5 Yoga Poses To Relieve Your Sciatic Nerve & Help With Sciatica Pain

Certified Personal Trainer & Yoga Teacher By Abi Carver, NASM-CPT
Certified Personal Trainer & Yoga Teacher
Abi Carver is a NASM-certified personal trainer and 200-hour Yoga Alliance certified yoga instructor. She is the founder of the Yoga 15 video series, which helps make yoga simple and accessible for anyone.
Young woman practicing yoga, beautiful girl doing Glute Bridge exercise, dvi pada pithasana pose

Image by fizkes / iStock

Sciatica—that searing pain, tingling, or numbness that shoots from your lower back down the back of one leg—is not a condition but rather a symptom of an underlying one.

You have two sciatic nerves that run from the base of your spine, down through the buttocks, underneath the piriformis (a key external hip rotator), down the back of your thighs, and all the way into your heels and soles of your feet. Sciatica refers to tenderness or compression of the sciatic nerve.

The first thing to do if you experience this type of pain is to visit a doctor to determine the cause of sciatica in your specific case. If the root cause is one of the two most common—a herniated disc or tight hips, specifically tight external hip rotators, the following five yoga poses can offer some relief.

All these poses are reclining, so you can do them first thing in the morning and last thing at night to take pressure off your sciatic nerve and ease the discomfort. Please be careful not to move in any way that causes pain or aggravates your underlying issue. Always listen to your body; it's giving you messages all the time, and sometimes they're not so subtle.

Wind-relieving pose

Wind Relieving Yoga Pose

Image by Abi Carver

As you lie on your back on your bed or yoga mat, take a deep breath in. On an exhalation, hug your right knee into your chest. Relax into wind-relieving pose for 5 to 10 breaths. On every exhalation, try to soften and let go of a little more tension in your pelvis. Relax your jaw, neck, and shoulders, and breathe into your lower back. To release the pose, take a deep breath in. And on an exhalation, switch legs for the other side.

Hug both knees into your chest and rock a little side to side.

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Dead pigeon

Abi Carver - Dead Pigeon Yoga Pose

Image by Abi Carver

Bring both feet flat to the mat or to your bed. Dead pigeon stretches the deep external hip rotators, including the piriformis. In many cases of sciatica, the piriformis is what's putting pressure on the sciatic nerve and causing your pain.

Rest your right ankle on your left knee. Take a deep breath in. On an exhalation, thread your hand through the triangle between your legs and hold the back of your left thigh with both hands. Gently pull your left leg in toward you. Flex your right foot to protect your right knee. Relax your neck and shoulders. If you are more flexible, you can reach through to take hold of your shin. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths, pressing the back of your pelvis into the mat or your bed. To release the pose, take a deep breath in. And on an exhalation, bring your left foot back to the mat for the other side.

Bridge

Abi Carver - Bridge Pose

Image by Abi Carver

Rest your hands by your sides, palms facedown for bridge pose. Walk your feet back until your fingertips graze your heels, and check that your feet are hip-width apart and parallel. Take a breath here. Bridge pose is a gentle backbend (spinal extension) that can help heal a herniated disc.

Inhale, press into your heels, and lift your hips all the way up. Exhale, relax into the pose. If you can, roll your shoulders underneath you, interlace your fingers, straighten your arms, and press your little fingers into the mat or bed. Lift your chest up and back as you draw your lower abs in. Take slow, deep, and even breaths at the top of the pose. If you feel compression at your lower back, lower your hips, curl your tailbone under, and release your inner thighs down to make space at your lower back. Hold the pose for 3 to 5 breaths. Take one more deep breath in. Exhale, lower, and release the pose.

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Reclining spinal twist eagle

Reclining Spinal Twist Eagle Yoga Pose

Image by Abi Carver

Our next pose is a reclining spinal twist variation that releases tension at the lower back and stretches the deep hip rotators.

Cross your right knee in front of your left knee, and if you can, wrap your right toes around the back of your left ankle as you would in eagle pose. Bring your right arm out to the side, palm facing up. Take a deep breath in. Exhale, gently lower both knees to the left, and turn your head to the right. Rest your left hand on your right thigh. It's OK if your knees don't come all the way down. Breathe into the stretch. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths on each side. To release the pose, take a deep breath in. On an exhalation, use your abs to bring your knees back up to center. Unwrap your legs and hug your knees into your chest for the other side.

Happy baby

Abi Carver - Happy Baby Pose

Image by Abi Carver

We'll finish with happy baby, another excellent posture for taking pressure off the sciatic nerve.

Keep your feet together, open your knees out wide, and stretch your hands through to take hold of the outsides of your feet. Bring your feet out over your knees, and gently pull them down toward the mat or the bed. Flex your feet, press the back of your pelvis into the mat or your bed, and stay here for a few deep breaths. You can hold onto your ankles if that is more comfortable. Relax into the pose and rock gently from side to side. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 deep breaths. If you have a couple of extra minutes, lie in savasana or with your feet flat on the bed or mat, and feel your body. Notice where you feel pain or tension and breathe into that spot for a couple of minutes.

And as always, be gentle with yourself.

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