ignite your pain. The nerve will not heal if it is continually aggravated. If you find that your regular class is making your sciatica worse then it may be best to practice at home for a while or take some private lessons.
It is best to continue practicing with patience then to stop practicing altogether.
If your sciatica is from a bulging disc, it is recommended that you work on improving your posture and body mechanics. In the case of sciatica caused by a bulging disc it is best to modify your yoga practice so that you do not aggravate or worsen it.
Recommended Poses for sciatica from a bulging disc:
- Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
- Warrior II Pose ( Virabhadrasanan II )
- Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanansana) and its modification.
- Standing Hand to Foot Pose ( Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana) with the sole of the foot on the wall
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
- Locust Pose (Salabhasana) is the best backbend for healing; it strengthens the lower back muscles.
Recommended Poses for sciatica caused by a tight piriformis muscle:
- The poses above making sure you gently stretch the piriformis.
- Lord of the Fishes Pose ( Matsyendrasana) but without the torso twist
- Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana) you can use the support of a table or countertop
references: Yoga Journal