Sciatica is a painful condition that can affect your daily functions and have a detrimental effect on your general well-being. You may experience sharp, shooting pains in your lower back that radiate down your leg or develop leg weakness, numbness or pain that can interfere with your ability to walk. Although there are no studies to confirm its benefits, certain postures of Bikram yoga may help symptoms of sciatica.
About Bikram Yoga
Bikram yoga was developed by the yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, founder of the Bikram College of Yoga in India. Bikram yoga is based on a set series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises that are practiced in the set period of 90 minutes in a room heated to a temperature of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the core beliefs behind Bikram yoga is that practicing the exercises and poses in a heated atmosphere helps increase your body's flexibility and encourages sweating, which helps remove impurities and toxins from your system.
Benefits for Sciatica
There's no clinical evidence to support claims that Bikram yoga can help sciatica. However, Bikram yoga may help alleviate some of your symptoms by improving circulation to your lower back and increasing flexibility and elasticity in your back, buttocks and hamstrings. In an article for Yoga Journal, yoga instructor Sarah Powers reports that yoga poses that strengthen the muscles surrounding your sciatic nerve and increase circulation to this area may help heal sciatica. Suffering from sciatica can be stressful, so practicing yoga may also provide indirect benefits by helping you manage stress and tension.
Certain poses in the Bikram series are believed to provide a direct benefit for sciatica. According to the Bikram Yoga Seacoast studio in Salisbury, Massachusetts, the Half Moon/Hands-to-Feet pose is thought to increase flexibility in your spine, the area surrounding your sciatic nerve and the tendons and ligaments in your legs. The Standing Head-to-Knee, Standing Bow Pulling, Head-to-Knee Stretching and Standing Separate Leg-to-Knee poses may help increase flexibility in your sciatic nerve, while the Standing Separate Leg Stretching pose strengthens and stretches your sciatic nerve and leg tendons.
Although a Bikram yoga practice may provide benefits for sciatica, you should obtain clearance from your doctor before beginning any exercise or yoga program. Avoid yoga poses that cause pain or trigger shooting sensations along one side of your body. Do not stretch beyond your current level of flexibility. To avoid exacerbating your symptoms, consult your yoga instructor to discuss which poses are recommended for your condition.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.