Finding Relief from Sciatic Pain

Sciatica is a painful condition commonly felt along the path of the large sciatic nerve. It can be the result of a tight or overused piriformis muscle, known as piriformis syndrome. But more commonly, “true sciatica” occurs because of a herniated or bulging disc. Read on to learn more about the symptoms and causes of true sciatica as well as four yoga poses that can bring relief.


Causes and Symptoms of Sciatica

“True sciatica” originates in the lumbar spine where there is compression at the nerve root. While lumbar disc damage is most often to blame for compression of the nerve, other conditions, such as spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis and spondylosis, can also be responsible. Sciatic pain due to lumbar disc damage is characterized by one or more of the following features:


  • Pain. Sciatica pain typically feels like a constant burning sensation or a shooting pain starting in the lower back or buttock and radiating down the front or back of the thigh, leg and/or foot. Rather than being a dull ache, the pain is “sharp” or “searing.”


  • Numbness. Bone-related sciatic pain is frequently accompanied by numbness in the back of the leg or foot. Tingling and/or weakness may also be present.


  • One-sided symptoms. Sciatica typically affects one leg. The condition often results in a feeling of heaviness in the affected leg or drop foot, difficulty in lifting the front part of the foot which makes walking challenging.

In order to treat the sciatic pain without aggravating or worsening the underlying bone-related condition, I urge you to first consult with your doctor to receive an accurate diagnosis. Once you have clearance or if your symptoms are very mild, you can try these four simple yoga poses designed to bring relief from sciatic pain.


4 Yoga Poses for Sciatica Pain Relief

**IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are experiencing acute pain, proceed cautiously. If any of the poses increase pain, STOP immediately and consult a certified yoga therapist or physical therapist who specializes in back pain.

Flowing Cat-Cow (Cakravakasana)

This pose is great for overall spinal health as it increases circulation throughout the musculature around the spine and imbibing the intervertebral discs of the spine with fluid.

1. Begin on all fours in tabletop position. Position wrists under or slightly in front of your shoulders and knees directly under hips.

2. On an inhale, slightly pull back on the palms as you lengthen your chest forward. There will be a small arch in the lumbar spine, but keep the neck long and chin slightly tucked.

3. Next, on an exhale, draw your low belly in as you bring your forearms and elbows to the floor. sinking the hips towards the heels. Be sure to relax your neck as your forehead comes to the floor or a block.

4. As you inhale, again draw the chest forward, arching the low back slightly to come back into table.

5. Repeat six times, ending in child’s pose with your head resting on the floor, folded arms or on a block. Stay here for two breaths before continuing.

Cobra (Bhujangasana)

Cobra is a gentle backbend for strengthening the back muscles. It aids in healing and retracting the intervertebral discs that can cause sciatic pain.

1. Begin by coming to lie on your stomach with your hands under your shoulders. Allow the inner edges of the legs to touch, pressing the tops of the toenails into the floor. Rest your right cheek on the floor. Gently press the pubic bone into the floor to help lengthen the lumbar spine.

2. Next, keeping the neck long, inhale to lift the shoulders, neck and head. Use the muscles of the upper back to lift your head and chest rather than pressing into your hands.

3. On an exhale, slowly lower the upper torso, turning your head so the left cheek rests on the floor.Repeat four more times, alternating which cheek rests on the floor. On the last repetition, you may choose to stay with the head and chest lifted for three breaths.

4.  When finished, rest on your belly in Crocodile Pose, with your forehead on your folded arms, for three breaths. If uncomfortable to rest on your belly, you can roll over onto your back.

Knees-to-Chest (Apanasana)

Apanasana, or “wind relieving pose,” is the safest forward bend for people with low back issues, especially lumbar disc damage. It not only increases circulation to the low back, but also stretches the muscles, helping to create space for bulging discs to retract. It one of my personal “go-to” poses when my low back is hurting.

1. Start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in constructed rest. Take three breaths here, allowing your spine to settle into the floor.

2. Next, hug both knees into your chest. Hands can be place either on or behind the knees.

3. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, gently draw both knees towards your chest. Try to engage the muscles of the pelvic floor and low belly, as if you were zipping up tight pair of jeans. Keep the neck long and the chin slightly tucked, using a folded blanket to support your head as needed.

4. As you take your next inhale, soften your belly from the top down, allowing the thighs to move slightly away from your chest. Repeat five more times, finishing by hugging the knees to your chest for four breaths. Feel free to circle the knees as you hold.

5. To come out of the pose, release one foot at a time to the floor. Pause in constructed rest and notice any sensations in your back before moving on to the next pose.

Reclined Bound Angle Variation (Supta Baddha Konasana)

This final pose hydrates whole pelvic region, increasing circulation to the low back. One of my teachers calls this a “yoga band-aid” for low back pain. See what you think.

1. Lying on your back, bring the soles of your feet to together, opening your knees out to the sides. If this causes any low back discomfort, place a block, pillow or folded towel under each knee for support.

2. Next, exhale the pubic bone towards the belly button to lengthen the lumbar spine along the floor. Keeping the low belly gently engaged, slowly begin to exhale the knees half way towards each other. Try to make the movement last for the entire length of your exhale. Pause as you inhale.

3. With your next exhalation, again draw the knees slowly towards each other until they touch and the soles of the feet are flat on the floor.

4. Repeat this process, exhaling the knees together in thirds followed by quarters. The object is to move slowly and mindfully during the entire length of each exhale.

5. When finished, you can either stretch your legs long, coming into savasana, or bring the knees into the chest and rock side-to-side.

With practice and persistence, these poses will bring relief form sciatic pain. The best pain relief, however, is prevention, so practice these regularly to keep your back healthy and strong.

Join me this March/April for my 6-part back care series in which you’ll learn strategies for dealing with back pain and how to keep your back healthy and pain free. Click HERE to register.

Be well!



published 6/29/20; updated 3/1/24

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