Indeed, sciatica is a pain in the bum! And the lower back, too. And a lot of people suffer from it.
Which is why I devised a special 6-week remedial yoga program to the get the bottom of it and help as many people as possible get pain-free in the hips and legs.
Sciatica is the name given to any sort of pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.
In my experience, it is a hugely common problem. I can safely say that around 70% of the people who come into my open yoga classes suffer from some form of sciatica. In the remedial yoga classes this is probably closer to 90%.
So what exactly is sciatica?
Simply put, it is an inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which also happens to be the longest nerve in the body. It runs from the back of the pelvis, through the buttocks (and the piriformis), and all the way down both legs, ending at the feet. So the pain of sciatica can be felt anywhere along this line.
What does it feel like to have sciatica?
Usually, sciatica affects only one side of the lower body. The pain radiates from the lower back to the back of the thigh and down the leg.
Some combination of the following symptoms is most common:
- Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg, but rarely in both sides.
- Pain that originates in the low back or buttock and continues along the path of the sciatic nerve—down the back of the thigh and into the lower leg and foot
- Pain that feels better when you lie down or are walking, but worsens when standing or sitting
- Pain typically described as sharp or searing, rather than dull. It can literally feel like a knife stabbing into the deep flesh of the buttock, a red hot searing pain which at it’s worst can be quite debilitating.
- A “pins-and-needles” sensation, numbness or weakness, or a prickling sensation down the leg or shin in some cases
- Weakness or numbness when moving the leg or foot
- Severe or shooting pain in one leg, maybe even making it difficult to stand up or walk
- Pain and other symptoms in the toes, depending on where the sciatic nerve is affected
- Lower back pain that, if experienced at all, is not as severe as leg pain
Symptoms may intensify during sudden movements, such as a sneeze or cough, or when changing positions, such as when moving from a sitting position to standing up.
For some people it goes away naturally within a few weeks, although some cases can last for a year or more.
What causes sciatica?
Sciatica can be caused by a number of medical issues like herniated or degenerated discs, structural problems in hips and bone structure of the legs and pelvis, or other spinal problems. In these cases, the sciatica is a symptom of a far more serious problem which has to be handled appropriately by medical intervention.
However, as a yoga teacher I believe that the common occurence of sciatica symptoms is due to unhealthy or repetitive moment patterns in the body. Sitting too much, weakness in the legs, hips, lumbar spine and pelvic floor muscles, overuse due to sports like cycling or running, general stiffness and immobility are common causes I see every day. These are not medically derived, but rather down to over- or under-use of the body.
Especially in runners and cyclists, tightness around the piriformis can create pressure on the sciatic nerve which causes extreme discomfort and pain in the lower back and often, the legs too..
How can yoga help?
Yoga is a gentle way to access the stiff, sore and inflamed muscles that cause pressure on the sciatic nerve. Gentle somatic movement, alternating between active and passive stretches, twists that allow the piriformis to release, standing postures to build strength and balances that encourage core stability and pelvic floor engagement all help to relieve the pressure.
There is no quick fix. After tearing my hamstring, I suffered from extreme sciatica as my body responded to the injury by overusing the other muscles around my hip to compensate. From my own experience, I know that continuing my yoga practice eventually brought not only pain relief, but a total recovery. I have also seen the same results in my remedial yoga students, who felt immediate relief directly after class. With sustained and regular practice, the symptoms disappeared entirely.
Do you want to know more?
There is no need to suffer pain from sciatica. Please book a phone call in my diary here for me to discuss how I can help you find relief.
Book onto the 6-week program now! Only 10 spaces available
The course will run at Thorpse’s Physiotherapy Clinic in Sandhurst, starting on 2nd February.
There will be a postural and mobility assessment day on 26th January. Book your place here for the state-of-the-art physiotherapy assessment using ViMove software.
For more information: Email me at or book your place
What to expect:
During this course, you will learn the basics of anatomy to help you understand your body better, and you will learn stretches and twists to release the spasms. You will also get to know how to use your breath to manage onsets of pain. You will get weekly emails with training material to help you maintain the learning, and to start a yoga self-practice to help you stay sciatica free in future.
- Small classes limited to 10 people only
- Individual alignment and posture cues, focused around your particular problem or injury
- A range of seated, standing, inverted and twisted yoga asana
- An energetic yoga work-out alongside deep passive stretches and somatic movement for myofascial release
- Targeted work on all the muscles of the abdomen, hips and deep core including illio-psoas and piriformis
- A high degree of hands-on yoga instruction and manual release of tight muscles
- Extensive use of props in the Iyengar tradition (Blocks, belts, bolsters) to make space and allow for incremental improvement
- Cognitive mindfulness and pranayama (yoga breathing) techniques to deal with mind-body issues, de-stressing and tension release