By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
There are many different Yoga techniques to relieve sciatica, and there are many factors that cause sciatica. Sciatica is a painful condition that is often caused by the compression, or irritation, of one or more nerves. Often, this compression is felt only on one side of the body, depending on which nerve is affected by the compression or irritation. Sciatic pain is often felt in the buttocks and lower back. Sciatic pain can even run all the way down the leg and into the foot. Sciatica is very uncomfortable and can limit mobility and even make sleeping difficult.
A consistent Yoga asana practice that is performed with proper alignment in the poses is tremendously helpful in managing pain from sciatica. Many different Yoga postures help to relieve compression on the spinal nerves by releasing stress and muscular tension, as well as promoting good blood flow into constricted areas in the lower back and sacrum. The following are Yoga techniques to relieve sciatica.
Extended Child’s (Mecca) Pose into Downward Facing Dog
Start out by practicing Pose of a Child (Balasana) on your Yoga mat, and slowly extend your arms out in front of you, with palms face down, and your fingers point toward the head of your mat. Breathe deeply, and stay in this posture for thirty seconds to a minute.
As you hold Extended Child’s pose, feel the stretch all along the sides of your torso, arms, and heart area. After you have held the pose for an appropriate amount of time, as you exhale, extend into Downward Facing Dog pose.
In Downward Facing Dog, peddle your feet slowly to warm up your legs. This pose will help to stretch out your back, arms, leg biceps, and hamstrings. Tension in your back and hamstrings are huge contributors to tension in the sacrum area, where sciatic pain often originates. Hold Downward Dog for five to ten breaths. Release as you exhale and come down slowly, resting for a few minutes in Extended Childs pose. Let’s continue with Yoga techniques to relieve sciatica.
Modification for Extended Child
Extended Child can be modified in many ways, but to maintain the straightest possible line, the knees can be brought out to the edge of your Yoga mat, while the two big toes touch. The reasons for this modification are to create as much space as possible in the spine to relieve any pressure. This method uses the gentle pulling effect of opposite directions (the tail bone and your head) to stabilize the position of the spine and release spinal compression gradually. Please be careful to avoid reaching aggressively, forcing, or locking the elbows.
This modification does feel great, but if you pull or draw too hard with your finger tips, you can cause a lower back muscle spasm. Therefore, draw gradually, gently, and slowly, while your muscles take care of stabilizing your spine.
Modifications for Limited Range of Motion
Extended Pose of a Child can be practiced on a bed. Downward Dog can be modified by using a chair. Any posture can be modified for limited range of motion. If you have difficulty finding a Yoga teacher who understands modifications, please visit a local chair Yoga class.
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