I hope you enjoyed practicing the stretches I gave you in my last blog and have found them beneficial – they really get into tight buttock, groin and hip muscles don’t they? Continuing on then with my theme of keeping the sciatic nerve calm, I’m going to start with a couple of non-yoga things to help.
Tennis Ball Release
You’ll need a hard tennis ball for this, the ones I throw for my dogs are perfect (just make sure your canine friend is happy with you using their toy 😉 ) . Sitting on the floor, place the tennis under 1 buttock and then simply roll your bottom around on the tennis ball, making sure you get right up into the hip and round the side, then you can roll it down the back of the thigh. Allow yourself to relax over any tender spots, use your yoga breathing to help you release the tightness. Swap sides when you’re ready. Very much a pleasure / pain sensation! But very effective.
Sciatica Easing Massage
Massaging one leg at a time, focus first your gluteal muscles (easier if someone does this for you!), then work your way down the back of the thigh, spending time to soften all these hardworking muscles, before massaging the back of the knee. There’s a muscle there, the popliteal (lovely name) that is often very tight when the sciatic nerve is irritated, so gently knead this area to relieve the sciatic nerve.
Of course yoga is a great way to take care of your back and is probably the main benefit people tell us they get from our classes, and because we work closely with physiotherapists we have back care at the top of our agenda and complement physio treatment you might be receiving. Here are some yoga tips to ensure your sciatic nerve stays happy.
The physiotherapist I work with (Liz Benton at Whitehall Physiotherapy), tells me that the majority of back problems are caused or exacerbated by a sedentary lifestyle and that movement (taking care of alignments) combined with core posture work is the best advice, which is why she recommends her patients to give Dru Yoga a go.
Yoga postures that are recommended to ease sciatic pain include :
Gentle and supported back bends such as sphinx, bridge, cat and tiger. Ensure you work mindfully and put “space” between the vertebrae to help the discs rehydrated and ease back into place. These movements also help you strengthen your core and work your gluteal muscles correctly. Strong backbends such as bow, camel, locust and wheel, should be avoided.
Remember our stretches from last week? After practising those you can then move into the seated spinal twist, try it with the bottom leg extended first (see picture) and if it feels OK and you don’t have varicose veins or leg joint problems progress to the final stage which will give you a much more intense stretch in the buttock and groin – remember to breathe and create space to help you relax into the pose. You can also add Pose of the Cow too, which is a similar leg and hip stretch.
It’s usually advisable to stay away from forward bends if you suffer with sciatica. As we spend a lot of our time in chairs, slumping forwards this can cause problems with the spinal discs which could in turn be pressing on the sciatic nerve, so to do more forward bends (even if they feel comfortable) could add to the problem. Stay away also from postures such as rotated triangle, charity pose, shoulder stands and plough, which incorporate forward bending elements.
I would also add into your practice Tree pose, which strengthens your core and if practised correctly will help to align your hips and help you to engage the correct part of your gluteal muscles. Earth Sequence is a great one to add in too, especially your sciatica has flared up in the autumn, as this will help to balance the seasonal energies (see previous blog on working with Autumn energy).
Relaxation and abdominal breathing will help your body to cope with the pain, and allow tense muscles to release.
These are just a few things that my students have found beneficial and I hope they help you. The yoga suggestions are intended to be a complement to physiotherapy and not a replacement, so always seek their advice first. The postures are also great to do if you do not suffer from sciatica and want to keep it that way!
Let me know how you get on and if you would like me to look at any other aspects of back care in future blogs. Ix
Seated spinal twist – good for the kidneys & digestive system