Sciatica is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying cause. When the sciatic nerve gets, inflamed, the condition is called sciatica. Many people suffer from this problem but aren’t even aware of it.
You could be having this condition if you experience:
- Pain that begins in the buttock area and radiates to the front of the thigh and moves downwards
- Sensation of pins and needles in the region of the thigh
- Pain that is worse when sitting on a chair or a hard surface and relieved on standing or walking.
There could be several causes of an inflamed sciatic nerve such as:
- Trauma to the lower back
- Displacement of the spinal disc in the lower back or narrowing of the spinal canal
- Tightness of the piriformis muscle [it’s near the seat]
- Misplaced injection in the buttocks.
Sciatica resolves in most cases, but during the course of the illness there are periods when the pain becomes nagging and unbearable. Yoga is known to bring much relief from the agony of sciatica pain. However, before you get started on a yoga programme, get yourself diagnosed by a physician and ascertain the cause of your sciatica.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, you can perform these asanas to relieve your condition.
Asanas to relax during flare ups
- Lie on the abdomen. Make a pillow for the head with both the hands placed over each other, palms facing downwards. Rest cheek on hands. Close your eyes.
- Touch the big toes to each other, keeping heels apart.
- Relax for a few minutes by focusing on your breathing.
You can also use this pose to relax between two asanas.
- Lie on your right side, bend your right elbow and rest your head on the right hand.
- Place the left arm on the side of the body. Your legs should be on top of each other stretched out straight or slightly bent at the knees.
- Focus on breathing and relax for a few minutes.
- Lie on the back with your feet 18” apart.
- Keep arms by the side of the body, slightly away and palms turned up.
- Close the eyes, allow the body to relax and drop towards the floor.
- Take the mind to the toes and allow them to relax. Similarly, work upwards to all parts of the body till you finally reach the head.
- Focus on the breath and relax for 10 minutes
Asasans to be done between flare ups
Do these asanas when pain subsides and you are relatively comfortable.
- Lie on the back, keeping your arms at your sides and feet together.
- Inhaling, lift the arms up and take them behind the head, touch the ground if you can. Point the toes away from the body.
- Give the entire body a nice stretch from fingertips to toes. Do not hold your breath.
- Exhaling, return to the start position.
This asana can be practised by all, irrespective of physical ailment.
- Begin by relaxing in makrasana, on the stomach.
- Bring your hands next to the chest, palms on the floor. Keep the feet together and place forehead on the floor.
- Inhaling, lift your body off the floor from the hip raising your forehead, nose, chin and chest. Make sure you’re not taking support from the hands to lift.
- Exhaling, return to starting position. Relax in makrasana.
- Begin in makrasana, place your arms at your sides, palms on the floor.
- Bring feet together, toes pointing out.
- Exhaling, lift the right leg up keeping the knee straight and hips on the floor.
- Inhaling, bring the leg down. Repeat with left leg.
Later, when you are comfortable with this, you can try raising both the legs at the same time.
Lying down hastapadangustasana I [single leg up]
- Lie on the back. Arms close to the body, feet together.
- Inhaling lift the right arm up.
- Exhaling lift the right leg up towards the arm. Try and hold the leg with you hands.
- Inhaling return to start position.
- Repeat with left side.
Lying down hastapadangustasana III [side variation]
- Lie on the back. Extend the arms to the sides to make a T with your body, keeping your feet together.
- Inhaling, slide your right leg out towards the right hand, without lifting the leg off the floor.
- Exhaling, return leg to the centre.
- Repeat with your left leg.
- Sit in a kneeling position.
- Place the hips on the soles of the feet.
- Allow the heels to drop to the side so that your body weight is on the cavity created by the feet.
- Place your hands on the respective knees, keeping the spine straight.
- Close your eyes and focus on the breath.
Asanas during recovery
Do these asanas when you have been without pain for a few days and are showing signs of recovery.
Lying down hastapadangustasana [using both legs]
- Same as single leg [explained before], exhaling lift both the legs up towards the arm. If you can, hold the legs with your hands.
- Inhaling, return to start position.
- Lie on the back, arms extended at the sides forming a T with your body.
- Bend your knees, keeping the soles of the feet together on the floor.
- Exhaling, turn both knees to the right side and neck to the left. Keep knees and feet together on each other.
- Inhaling return to start position.
- Repeat on the left side.
- Sit with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend left knee and place left foot beside right hip. Now, bend the right knee and bring it over the left leg to bring right foot beside left hip. Try to get both knees on top of each other or as close as possible.
- Lift your right arm, bend it at the elbow and try to touch the back with the right hand.
- Now, bend the left arm behind you and try to clasp the right hand with the left.
- Return to starting position, switch leg position and repeat from left side.
If you are finding the legwork difficult, you can also do just the arms pose while standing.
- Stand with legs three feet apart and parallel to each other.
- Lift the right arm to touch your right ear.
- Inhaling, bend sideways to the left.
- As you do so, your right arm remains parallel to the ground and left arm rests on the left leg, towards the ankle. Try not to take support. Bend only to the side and don’t lean forward in order to reach further down.
- Exhaling, straighten up, rotate the arm behind and bring it to the side.
- Repeat on the left side.
Forward bending asanas are important because the muscles used to do these poses are the biggest shock absorbers of the spine. Due to disuse, they lose tone and become stiff, increasing the load on the spine. This results in pain on slightest physical activity.
Attempt the asanas with much care and respect your current limits. Do not force yourself to do anything. With regular practice and deep breathing, your back will become flexible.
- Sit in vajrasana.
- Inhaling, lift the arms.
- Exhaling, bend forward from the hip. Allow the head to rest on the floor, arms ahead and hips on heels.
Variation: You can even keep your arms at your sides.
- Sit in sukhasana [simple cross leg pose] or padmasana [lotus pose] or ardh padmasana, whichever is comfortable.
- Hold your right wrist with your left hand behind the back.
- Straighten the spine while inhaling.
- Exhaling, twist torso to the left, bringing your forehead to the left knee.
- Inhaling, lift the torso and straighten the spine.
- Exhaling, twist torso to your right, bringing your forehead to right knee.
- Inhaling, lift torso, straightening the spine.
- Exhaling, bend forward bringing forehead to the ground.
Paschimotanasana or forward bend
- Sit with legs stretched forward, feet together.
- Inhaling, lift arms in the air.
- Exhaling bend from the hip forward, chest to knees, hands on toes.
- Inhaling, lift up torso and bring your arms by the side.
- At any point, do not jerk or bounce while doing the poses as it can trigger a spasm. Perform relaxed movements.
- Always breathe in the pose. This relaxes the body allowing it to open up so that the energy can flow into the area.