Your sciatic nerve is the widest and longest one in your entire body. It starts in your lower back and splits off to run down both sides of the gluteus and along the backs of your legs. It stops just below your knees. Because the nerve covers so much territory, it can be easily injured or irritated. When you see your doctor to determine the cause of your sciatica, find out if it's OK for you to perform yoga poses to alleviate the pain.
Extended Side Angle or Triangle Pose
The Extended Side Angle and Triangle poses can help ease sciatic pain by lengthening and stretching your lower back. For the Side Angle pose, stand with your feet approximately 3 to 3 1/2 feet apart. Bring your arms up, parallel to the floor with your palms facing down. Keeping the toes of your right foot facing forward, turn your left foot so that it's pointing out to the left. Exhale as you bend your left knee and lean your torso to the left, maintaining a straight back. Keep your right leg straight and reach your left hand down to help balance yourself by grasping your left ankle. Your right arm should remain straight and come up alongside your right ear. Turn your head to look at your right arm, holding the pose for 30 seconds or as long as is comfortable before repeating the pose on the left side. Triangle pose is similar, but you keep both legs straight throughout the pose, instead of bending one knee.
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
The Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe pose is another yoga exercise that stretches and lengthens your lower back. To do this pose, start out lying on your back on the floor with your legs straight and your arms slightly out to your sides, palms down. Exhale as you bend your right knee and hug your thigh to your torso. Keep your left leg straight, pressing your hamstring and heel to the floor. Loop a yoga strap around the arch of your right foot, holding both ends of the strap in both hands. Straighten your knee as you inhale, flattening your foot out so that the sole is pointing toward the ceiling. Increase the tension on the strap by walking your hands up it toward your foot until your elbows are straight. Use the strap to draw your foot toward your head, keeping your leg straight. You'll feel the soothing stretch in your lower back and right leg, but only pull your leg as far as is comfortable. Hold the pose for 30 seconds or as long as you can without causing discomfort or further pain. Repeat the pose with your left leg.
Twist poses provide relief from sciatica by stretching your lower back. To do Seated Twist pose, start in Staff pose, sitting upright on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Bend your knees, place your feet flat on the floor and then bring your left foot under your right knee so that your left heel touches the outside of your right hip. Place your right foot flat on the floor on the left side of your left knee. Twist your torso to the right, keeping your shoulders back, and set your right hand, palm down, on the floor behind you. Hook your left elbow around your right knee. Hold the twist for 30 seconds or as long as you comfortably can and then straighten your legs and perform the Seated Twist pose on the other side.
King Pigeon Pose
Yoga International says that, among the piriformis poses -- ones that stretch the glutes -- the King Pigeon pose is the strongest. It will also open your hips. Begin with your hands and knees on the floor and bring your right knee forward. Straighten your left leg out behind you, lowering yourself to the floor as you turn your right foot inward. Bring your right heel to rest on the floor so that it aligns with your left hip. Your feet should both remain flexed; and the toes of your left foot should be touching the floor. Place your fingertips on the floor in line with your right knee, then gently walk them back to bring your torso upright as far as is comfortable. Keep your back straight. Hold the pose for 30 seconds or as long as is comfortable and then come back to the beginning position on your hands and knees and perform the pose on the other side.
Don't Aggravate the Issue
If you're suffering from sciatica, it's wise to eliminate or at least back off of strenuous activities, such as exercise that involves running, jumping and placing pressure and stress on your lower back. Yoga is typically a gentle enough activity that it helps alleviate sciatic nerve pain, but if done improperly, such as not maintaining straight posture, overly squaring your hips or not bending at the creases of your hips, some poses can aggravate the condition. In her article for "Yoga Journal," Sara Powers advises that you avoid seated, forward-bend poses, which tend to put strain on the sciatic nerve. Additionally, you shouldn't perform any pose that causes tingling or pain in your back and legs.