Sciatica pain occurs when the sciatic nerve which starts in the lower back and runs down the back of the legs gets pinched or irritated. Herniated discs, degenerative changes in the spine, muscle strains, and even pregnancy can all cause sciatica. Someone with sciatica may feel constant lower back and hip pain or a tingling or numbness going down their legs and to their feet. A tight piriformis muscle can also irritate your sciatic nerve causing the same sciatica pain and tingling down the legs. Millions of Americans suffer from sciatica pain and it’s only made worse by sitting for long hours and bad posture. Pregnant women tend to get sciatica pain towards the end of their pregnancy as the weight of the baby compresses the sciatic nerve located underneath the uterus. Here are 6 pregnancy-safe yoga poses to ease sciatica pain.
1. Pigeon– Stretch your piriformis muscle. Kneel on the ground. If you are pregnant, place a bolster horizontally in front of you. Bring your right leg forward and bend it to the side so that you’re sitting on your right hip with your right knee out. If you’re using a bolster, the bolster will be underneath your hips. Extend your left leg out behind you in parallel trying to square off your hips. The more parallel your right shin is with the top of your mat, the more intense the stretch is on your right hip. Use your hands on the ground in front of you for support as you carefully lean forward, lowering your torso to the ground. Hold for 1-2 minutes before switching sides.
2. Cobra– Strengthen the lower back and open up the compressed sciatic nerve with this back extension. Lie on your stomach. If you are pregnant, place a bolster underneath your hips to make space for your tummy or do this standing against a wall. With your hands on the floor by your chest, press your upper body up while keeping your elbows in and hips down. Press your thigh muscles into the ground and only straighten your arms as much as you can without putting too much pressure on your lower back. If you are pregnant and have diastasis recti, do this against a wall, pull your abs in and do not force a deep backbend. Focus on opening your chest and shoulders. Hold for three breaths, lower down and repeat 2-3 more times.
3. Cat Cow– Strengthen and stretch your spine to promote balance and better posture. Get down on all fours. Line up your wrists so they are directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Keep a neutral spine, making sure your head is in line with your neck. Drop your belly down towards the ground as you lengthen your tailbone up to the sky, open up your chest and shoulders while looking up. Hold for 3 breaths before returning to a neutral spine. Reverse the motion as you tilt your pelvis so your tailbone now points down. Pull your belly into your spine to round the back. Keep your chin to your chest. Hold for another 3 breaths before returning to a neutral spine. Do this 5 times.
4. Bridge– Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor hip distance apart. Bring your feet close to your sitting bones. Inhale and lift your hips up to the sky keeping length in the front of your neck and your lower back. Lift your pubic bone towards your navel to avoid crunching the lower back. Reach your fingertips to your heels. Press your outer arms down into the floor to open up your shoulders and chest. Exhale as you slowly lower your back down one vertebra at a time. Do 5 times. If you are pregnant and do not have any circulation or health issues, lying on your back for short periods is fine as long as you are comfortable. To make this pose more passive, you can also place a yoga block underneath your sacrum and rest there for a couple of breaths.
If your sciatica pain has been long term and doesn’t ease up with any exercises or stretching, it’s important that you see a medical professional to address the underlying issue.
Have you tried yoga to ease back pain?
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Photo: Crystal Chin