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Yoga Poses to Soothe Sciatica Pain and Discomfort

Learn about the anatomy of the sciatic nerve, the causes of sciatica and yoga poses to relieve muscle tightness and sciatic pain.



If you are suffering from sciatica, you are not alone. In fact, Yoga International highlights a study by the Journal of Neurosurgery Spine that estimates adults have a 40% chance of experiencing sciatica during their lifetime.


Sciatica is tenderness or pain along the sciatic nerve, which starts in the lower back and runs down the buttocks, thigh and sides of each leg. Pain is often caused when the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated from tight muscles (such as the piriformis located in the gluteal region of the hip for the anatomy enthusiasts out there). You may feel pain, tingling or numbness down the back of your leg. Common motions like sitting and driving, bending over and running can cause sciatic nerve pain.


Sciatica can also be caused by a herniated disk in the lumbar spine which could press against the sciatic nerve. If you are experiencing painful shocks, tingling, burning, weakness or numbness in your legs and feet, it is important to see a doctor.


With approval from a doctor, you can try gentle yoga and stretching to release tight muscles, lengthen your spine and reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve. I filmed a 15 minute video you can do at home with poses that focus on stretching the hip and glute muscles.



You can read more about the poses in the video below.


Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Child’s pose can be a grounding and relaxing posture. It lengthens your spine and helps open your hips, thighs and lower back.

  • Kneel on the floor and touch your big toes together

  • Sit your hips back toward your heels

  • Reach your arms forward

  • Rest your forehead on the mat

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths


Cat/Cow (Marjariasana/Bitilasana)

The combination of movements helps create space between each vertebrae, increase spinal flexibility and improve posture.

  • Begin on all fours in a table top position (bharmanasana) with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees

  • As you inhale, drop your belly, open up through your chest and reach the crown of your head up to extend your spine for cow pose (bitilasana)

  • As you exhale, round your spine and gently let your chin come toward your chest (marjariasana)

  • Repeat several times


Baby Cobra and Cobra Variations (Bhujangasana)

This pose activates your core and stretches your chest and lower back.

  • Lower down to your belly

  • Plant your palms by your chest and squeeze your elbows in

  • Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up

  • Plant the tops of your feet on the mat, hip distance apart

  • Lift your chest off the mat

  • Keep a neutral curve in your neck

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Lower back down to the mat

  • Next, try moving with the breath:

    • As you inhale, lift your chest and your palms off the mat

    • As you exhale, lower your chest and palms back down to the mat

    • Repeat 3-5 times

  • Next, try cobra pose:

    • Walk your palms a few inches forward

    • Engage your core by hugging your belly button in and up

    • Plant the tops of your feet on the mat, hip distance apart

    • Press through your palms as you lift your chest up and begin straightening your arms (you can keep a slight bend in your elbows to avoid hyperextending)

    • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

    • Lower back down to the mat

  • Stack your hands and let your forehead rest on the backs of your hands

  • You can shift your hips from side to side


90-90 Stretch

The stretch increases mobility in the hips, including the glutes, piriformis, psoas, hip flexors, hip abductors and adductors.

  • Begin in a seated position

  • Bring your right leg in front with your knee and lower leg resting on the mat

    • Make a 90 degree angle with your thigh and shin

    • Make another 90 degree angle with your shin and ankle

    • Flex your right foot so your toes are pointing forward

  • Bring your left leg beside you with your shin and ankle on the mat

    • Position your left knee in line with your left hip

    • Make a 90 degree angle with your thigh and your shin

    • Make another 90 degree angle with your shin and your ankle

  • Reach your arms forward and tent your fingertips

  • Lengthen your spine

  • You can fold forward slightly to deepen the stretch

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Gently lift up and place your hands behind you

  • Sway your legs from side to side

  • Move your left leg in front and repeat on the other side


Seated Figure 4 Variation (Upavishati Kapotasana)

This posture stretches the hip, glute, piriformis and lower back.

  • Begin in a seated position

  • Plant your feet on the ground and bend your knees

  • Plant your hands on the ground behind you. You can make fists with your hands if your wrists are sensitive

  • Cross your right leg over your left leg

  • Flex your right foot to protect your knee

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Uncross your legs and repeat on the other side


Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

The pose stretches the spine, strengthens the lower back and activates the glute muscles.

  • Transition onto your back

  • Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat hip distance apart

  • Reach your arms toward your feet

  • Walk your feet close to your fingertips

  • Gaze up at the ceiling and rest your head on the mat

  • Firmly press your feet into the mat as you lift your hips

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths


Reclined Figure 4/Reclined Pigeon Pose (Supta Kapotasana)

This posture stretches the hip, glute, piriformis and lower back.

  • Lay on your back

  • Bend your knees and plant your feet on the ground hip distance apart

  • Cross your right leg over your left leg

  • Flex your right foot to protect your knee

  • If you want to deepen the stretch, pick your left foot up off the ground and thread your arms through the center of the “4” shape. Clasp your hands around the back of your thigh

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Straighten your left leg for a hamstring stretch

  • Stay in the pose for an additional 3-5 breaths

  • Release the clasp of your hands and uncross your legs

  • Repeat on the other side


Knee to chest pose (Apanasana)

This pose relieves tightness in your lower back, hips and glutes.

  • Lay on your back

  • Hug your right knee into your chest

  • Relax your head on the ground

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Repeat on the other side

  • You can also hug both knees into your chest at the same time


Supine Spinal Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)

The twist lengthens the spine, stretches the hip external rotators and helps detoxify the internal organs.

  • From knee to chest pose (apanasana) on the right side, bring your right leg across your body

  • Allow the twist to come from the mid-region of your spin

  • Rest your right knee on the ground, so your right thigh aligns with your hips

  • Extend your right arm out to the side at shoulder height

  • You can gaze toward the open arm to deepen the stretch

  • Stay in the pose for 3-5 breaths

  • Return to center and repeat on the other side


While foam rolling can also help release tight muscles, it is important to be gentle and use a softer surface. Applying deep pressure with a hard foam roller, yoga tune-up balls or a massage gun can further irritate the sciatic nerve.


I hope these yoga poses help you find more comfort and move with ease. If you have any questions or want to practice with me individually, send me a message in the contact form on the home page and we can set up a private Zoom or in-person session.


With gratitude,

Shannon

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