5 Yoga Poses That Can Alleviate Your Sciatica
Do you suffer from painful hip, glute, or leg pain? Have you had sciatica for months or years but never tried yoga? These five poses will get at some of the common root causes of sciatica.
1. Bridge pose. Sciatica is often caused by tight hip flexors (from sitting too long), which “turn off” the large gluteal muscles. This is a concept called Reciprocal Inhibition, and it’s one factor that starts a cascade of reactions and compensations leading to the final injury pattern. Restore strength to the gluteus maximus by doing 3 sets of bridge pose lifts, holding for 5 breaths each. Too easy? Alternately lift one foot at a time off the ground while you maintain the lift.
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2. Runner’s lunge (dropped knee). Stretch out those pesky hip flexors with this variation of runner’s lunge. Shift your body weight forward, and increase the stretch through the front of your rear thigh by scooping your pelvis under and up (posterior pelvic tilt). Check that your front knee is aligned over your front ankle; if it’s travelled too far forward in order for you to feel that stretch in the rear leg, scoot your rear knee back a few inches and re-do the stretch. Holding a static stretch like this for 30 seconds is long enough to allow for muscle relaxation and restoration of the normal muscle length.
3. Pigeon pose (or Figure 4 stretch). Pigeon pose allows for deep relaxation and stretching of the gluteal muscles, specifically the deep external rotators. NOTE: If you have an entrapment of the sciatic nerve at the piriformis or at one of the lesser recognized external rotators, this stretch may actually aggravate your sciatica, and should be avoided until you’ve visited an Oakland sports chiropractor who specializes in sciatica. Non-surgical treatments such as Active Release Techniques (ART) are performed by specially trained Oakland chiropractors, and can reduce this nerve entrapment. Figure 4 stretch is an alternate version of pigeon that may be performed lying on your back, and which is often less strenuous on the knee joints. With bent knees and soles of feet on mat, cross your right ankle over your left knee. Thread your hands through and grasp the back of your left thigh. Guide that thigh into your chest to deepen the stretch. Dorsiflex both of your ankles to protect your knees!
4. Warrior 3. This pose challenges your balance and increases glute strength on the standing leg. When you raise your right leg, your right hip should stay even with your left (don’t allow it to turn up toward the sky!). Spinning your right foot such that your toes point to the floor can help guide you into the correct alignment. Arms can reach forward, or rest your hands on your hips if the full version is causing your form to collapse.
5. Frog stretch. Frog movements help restore internal rotation to tight hips. The trick to frog pose is to have adequate padding for your knees, so grab a blanket or an extra yoga mat. From an all-fours position, spread your knees as wide as you can, shins and feet in line with your knees. Lean forward onto your forearms, and then shift your weight forward and back and work into any tight spots you find. Go slowly and gently, and only stretch into the range that feels comfortable and safe. For a more advanced hip stretching series called the tactical frog, click on “Can a Frog Help Me With My Sciatica?”
Yoga poses and other home care such as stretching and foam rolling, are best used in conjuction with the services of an Oakland sports chiropractor. Your chiropractor can correct your hip and pelvis alignment, and restore normal length and tension to the overworked muscles of your hips and glutes. For further information on sciatica, please click the link to Diagnosing and Treating Sciatica.
To make an appointment with an Oakland sports chiropractor who practices and teaches yoga, please call us at (510) 465-2342.