When you have sciatica, a pinched nerve in the lower back, practicing yoga can help heal you, or it can make your pain worse. The trick is to know which yoga poses to avoid when you have sciatica, and which yoga poses can help sciatica. Listed below are some of the best yoga poses for sciatica, as well as the worst yoga poses for sciatica. Specific yoga alignment tips for sciatica are also included.
This article does not substitute for medical advice. Always discuss your sciatica concerns with your health care provider. For specific instructions and illustrations of the recommended yoga poses for sciatica, consult a yoga reference book such as Hatha Yoga Illustrated or Light on Yoga, or work with a certified yoga instructor. Always tell your yoga instructor if you are experiencing sciatic pain.
Best Yoga Poses for Sciatica
If you have a pinched nerve in your lower back, you may not feel like moving much at all, but yoga can help you heal if you choose the right poses. Gentle back bends and twists are beneficial yoga poses for sciatica.
When practicing back bends for sciatica, it is important not to compress your lower back. To avoid compressing your lower back, focus on drawing your tail bone down toward your heels. This will tilt the pelvis and create space in your lower back. Then, instead of simply bending backwards, think about lengthening through the spine and lifting your chest before leaning back. As always in yoga, if it hurts, don’t do it. If you have a pinched nerve in the lower back, you may not be able to go as deeply into back bends as you expect.
Back Bend Yoga Poses Recommended for Sciatica:
Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge Pose)
Bhujanghasana (Cobra Pose)
Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)
Twisting yoga poses can help to create space in the lower back and increase circulation to the area affected by sciatica. When practicing twisting yoga poses for sciatica, it is important to use your muscles to twist rather than “cheat” by pushing with your hands. If you your sciatic pain is caused by a herniated disk, twisting yoga poses may not be the best choice for your yoga practice. Always move into the poses slowly, and stop if you feel any pain.
Twisting Yoga Poses Recommended for Sciatica:
Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
Bharadvajasana I (Bharadvaja’s Twist)
Marichyasana III (Sage Pose, # 3)
Pasasana (Noose Pose)
Parivritta Utkatasana (Standing Chair Twist)
Worst Yoga Poses for Sciatica
The worst yoga poses for sciatica tend to be forward bends, whether standing or seated. If your hips or hamstrings are too tight, forward bending can put strain on the lower back and worsen sciatic pain. When bending forward, always remember to hinge forward right at the hip crease and don’t round through your lower back. Forward bends are the opposite of back bends, so instead of drawing the tail bone down, release the tail bone and allow the sit bones to widen in forward bends.
When practicing yoga for sciatic pain, either avoid forward bending entirely, or don’t move fully into the bend. You can modify forward bending poses by keeping your spine long and straight and focusing on tilting the pelvis so that it rolls forward instead of back (widening your sit bones behind you). Don’t try to touch your toes while you have sciatica. Once you heal from sciatica, work with forward bends slowly so the sciatic pain does not return.
Instead of forward bending, try the yoga pose Supta Padangustasana (Reclining Big Toe Pose) with a strap to stretch your hamstring muscles. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose) may also offer some of the benefits of forward bends without aggravating sciatic pain.
Mayo Clinic; Sciatica: Lifestyle and Home Remedies
Tina Juan Fitness; Preventing Yoga Injuries
Women Fitness; Top 10 Yoga Poses to Relieve Sciatica
Yoga Journal; Coping With Sciatica; Sarah Powers