Sciatica is sadly a common experience during pregnancy, and in my YogaBellies pregnancy yoga classes I usually have at least two or three mummies-to-be suffering with it. Sciatica is caused by pressure from the growing uterus on the sciatic nerve which runs down to the legs. It causes sudden sharp pains which radiates down the buttocks and into the legs, ouch! Sciatica can make sitting for any length of time (at a desk for example) really uncomfortable, and can make it hard to get that vital sleep! Luckily, yoga can help…
If you’re suffering with sciatica then stretching out the muscles over the sciatic nerve can help give relief from pain. A really good stretch is to come to all fours, then stretch the painful leg right back out behind you. Shake it out gently to allow it to fully relax down on the floor from thigh to toes. Stay here and breathe into the leg for a few minutes. Some women find the application of heat (through a heat patch or hot water bottle) to the painful area helpful, or relaxing in a warm bath. Try to sleep on the opposite side to the pain.
Yoga postures which can help treat sciatica work on stretching the muscles over the sciatic nerve to release the pressure. Good postures to try include Tiny Dancer (modified Lord of the Dancers, one of my personal favourites!), perhaps holding onto the wall for extra support. Downward Facing Dog (up to around 30-32 weeks of pregnancy), keeping the knees bent if more comfortable, and working on peddling the heels down. Pigeon pose is a wonderful hip and pelvis opener and is a great way to release over the sciatic nerve. You might find this posture a little uncomfortable to get into, but once there it is very helpful. From all fours, swing one knee forward so that it rests between your hands. Sink down on that bent leg, as you send the other leg out behind you (like the stretch described above). Once you have sunk down as far as you can, try to stay in the pose for 3 minutes (if the extended leg / foot gets cramp then tucking the toes can help!).
The good news is that pregnancy related sciatica normally resolves after birth once the uterus returns to its usual size. Post-natal yoga can also be very helpful in resettling the body.
If you’re struggling with sciatica or other pregnancy related body imbalances, look up your local YogaBellies teacher and we’ll do our best to help you have a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy.
YogaBellies Southampton (find me here: https://www.facebook.com/yogabelliessouthampton/ )