By Faye Martins
Of the many ailments we may study during a yoga instructor training course, back pain and headaches are most common for the average person. Sciatica is fairly well known among people who experience pain in the back. Chances are you are already familiar with sciatica, a relatively common condition that occurs when a nerve root is compressed in the lower back. Although the disorder can often stems from a herniated lumbar disk, various causes can be as temporary as pregnancy or as complicated as tumors on the spine. Medical care can be difficult and lengthy, but studies show that Yoga can be an effective complementary treatment.
The sciatic nerve travels from the spinal cord through the buttocks and down the back of the legs, giving feeling to the muscles in the hips, thighs, legs, and feet. Compression of the nerve usually affects only one side of the body and may result in symptoms varying from sharp pain and numbness to tingling and problems with bladder control.
While many Yoga instructors teach asanas that can be beneficial, other asanas are contraindicated. Acceptable levels of activity vary depending on the cause of pain and the severity of symptoms, and a Yoga training session should always be supervised by an experienced instructor. With that in mind, there are specific types of poses that may hurt or help, based on individual needs.
Asanas that Help Sciatica
• Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Padottanasana I)
• Bridge Pose
• Bharadvaja’s Twist
• Sage’s Pose
• Tree Pose
• Staff Pose
• Lotus Pose
• Extended Triangle Pose
• Extended Side Angle Pose
• Reclining Big Toe Pose
• Upward-Facing-Dog Pose
• Downward-Facing Dog Pose
• Mountain Pose
• Warrior I and II
• Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend
Five Ways to Protect the Spine
• Straighten and extend the spine in order to create distance between the disks.
• Never force the back into a forward or back bend.
• When seated, maintain a natural curve in the lower back.
• Tone and strengthen core muscles.
• Stretch hamstrings and rotator muscles to keep the pelvis moving freely.
Side Notes for Yoga Instructors
Postures that stretch the legs and strengthen core muscles help with sciatica while forward bends aggravate the condition, especially when hamstrings are tight. For these reasons, Seated Forward Bend and Head-to-Knee Forward Bends should be avoided entirely or made safer by widening the sit bones and lengthening the spine during practice. Twists can also irritate the piriformis muscle and contribute to sciatic pain.
According to proponents of Yoga therapy, exercises recommended for specific ailments should be practiced twice daily, preferably with the supervision of a competent Yoga instructor or therapist. It is absolutely necessary that all graduates of Yoga instructor training understand the skeletal body. Anatomy should be part of every Yoga certification syllabus.
© Copyright 2012 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division
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