A pinched sciatic nerve can seriously impact your well-being and interfere with your ability to perform everyday activities. Anything that aggravates your sciatic nerve, including strains, sprains, poor posture and sitting for extended periods of time, can cause symptoms of sciatica. According to the NYU Langone Medical Center, yoga may help sciatica by improving your posture and movement habits, but there is not yet any scientific evidence to support this claim. If you have symptoms of a pinched sciatic nerve, consult your doctor before beginning a yoga practice.
Your sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs down the backs of your legs, beginning in your lower back and extending down to your feet. When this nerve becomes irritated or pinched, you may experience symptoms of sciatica, including numbness in your legs and feet, shooting pain in one leg that begins in your buttocks, weakness or an inability to bear weight on the affected leg and feelings of burning or tingling. Although most cases of sciatica resolve on their own, yoga poses that stretch your legs and lower back may provide certain benefits for pinched sciatic nerve symptoms.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga may help a pinched sciatic nerve by relieving pressure on your sciatic nerve, promoting correct postural alignment and building muscle strength to help you maintain proper posture, according to Yoga Journal. Although sitting is a common cause of sciatic nerve pain, seated yoga poses that involve lateral rotation of your spine can also help sciatica, according to Dr. Loren Fishman in an article published in the "Alternative Medicine and Rehabilitation: A Guide for Practitioners." Practicing yoga regularly can increase your overall level of flexibility and alleviate stress, which may also help your condition by inducing feelings of relaxation and reducing tension in your entire body.
Seated poses, such as ekapadajanusirsasana -- the one-footed-head-to-knee pose -- may help symptoms of a pinched sciatic nerve by flexing your lumbar spine and hips, stretching your sciatic nerve and lengthening the hamstrings, according to Fishman. In an article for Yoga Journal, yoga instructor Sarah Powers says that the locust pose is the best backbending pose for healing sciatica because it helps strengthen your lower back and increases circulation to your hips. Bharadvajasana's twist and the extended triangle pose may also be therapeutic for symptoms of sciatica.
Consult your doctor before beginning a yoga practice if you suffer from sciatica. Avoid poses that cause shooting pains or aggravate your symptoms. Maintain proper alignment in standing poses, such as the warrior series, by keeping your feet flat on the floor and allowing your hips to move naturally to avoid aggravating symptoms of sciatica. Using props, such as walls, blocks, belts and chairs, can help reduce pain, discomfort and stress on your sciatic nerve when performing yoga stretches that focus on your lumbar spine. Consult a qualified yoga instructor to discuss the proper way to modify certain poses if necessary.
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.