12 Yoga Poses for Sciatica Discomfort

12 Yoga Poses for Sciatica Discomfort

posted 2023 Oct by

In the vibrant world of wellness, yoga is widely renowned for its healing effects on the body. Mention any bodily discomfort to a seasoned yogi, and they can probably give you several “asanas” that can help. One such discomfort that may have met its match with yoga is the unnerving sensation caused by sciatica. 

In this guide, we’re diving deep into the world of sciatica pain and offering 12 yoga poses to provide much-needed relief. 

What Is Sciatica and How Does It Affect Your Health?

Sciatica is a term that describes the intense pain originating from the irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve — the body's longest nerve. This nerve spans from the lower back or lumbar spine, branching down through the hips and buttocks and continuing down the back of each leg. 

The onset of sciatica doesn't merely manifest as localized pain; its ripple effects can be far-reaching. Sufferers often experience a diminished range of motion, heightened emotional distress from chronic pain, and disruptions in carrying out routine daily tasks, compromising overall quality of life.

Common Causes of Sciatica

The key to effective and lasting sciatica pain relief is to understand its root cause. While roughly 90 percent of sciatica cases are the result of a herniated disc, sciatica is a multifaceted issue with causes ranging from sudden injuries to gradual physiological changes:

  • Lumbar herniated disc: This occurs when the soft, jelly-like center of a spinal disc pushes out, irritating adjacent nerve roots, particularly the sciatic nerve.
  • Injury: Direct injuries, such as falls or accidents, can damage the lower back, pressing on the sciatic nerve.
  • Obesity: Carrying excessive weight strains the spine and may cause spinal changes like disc herniation, increasing the risk of sciatic nerve compression.
  • Pregnancy: As the fetus grows and the body changes to accommodate, there's potential for the increasing weight and changing posture to exert pressure on the sciatic nerve.
  • Degenerative disc disease: Over time, the spinal discs can wear down, lose hydration, and become less resilient, leading to spinal instability and nerve irritation.
  • Piriformis syndrome: The piriformis muscle, situated in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint, can spasm and squeeze the sciatic nerve running beneath it.
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction: The sacroiliac joint, found at the base of the spine, can sometimes become inflamed or misaligned, causing pain similar to sciatica.
  • Tumors: Growth of benign or malignant tumors in the spine can exert pressure on the sciatic nerve or the pathways it travels through.
  • Infection: Certain infections in the spine can cause inflammation, leading to nerve compression or damage.
  • Spinal misalignment: Chronic poor posture or congenital spinal curvatures like scoliosis can put undue strain on the lower back, increasing the risk of sciatica.

Symptoms of Sciatica

Identifying sciatica isn't always straightforward, as its symptoms can resemble other conditions. Here are some common symptoms of sciatica to help you tell the difference:

  • Lower back pain that's persistent and more intense than a general backache or strain.
  • A pronounced sharp pain radiating from the buttock, traveling down the back of the thigh and leg.
  • Leg pain that's burning or searing, often overpowering the discomfort felt in the lower back.
  • Numbness or tingling sensations that can feel like pins and needles coursing down your leg.
  • Movement challenges, which can be especially evident when attempting to rise from a seated position.
  • Foot drop, a condition where you struggle to lift the front portion of your foot, causing a dragging sensation.
  • Unrelenting pain that predominantly affects just one side of your lower body.
  • Increased pain when seated, often escalating after prolonged periods of sitting.
  • In more severe cases, there may be a loss of bladder or bowel control, signaling the need for immediate medical attention.

How Can Yoga Help Provide Sciatica Relief?

Embracing yoga can be a transformative choice for those battling with sciatica. 

The practice, deeply rooted in ancient wisdom, emphasizes alignment, balance, and flexibility. With its spectrum of poses ranging from backbends to hamstring stretches and hip openers, yoga provides a targeted regimen to alleviate sciatic nerve pain. 

Certain poses can help release tension from compressed nerve areas and enhance blood flow to the affected regions. Additionally, yoga bolsters core strength, which is pivotal in supporting the lumbar spine, reducing the onset of sciatic symptoms. 

Over time, the cumulative benefits of consistent yoga practice can lead to stronger back muscles and hamstrings, fortifying the body against future sciatic flare-ups. In essence, yoga offers not just immediate relief but also equips the body with long-term preventive measures.

12 Yoga Poses for Sciatica Discomfort

The following yoga poses, when done with intention and care, can significantly help alleviate sciatica discomfort. Remember that the key is consistency, and you’ll need to build a daily routine around yoga, as you’ll likely need a lot more than one session.

1. Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

One of the most recognized poses in yoga, the downward-facing dog provides an all-over stretch, primarily targeting the hamstrings and the lumbar spine. It offers relief by elongating the entire spine, creating space between the vertebrae, and alleviating pressure on the sciatic nerve.

How to do it:

  1. Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
  2. Place your wrists directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  3. Lift your hips up towards the ceiling as you push your hands into the floor.
  4. Gently extend your legs, pushing your heels towards the ground. If your hamstrings are tight, keep a slight bend in your knees.
  5. Lengthen your spine, reaching your tailbone toward the ceiling while dropping your head between your upper arms.
  6. Engage your quads and press away from your hands to deepen the stretch.
  7. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then gently release.

2. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Pigeon pose is a profound hip opener, directly targeting the piriformis muscle, which, when tight, can compress the sciatic nerve.

How to do it:

  1. Begin in downward-facing dog.
  2. Bring your right knee forward, placing it behind your right wrist, and angle your right foot towards the left side of the mat.
  3. Extend your left leg straight back, ensuring your left hip points down.
  4. Lower your hips towards the ground, using props or cushions for support if needed.
  5. You can stay upright for a more intense hip flexor stretch or fold forward for a deeper piriformis release.
  6. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.

3. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Cobra pose strengthens the back muscles while offering a gentle stretch to the lumbar spine, promoting good posture and alignment.

How to do it:

  1. Lie face down with your legs extended behind you and the tops of your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands under your shoulders.
  3. Engage your legs and, on an inhalation, press your hands into the ground to lift your chest and upper torso off the floor.
  4. Roll your shoulders back and press your shoulder blades towards your back.
  5. Keep a slight bend in your elbows to engage your back muscles.
  6. Hold for three to five breaths, then gently lower down.

4. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

As a restorative pose, child’s pose helps to release tension in the lower back, soothing and stretching the lumbar spine.

How to do it:

  1. Begin in a kneeling position with your big toes touching.
  2. Separate your knees about hip-width apart.
  3. Exhale and lower your torso between your thighs.
  4. Extend your arms in front of you with palms facing down.
  5. Allow your forehead to rest on the floor.
  6. Feel the stretch along your spine and across your back.
  7. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then rise gently.

5. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

Bridge pose strengthens the back muscles and stretches the front of the body, especially the hip flexors, promoting better posture.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your arms at your sides with palms down.
  3. Press into your feet, engaging your glutes and lifting your hips towards the ceiling.
  4. Keep your thighs and feet parallel as you lift.
  5. For a deeper stretch, clasp your hands underneath your pelvis and press your arms down.
  6. Hold for four to seven breaths, then gently lower your hips.

6. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)

This pose deeply stretches the entire posterior chain of the body, particularly the hamstrings, which can often be implicated in sciatic pain.

How to do it:

  1. Sit up tall with your legs extended straight in front of you.
  2. Flex your feet so your toes point upward.
  3. Inhale and lengthen your spine.
  4. Exhale and hinge at the hips, leaning your torso towards your thighs.
  5. Extend your arms and reach for your feet. If this isn't accessible, use a strap or hold onto your shins.
  6. Keep your back straight, and if you feel any rounding in the spine, elevate your hips on a cushion.
  7. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then gently rise.

7. Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose (Supta Padangusthasana)

A gentle stretch targeting the hamstrings and lower back, the reclining hand-to-big-toe pose can aid in relieving low back pain and sciatic discomfort.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms by your sides.
  2. Bend your right knee towards your chest.
  3. With a yoga strap or towel, loop it around the arch of the right foot.
  4. Straighten the right leg upwards, pressing the heel toward the ceiling while holding the strap with both hands.
  5. Keep your left leg grounded and pressed down.
  6. Gently pull on the strap to deepen the hamstring stretch.
  7. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.

8. Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

This twist targets the muscles of the spine, aids in digestion, and can provide relief for sciatic pain by promoting spinal flexibility.

  1. Sit with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Bend your left knee, placing the left foot outside the right thigh.
  3. Bend your right knee, tucking the foot near your left hip.
  4. Place your left hand behind you for support.
  5. Inhale and lift your right arm. Exhale and twist, placing your right elbow outside the left knee.
  6. Look over your left shoulder, ensuring your spine stays erect.
  7. Hold for five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.

9. Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)

This restorative posture helps reduce stress, ease lower back pain, and improve circulation, especially after standing or sitting for long durations.

How to do it:

  1. Place a cushion or folded blanket a few inches away from a wall.
  2. Sit sideways on the cushion, with one hip touching the wall.
  3. Lie back as you swing your legs up against the wall.
  4. Adjust so your buttocks touch the wall, and your back rests on the ground.
  5. Let your arms rest by your sides, palms facing up.
  6. Stay in this pose for five to 15 minutes, breathing deeply.

10. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

This fluid sequence improves spinal flexibility, strengthens the back muscles, and provides a gentle massage to the spine and belly organs.

How to do it:

  1. Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
  2. Ensure wrists are under shoulders and knees under hips.
  3. Inhale, arching your spine and lifting your head and tailbone towards the ceiling (Cow).
  4. Exhale, rounding your spine, tucking your chin and tailbone (Cat).
  5. Repeat this motion for five to 10 breaths.

11. Extended Triangle Pose (Utthita Trikonasana)

The extended triangle pose is a fundamental standing posture that provides a deep stretch for the hamstrings, hips, and spine while promoting balance and alignment.

How to do it:

  1. Start by standing with feet wide apart, around three to four feet.
  2. Turn your right foot to face outwards at 90 degrees, and slightly pivot your left foot in.
  3. Extend arms out, parallel to the ground.
  4. Push your hips to the left as you extend your torso over the right leg.
  5. Let your right hand touch the shin, ankle, or a block while the left arm reaches straight up.
  6. Keep your gaze upwards, towards the left hand.
  7. Hold for several breaths, then switch to the other side of the body.

12: Spinal Twist (Supine)

A gentle way to relieve lower back tension, this pose offers a refreshing twist to the spine, promoting relaxation and flexibility.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees, feet flat on the ground.
  2. Spread arms out to a “T” shape.
  3. Drop both knees to the right, trying to keep the left shoulder on the ground.
  4. Gaze to the left, feeling the twist throughout the spine.
  5. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
  6. Return to the center and repeat on the opposite side.

How Can You Incorporate These Poses Into Your Yoga Practice?

Yoga is not a one-size-fits-all discipline. Ease and patience are key to success, especially for beginners. Start by dedicating a specific time each day to practice, ensuring you have a quiet space free of distractions.

As you integrate these poses into your regimen, consider their sequence. For instance, begin with gentler poses like child’s pose before progressing to more intensive stretches like pigeon pose. Using tools like yoga straps or blocks can be incredibly helpful in making certain poses more accessible, especially if the sciatica pain that you’re trying to manage is severe. 

You can also attend yoga classes or workshops, where a certified yoga teacher can provide real-time feedback on your alignment and posture. Remember to always listen to your body — it's okay to modify or skip poses that don't feel right.

What Other Therapies Can Complement Yoga for Sciatica Relief?

Yoga is a good starting point for sciatica relief, but it’s not the only option. Various forms of physical therapy complement your efforts on the yoga mat. 

For example:

  • Acupuncture has been known to provide pain relief by stimulating specific points in the body.
  • Chiropractic care, focusing on spinal alignment, can also offer relief from sciatic symptoms.
  • Massage therapy, particularly deep tissue or trigger point massage, can ease muscle tension that contributes to sciatic pain. 
  • Warm compresses, Epsom salt baths, and over-the-counter pain relievers can offer temporary relief. 

Above all, maintain an open dialogue with physical therapists and healthcare professionals to ensure a comprehensive, tailored approach to managing sciatica.

The Bottom Line

Navigating the path of sciatica relief is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Yoga, as a physical and meditative practice, offers a non-invasive approach to holistic health. The journey is as much about the poses as it is about self-awareness and mindfulness. 

You can also complement your physical endeavors with supplements like L’Evate You to holistically nurture your being. Embrace each step, each breath, and each moment in your pursuit of a pain-free life.


Sciatic Nerve: What Is, Anatomy, Function & Conditions | Cleveland Clinic

Diagnosis and Treatment of Sciatica | PMC

Sciatica | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Yoga for Everyone: A Beginner's Guide | The New York Times

How Effective Are Physiotherapy Interventions in Treating People With Sciatica? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis | PMC

template: article