TIPS ON TUESDAYS: Combat Sciatica and Lower Back Pain (Part 3 of 3)

January 24, 2017 | by Michelle Meier

TIPS ON TUESDAYS are weekly tips offering you therapeutic yoga poses to help you improve your health, combat stress or recover from an injury and/or mindfulness techniques to give you that extra boost you need.

Sciatic pain got you down?  Do these exercises to lift you back up.

In the past two weeks I've shared with you what sciatica is, what can cause it and some helpful stretches to combat the pain associated with it. You can find the first two blogs on this here:

TIPS ON TUESDAYS: Combat Sciatica & Lower Back Pain (Part 1 of 3)

TIPS ON TUESDAYS: Combat Sciatica & Lower Back Pain (Part 2 of 3)

This week we're concluding with the final (revolved) variation of the incredibly effective Reclining Leg, Foot and Toe Stretch.  Or, if you're feeling sassy, you can say the Sanskrit term with me: "Parivrtta Supta Eka Padangusthasana" (pronounced "par-ee-vrit-ah soop-tah eh-kah pad-ung-oo-stas-ana).  

Hmm, still a tongue twister, right??

Well I can promise you that doing it is much easier than pronouncing it, so long as you're doing it right.  And, don't worry, I've got your back on this!

In this variation, we're crossing the leg over the body.

BENEFITS:

  • Stretches the hamstrings (all the way down to the calves!), glutes, outer hips and external obliques
  • Stretches and relieves the piriformis muscle (symptoms of sciatica and piriformis syndrome are very similar)
  • Therapeutic for sciatic and lower back pain, also SI joint dysfunction
  • Strengthens the knees (also helpful for recovery from a knee injury or surgery)
  • Improves digestion and constipation
  • Revitalizes the adrenal glands, which process cortisol and the stress levels in our bodies

HOW TO DO IT:

  • Place a bolster or block to the left side of the body
  • Lie down (place a small pillow or blanket to support your head if you have high blood pressure or it just feels better to you)
  • Bend the right knee into the chest and wrap a strap, belt or bathrobe tie around the ball of the foot
  • Extend the leg overhead, making sure to keep the 2nd toe, ankle, knee and hip in one line facing you (meaning your knee isn't torquing to one side or the other)
  • Flex the foot and keep it flexed throughout the stretch (this protects the ligaments around the knee)
  • For this variation, your opposite leg (the left one) will stay extended, not bent (if you have tight hamstrings, place a rolled blanket under the left knee)
  • With both ends of the strap in your left hand, cross the right leg over your body resting the foot on the block or bolster
  • Focus on your breath, breathing in and out through the nose
  • With each exhale, maybe bring the foot lower to the ground (you can move the block or bolster further away from you to achieve this) and also closer towards the wall behind you for a deeper stretch in the hamstrings and calves
  • Hold the stretch (but never your breath!) for 30 seconds, eventually working up to 1 minute
  • Repeat on other side

SUPER EXTRA HELPFUL BONUS TIPS:

  • Make sure that both shoulders stay anchored to the ground (if your shoulder starts to lift when crossing your leg over the body, it means you've gone too far and are compromising the integrity of the spine).
  • Remember this is not a flexibility competition! Sometimes your foot will reach the ground but at the expense or your back and shoulders.  I'm a firm believer in props to maintain healthy alignment of the body as a whole.
  • Notice when you're holding the strap if your wrist is twisted.  Please flip the palm to ensure the arm and wrist are comfortable too.

One last thing.  I feel I'd be doing a disservice by not going into the deeper root of sciatica and lower back pain (not just the physical causes outlined in the previous blogs).  

Every physical ailment has an emotional root or a spiritual lesson behind it.

Whenever I've had an injury or a chronic issue, I've always healed it through an integrative approach:

  • Physically - by the most natural means possible and going to a doctor or taking medication when necessary
  • Mentally - shifting my thoughts to more positive ones instead of constantly complaining about the pain
  • Spiritually - asking myself what is the lesson that my body is communicating to me?

For this I look into the chakras, which are energy centers within our bodies.  We have 114 of them, though you may have heard of the 7 major ones that run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.  Each of these is associated with specific emotions and spiritual lessons.

Sciatica and lower back pain are associated with the first chakra, our root chakra.  It is related to our sense of security (including finances) and survival needs, feeling grounded, the ability to provide for life's necessity (basically mastering our physical life), the ability to stand up for oneself, social and familial law and order and our sense of connection with our fellow human beings, our family (where we come from) and feeling "at home" in our bodies.

Questions to ask yourself include:

  • What belief patterns did I inherit from my family?
  • Which of these beliefs still have authority over the way I think and act?...and which can I acknowledge are no longer valid?
  • Is there any unfinished business with family members I should tend to?
  • Am I able to stand up for myself with honor and dignity?
  • Do I honor my commitments?

While some or all may not feel like they apply to you, it is worth looking deeper into it, being honest with and true to yourself.

The answers we seek already lie within us.  The healing we seek also lies within.

*This is not a substitute for medical diagnosis and advice; it is best used as a complementary form of healing.  Please don't hesitate to email me at michelle@LoveJOYogaTherapy.com with any questions.  I'm happy to help in any way I can.