Yoga for sciatica - exercises to relieve pain

One wrong move, such as lifting a heavy bag, and there is a stabbing pain in the lower back that radiates down one leg. It could have been an attack of sciatica – a condition that may appear once or recur. Practicing yoga for sciatica helps prevent recurrence and relieves the pressure on the compressed part of the sciatic nerve.

Have you ever felt severe, even paralyzing pain in the lower back that radiated down one leg – through the buttock, thigh, calf – sometimes even to the toes? You may have just experienced a condition commonly known as “sciatica,” or more commonly known as sciatica.

Yoga for sciatica – Why and how does sciatica hurt?

The sciatic nerve is the longest and largest nerve in the human body. It begins in the lower back and runs through the buttocks, down the leg, where it divides above the knee, and then continues to the foot. Sciatica is an irritation of this nerve.

Here’s what may be causing sciatica:

  • Herniated disc.
  • Spinal stenosis.
  • Spondylolisthesis.
  • Degenerative disc disease.
  • Obesity, accidents and spine injuries.
  • Piriformis syndrome – also known as piriformis muscle syndrome, which occurs as a result of overload.

The most common symptoms of sciatic nerve irritation are pain, weakness, and a feeling of numbness or tingling. The pain may be constant or irregular and manifest as cramping.

People suffering from sciatica most often complain of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the lower back.
  • Feeling of heaviness in the legs.
  • Constant, dull pain in the hips, back and buttocks.
  • A burning or tingling sensation in your legs, fingers and feet.
  • Pain that gets worse when moving or changing posture.
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs and feet. In extreme cases, you may experience loss of mobility.

Does yoga help with sciatica?

The good news is: in many cases, a mindful, focused yoga practice at home can help overcome discomfort and provide relief from sciatica.

Yoga classes are ideal for people who suffer from chronic spine problems and sciatic nerve pain. Spinal yoga is safe because it does not involve quick movements, and the exercises mainly involve gradual stretching and strengthening of the muscles.

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The effectiveness of yoga for sciatica in the light of scientific research

There are known studies on the effectiveness of yoga in the treatment of spine pain. What about sciatica? A randomized clinical trial conducted in 2015 examined the effects of yoga on the health of patients diagnosed with a herniated disc and resulting sciatica. Sixty participants were divided into two groups. Of these, 62% had sciatica. At the end of the study, people who practiced yoga combined with conventional treatment had significantly better outcomes and less disability (1).

What exercises for sciatica?

General recommendations

Performing specific yoga asanas, such as backbends, forward bends, and gentle seated postures, help keep your spine healthy and flexible. Yoga poses that include stretching the hip flexors, hamstrings, and glutes are especially helpful for lower back pain and sciatica. However, in the later stages, when the pain subsides, it also becomes necessary to strengthen the remaining muscles. This includes the pelvic muscles, abdominal muscles and back muscles.

Sciatica caused by a hernia

If the cause of your sciatica is a herniated or bulging disc, a yoga practice that moves from gentle postures to basic asanas such as standing poses and downward dog will realign, lengthen and strengthen your lower back. However, it is important to consult your doctor before exercising if you have a hernia.

Sciatica caused by pressure on the nerve

However, if the cause of sciatica is pressure on the nerve caused by a short, tense piriformis muscle, it is worth focusing on stretching this muscle. Exercises should be gentle and gradual, as excessive “overwork” can lead to cramps and deep pain in the buttocks, which may or may not be accompanied by sciatic pain.

Yoga for sciatica – exercises and positions

Stretching the tendons plays a major role in relieving the pain of sciatica. Yoga has a wide range of asanas that stretch these very muscles in your body.

Child’s Pose – Balasana

Child’s Pose allows you to tune and relax your body. Lengthens and stretches the spine, promoting flexibility and openness in the hips, thighs and lower back.


Downward Dog Pose – Adho Mukha Svanasana

Downward facing dog helps straighten the spine, relieving pain and tension in the lower back.


Crescent Moon Pose – Ardha Chandrasana

This position strengthens, stabilizes and balances the body. Increases flexibility, relieves tension, stretches the spine, buttocks and thighs.

Ardha Chandrasana

Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana

Not only for a flexible spine, but also for sciatica – the Cobra pose soothes, strengthens and stretches the spine, improving circulation and flexibility.


Locust Pose – Salabhasana

This asana strengthens the spine, buttocks and thighs. Stabilizes the core and lower back. It also supports circulation and hip flexibility.

Salabhasana, for the evening

Bridge Pose – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana

Bridge Pose will help stretch your spine, relieving pain and tension. A gently stimulating effect on the body improves circulation. In addition, it also works on the legs, buttocks and torso.

yoga for sciatica

Reclining Pigeon Pose – Supta Kapotasana

Performing this pose helps support your lower back and reduces pressure on your hips. Stretches the buttocks and hips, as well as the piriformis muscle.

Pose with legs against the wall – Viparita Karani

A restorative pose that allows your body to rest, relax and regenerate. For more support, you can place a pillow or bolster under your hips.

Position with legs against the wall

Yoga for sciatica – contraindications

In the case of the acute and active phase of sciatica, you should not exert yourself too much with exercise, as it may worsen the symptoms. When the acute phase subsides, it is worth listening to your body and understanding what you feel without forcing yourself into positions in which you feel discomfort or pain.

Yoga exercises and poses to avoid if you suffer from sciatica:

  • Forward bends in sitting and standing positions (except downward facing dog) as these can place further strain on the pelvis and lower back.
  • If you suffer from sciatica during pregnancy, avoid yoga poses that put pressure or strain on your stomach. Strong back bends, twists and positions that put pressure on the abdomen are also not recommended.
  • Sprains if they cause discomfort. Turning combined with forward bending may be particularly problematic. Therefore, avoid: Chair Pose, Head-to-Knee Pose (Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana) and Inverted Triangle Pose.

Sciatica usually only affects one leg, so if you find that you can only do certain poses on one side of your body, that will be perfectly fine. For improved comfort over time yoga exercises at home you can place pillows under your knees in any sitting position.

Most cases of sciatica pain subside within 2 to 12 weeks, although in some situations it may last longer. Rest is recommended only in the initial period. Without exercise therapy, sciatica may recur. It is important to choose a form of exercise that does not overly challenge the body, as physical training that involves vigorous movements or high pressure can do more harm than good.

If you suffer from sciatica, the above exercises may help you feel better. When practicing yoga for sciatica, allow yourself freedom, gentleness and understanding of your limitations. If you are afraid of an attack of pain while going to the yoga studio, think about exercising in the comfort of your home thanks to classes at the Online Yoga Studio, without the need to commute. Do not ignore pain symptoms that last longer than a month and consult a specialist if you have any doubts.


What should you not do if you suffer from sciatica?

If you suffer from sciatica pain, you should not lift weights or heavy things. It is advisable to avoid exercises that stretch the hamstrings, twist the spine and lean forward. Contrary to appearances, you should move more and avoid sitting continuously for longer than 20 minutes.

Is it better to walk or lie down when suffering from sciatica?

The best position will be the one in which the pain is as little as possible. You can lie on your back, preferably on a hard mattress or on the floor, and bend your knees. This will relax the sciatic nerve and relieve pain. Laying on your side with a pillow between your knees (on the side opposite to the one that hurts) will also help relieve the spine and reduce pain. Walking will also be appropriate because it is a low-impact exercise that can be performed without preparation or warm-up at any time.

Should sciatica be warmed up?

Both cold and warm compresses can provide significant relief from sciatica pain. Heat therapy is intended to promote healing and is therefore best used after the initial bout of pain and associated inflammation has been controlled with cold therapy. Therefore, you should apply cold compresses first and then warm ones.

Try a structured yoga practice for your spine, which will help correct back muscle imbalances. Join PortalYogi – Online Yoga Studio today and see for yourself how much goodness is waiting for you there! For example, Challenge: Spine without pain with Mateusz Stańczak!

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