education about sciaticaBy Faye Martins

When looking at intensive courses for continuing education, most workshops and advanced yoga certification courses will generally be organized to address a number of common ailments.  For example: A yoga for back pain course is not entirely about sciatica, but the will be addressed during the course.  Let’s look at some issues concerning the sciatic nerve, which will help us get the most out of a specialized yoga teacher training for back problems.

Is lower back pain caused by a pinched nerve a contraindication for yoga practice, or can some asanas actually help in its recovery? Sciatica is a painful condition that occurs when one of the nerves radiating from the spine is pinched, resulting in tingling, numbness, weakness and cramping on one or both sides of the body.

The sciatic nerve is a one-inch band made up of of smaller nerves that radiate from the spine. When pinched by bone spurs or herniated discs, inflammation occurs and results in acute pain. Standard treatments usually involve rest, physical therapy, medication and sometimes surgery, but these often fail to provide lasting relief. Exercise can help, but it’s hard to know which movements help and which ones hurt.

What should our students do?

Nerve damage causes tight hamstrings and hip joints. Standing or seated forward bends can strain the lower back, exacerbating the problem.

• Temporarily and gradually adjust forward bends to work around any pain and use straps to stretch the hamstrings if needed.

• Don’t try to touch the floor during flare-ups and return slowly to forward bends as you recover.

• Never round the back; gently fold at the hips when bending forward, widening the sit bones and relaxing the tail bone.

• Extend and straighten the spine; tilt the pelvis forward to keep from worsening pain.

Which asanas help to control sciatica?

The first rule in yoga is to “never do anything that hurts.” Adjust poses to accommodate your individual needs and get advice from an experienced instructor.

• Regardless of the movement, compressing the lower spine is a no-no for people with impinged nerves. Instead, concentrate on drawing the tail bone down toward the heels and tilting the pelvis. Raising the chest and lengthening the spine help to separate the vertebrae and create space in the lower back.

• The following poses extend the spine and relieve pressure on the sciatic nerve: Cobra Pose, Bow Pose, Bridge Pose, Crescent Lunge Pose, Reclining Big Toe, and Lotus Pose.

• Twists lengthen the spine and increase circulation to parts of the body affected by sciatica. Movement should be slow and cautious, using muscles instead of pushing with the hands. In some instances, such as bulging or herniated discs, twisting can further damage the back. Use caution.

• Helpful twists include Standing Chair Twist, Sage Pose, Bharadvaja’s Twist, Half Lord of the Fishes Pose and Noose Pose.

The Mayo Clinic recommends gentle stretches and restorative poses to relax tight muscles and improve posture. Strengthening the abdominal wall relieves pressure on the lower back, and the pelvic tilt is one of the safest and easy ways to keep stomach muscles strong. Some therapists also recommend the use of ice after workouts to calm irritated nerves.


As a yoga instructor, you aren’t expected to be a doctor, but you should be able to modify techniques to suit the health of your student.  Look into reliable resources, such as studies at hospitals, colleges, and websites that are affiliated with the medical industry.  In this way, we can avoid making claims that we can’t deliver.

© Copyright 2016 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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