Sciatica is a painful condition in which the sciatic nerve is impinged, or compressed. Sciatic nerve pain can range from mildly irritating to completely debilitating. For those seeking holistic treatment options, yoga offers a means of pain management that also delivers numerous other health benefits to the body.
Causes of Sciatica
Sciatica can occur as a result of a number of factors, such as a herniated or bulging disc, spondylolisthesis, or piriformis syndrome. It is exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle and extended periods of sitting. Physical activity and stretches that target the core, glutes and hamstrings are highly recommended for reducing nerve impingement and dealing with sciatic pain.
How Yoga Can Help
Yoga is all about elongating and strengthening the muscles through specific poses, stretches, movements and breathing patterns. It increases both flexibility and range of motion while engaging the core muscles of the abdominals and back. Yoga enhances circulation, which serves to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the whole body.
The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the entire body, running from the lower back all the way down to the feet. When it is compressed, pain can radiate throughout the lumbar spine and run along the back of one or both thighs. Yoga stretches that emphasize muscles in these regions are especially helpful for relieving sciatic nerve pressure.
Yoga poses that stretch and strengthen the hamstrings and glutes are extremely effective for dealing with sciatica. The piriformis is a small muscle buried deep inside the glutes. Therefore, keeping the glutes loose will the relieve pressure on this muscle that may be responsible for sciatica. Here is a great piriformis stretch.
Lie on the floor in a supine, or face up, position. Bend both knees at a 45-degree angle, and then cross the right ankle over the left knee. Reaching under the left thigh, use both hands to lift the thigh toward the chest. This stretch should be held for 15 to 30 seconds and then performed on the opposite side.
Proper breathing techniques allow the body to relax, which reduces tension as well as inflammation. Stress, tension and muscular tightness make sciatica pain worse. In yoga, awareness of breath is key to successful movements and stretches.
Benefits of Yoga
• Elongates and loosens tight muscles
• Increases flexibility and range of motion
• Facilitates nutrient delivery to the muscles
• Relaxes and body and mind
• Relieves nerve pressure
• Stimulates the lymphatic system to detoxify the body
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