Yoga for sciatica (and lower back pain)

Lower back pain and sciatica isn't something you need necessarily to endure everyday.

In fact, yoga poses can help to relieve some the pain you may be experiencing. A few yoga poses focusing on building core strength whilst also increasing flexibility in the hips and spine can certainly help reduce the discomfort you may be experiencing.

Originating from the lower back, passing through the buttocks down to the lower leg, the sciatic nerve is the longest in the body. Sciatica is experienced when the nerve is irritated. Up to 40% of us will experience a form of sciatica in our lifetime - lasting a few weeks or potentially longer.

If you are experiencing either;

  1. Numbness, tingling to shooting pain down one (or both) of your legs
  2. Heavy feeling in the legs
  3. Constant dull pain in hips, back and buttocks
  4. Increased pain when you start moving

it is possibly related to the sciatic nerve being irritated or pinched.

How can the sciatic nerve be irritated

  • From prolonged time sitting down or lifting heavy objects
  • Having a larger body size, increasing age
  • Herniated disc in lower back (this is the most common cause)

The purpose of any yoga poses is to

  1. Help re-align the spine into a neutral position- a gentle arch in the lower back
  2. Enhance mobility in the lower back
  3. Enable range of movement in the hips
  4. Stretch glutes and hamstrings

The photo's have deliberately been taken in normal clothing. You don't need to get changed into yoga or exercise gear to do them!

Childs pose

  • Lengthens and stretches the spine
  • Stretches lower back, hips and lower back
  • Start on all four, move hips back towards your heels
  • Knees can be together or mats width apart
  • Bring forehead towards the floor
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths, repeat
Childs pose

Cat Cow

  • Spinal articulation stimulates flexibility in both lower and upper back
  • Start on all fours - hands under shoulders, knees under hips
  • Inhale - arch spine upwards, tuck chin to chest and round hips forward
  • Exhale - arch spine downwards, look to the ceiling
  • Repeat 3-5 times
The 'cow' in Cat Cow

Cobra pose

  • Engages the core and provides a gentle back bend
  • Place hands under shoulders and tuck elbows towards the rib cage
  • Inhale raise chest off the mat
  • Don't press hard though the hands, arms can remain bent (this is not an upward dog)
  • Hold for 3-5 breaths
  • Exhale - lower chest to mat
  • Repeat 3-5 times
Cobra pose

Locust Pose

  • Engages lower back, glutes, thighs and flexibility in the hips
  • Inhale - raise chest and legs off the mat, hands reaching towards the feet
  • Exhale - release lowering body to the floor
  • Hold for 3-5 breaths
  • Repeat 3-5 times
Locust pose

Downward dog

  • Stretches hamstrings and lower back
  • Ground through the hands / spreading the fingers, gaze to your toes
  • Peddle the feet out to go deeper on each side
  • Hold for 5-10 breaths, repeat after taking some rest in Childs pose
Downward dog pose

Knees to chest

  • Releases tightness in the lower back
  • Lie on your back
  • Exhale - bring one or both knees to the chest
  • Hold knees
  • Hold pose for 30-60s
  • Exhale - release, straighten your legs
  • Repeat 3-5 times or for as many as you have time for
Knee to chest

Bridge pose

  • Strengthens lower back and thighs
  • Lie on your back, feet hips width apart, close to your hips.
  • Extend arms to fingers are reaching towards heels
  • Look upwards
  • Inhale - raise hips towards the ceiling (keep knees above the heels)
  • Exhale - lower hips to the mat, slowly working downwards from neck to base of spine, each vertebrae at a time
  • Repeat - 3-5 times
Bridge pose

Reclined pigeon

  • Opens up the glutes, hips and lengthens the spine
  • Inhale - Rest ankle onto opposite knee
  • Exhale - draw knee to chest, holding back of knee or shin
  • Hold for 3-5 breaths
  • Repeat on both sides
Reclined pigeon pose

Cobblers pose

  • Soles of feature together, placing elbows to inner thigh, straighening back
  • Exhale - forward fold, gaze to toes
  • Inhale - straighten
  • Exhale - forward fold again
  • Repeat - 3-5 times
Cobblers pose

Some points to remember

  1. Avoid any poses that cause pain, make the pain worse
  2. Don't do any forward folds (other than downward dog)
  3. Be gentle on yourself
  4. If you are experiencing sciatica on one side then go easier on that side
  5. Stretch both sides of the body
  6. Should the pain remain (or increase) over an extended period arrange an appointment with a healthcare professional