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Freedom from sciatic pain : part 1

Eastern holistic therapies have long time advised that autumn is a time to pay extra attention to our backs and joints with

Get your posture right to help your back

Get your posture right to help your back

an increased incidence in sciatica being a common health challenge to tackle. In my 15 years of teaching yoga classes I would certainly agree with that sentiment, so I thought that I would make the theme of the next couple of blogs all about easing the misery of sciatica – and anyone who has suffered knows just what misery it causes!

Sciatic pain is caused when the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body, is being irritated, and it’s basically going to give you pain (generally down the back and outside of the thigh, leg and foot) until you do something about it. There are a few things that can trigger sciatic pain – bad posture, tight gluteal and piriformis muscles, vertebral disc degeneration, hip mis-alignments – and it’s always best to get this checked out by a physiotherapist. Then you will be given the best treatment plan for you. This will often involve yoga style postures and a Dru Yoga class is a fantastic way to help your recovery or indeed stop a bout of sciatica in the first place.

Prevention is always better than cure, so the first thing I would always suggest is to check your posture. I can highly recommend a Bio-mechanic screening session, to bring you back into alignment. I’ve posted lots about yoga pose Tadasana (the mountain) often referred to as the perfect standing posture. Please do take a look at past posts or information on my website or Facebook page, because I promise you, time spent allowing your body to naturally come back into alignment is never time wasted. Use this posture to alert you to areas of your body that are tense, ache or uneven.

If you come to an Inside Out yoga class you will know that we are very keen on strengthening core muscles and we include core work in every class. Truth is you need to work on strengthening your core at least once every single day. It’ll only take you a few minutes but will help to prevent or ease just about all back problems. Again there are plenty of ideas on what to do on our website etc., or ask for a handout from your Inside Out tutor.

As I mentioned earlier, tight buttock muscles can also contribute to sciatic pain, and these muscles can be tight even if they are not very toned, which seems a bit unfair! Some people even have their sciatic nerve running right through or very close to a muscle called the piriformis, so every time this muscle contracts it irritates the sciatic nerve!

Here are a couple of great stretches and yoga poses to help you stretch out the buttock muscles.

  1. Piriformis Stretch (stage 1) :Lie on your back, you might need a cushion for your head to keep your neck in correct alignment ie. back of the neck long with the chin very slightly tucked in. Bring your knees into your chest, crossing the right leg over the left at thigh level, above the knee (think Kenny Everett for those of you old enough to remember). Hold at the back of both legs (use a strap if you cannot comfortably reach) and gently draw them in towards you, trying to keep your spine long, not rolling over to one side, and the base of your spine on the floor so that you are not lifting the bottom. Hold for 15 seconds, before changing sides.

  2. Piriformis Stretch (stage 2) : If you were ok with stage 1, bring the knees into the chest a little, feet off the floor, now open out the right hip so that you can rest your right foot on the front of your left thigh, just above the knee. Now, hold the back of your left thigh with your left hand, the right hand goes between the legs, so that you can clasp at the back of the left thigh. (See photo, serious face not necessary!) Again use a strap if you cannot reach. Draw the legs in towards you, keeping all the alignment points as above. Hold for 15 seconds, then swap sides.

  3. Universal twist : Lie on your back, legs outstretched. Bend your right knee and rest the rest foot on the left knee. Take hold of your right knee with your left hand, stretching your right arm along the floor at shoulder height. Anchor your shoulders, engages core muscles, then gently and mindfully draw the right knee over to the left (it may not go far!). Make sure the twist comes from the hips and the shoulders stay fixed and never force the knee over. Feel that lovely stretch in your right buttock. Hold for 15 seconds before repeating with the left leg.

Add these to your daily routine, along with your core muscle strengthening exercises and I’m sure your back will thank you for it.

More yoga for sciatica and other ways to ease the pain next time. Ix

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