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Sciatica is a bit tricky and can be persistent. In all my years of teaching Back Pain Yoga, I have found more than anything else Sciatica often used as a blanket-term which students cover a range of symptoms they may have. So if you think you may have Sciatica please see a health professional to get a proper diagnosis.
Sciatica causes pain which travels down the leg from the lower back. This pain could go down the back, outside or front of the leg. The onset of Sciatica can be often sudden (more often) or gradual. Most often symptoms are only on one side of the body. However, sometimes Sciatica can result in pain on both sides and lower back pain can also be present. Weakness or numbness could run along the nerve pathway into various parts of the affected leg and foot.
The other challenge I have as a Yoga Therapist working with clients one on one is that the Sciatica nerve doesn’t run in exactly the same place in all bodies. So the same Yoga pose that can provide relief for one person may not for another. So there really is no one size fits all here.
Also, there are many causes of Sciatica; spinal disc herniation, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis and piriformis syndrome to name a few. So it really is a case by case basis. If you do this pose and it aggravates your Sciatica then skip it. I’ll have more poses for Sciatica in future blog posts.
In the video below you’ll notice that my knees come to the floor easily in this pose. This is due to my bone structure as opposed to flexibility so your knees may or may not ever rest on the floor in this pose and it’s not important that they do to receive the benefits.
If your knees are up a fair bit lift your bum up higher by sitting on some blankets or Yoga props like a bolster that will allow you to sit tall with less strain. You can also use Yoga bricks or books under your knees to ease into this pose.
In the video below I’ll walk you through Butterfly pose step by step.
If you know someone who suffers from Sciatica please forward this blog post to them.
I’m not gonna lie, very few people like stretching their hip flexors and yet it’s also commonly requested in my classes. This is likely because of our increased time spent sitting in chairs.
Spending hours a day sitting in chairs can cause of time a whole host of problems not, the least of which can be Back Pain. For more on sitting and its problems and some solutions, you can read more here.
It’s not just sitting that tightens up the hip flexors, a lot of our sports and pastimes (like biking, running and hiking) can also have an effect.
So taking a few minutes a day to do a lunge on each side can be an effective way to keep our mobility and support back health.
It’s important to back away slightly from the strongest sensation you can bare here going to your maximum is not necessary for this pose to be effective in fact the opposite is true. Only come forward to a degree that you feel sensation but can perhaps still smile.
Also not shown in the video please feel free to use blocks under your hands to give you more space in the pose which will be more comfortable for many of us (myself included). You can also walk the front leg out to the side a little and bring your hands inside the front leg (my fave way to practice).
In the video below I’ll walk you through basic lunges.
If you know someone with tight hips please, share this post with them.
Here’s to happy hips,
Tight back muscles are pretty common in my students and most often this is because of our lifestyle. Sitting at desks, driving and even most household chores require a sort of stooped forward posture. This can cause some chronic tightness in the muscles of the back.
Releasing these muscles in Yoga can be a bit tricky, downward dog does a nice job of it, but downward dog isn’t available to everyone and even for those of us who can practice it, it impossible to hold it long enough to get any real lasting relief.
So what is a Yogi to do… (cue music) never fear noodles to the rescue!
NO NO, not that kind of noodle, this kind of noodle!
Yup, a slightly modified pool noodle (like the ones that keep kids afloat in swimming pools) is a great way to spend a little quality quiet time with yourself and release tight back muscles at the same time, who knew!
If you are new to ‘noodling’ at first it can be a strong experience and may be an acquired taste, so grab your Yoga blocks, couch cushion or folded blanket to place under your bum until your body gets used to this.
In the video below I’ll walk you through noodling 101.
If you know someone who could benefit from this please forward this post to them.
Do you have tight shoulders? I hear ya, I’m also in the tight shoulder club. This particular shoulder stretch has been one of the most effective for me.
You will need some sort of strap for this pose. If you don’t have a Yoga strap you can just use a belt or an old necktie, anything to extend your reach as long as it’s not stretchy.
Since we all have different bone proportions in our shoulder joints we will each need a different width on the strap for our grip, so experiment with the width that for you feels like a stretch without being extreme.
Always make sure as you practice this you are only moving within your pain-free range of motion. You should feel better and more open after this and not worse.
And of course, if you are recovering from a shoulder injury you should always check with your health-care practitioner before attempting this.
In the video below I’ll walk you through this step by step.
Here’s To An Open Heart and Happy Shoulders!
Cat pose is a simple movement that is a great way to nurture our spine, increase blood flow, circulation and release back tension and Back Pain. Sometimes the simplest poses can be the most therapeutic.
I love to do this first thing in the morning to gently wake up my spine, or before bed. You can even do it at work if you are sore from sitting.
If your wrists are an issue for you, this can still be practiced by putting your forearms on a bolster. I also like to put a folded blanket under my knees if your knees are sensitive you can try that.
Sometimes this pose is also called cat/cow, cat/dog or spinal waves.
Either way, this pose by any other name still feels as sweet.
In the video below I’ll walk you through the how-to of Cat Pose.
If you know someone with a tight back forward this post to them
Happy practicing meow, purr purr.
Deer pose, or Mrigiasana, can be practiced with a focus on stretching the hips or as a twist. This post is about using Deer pose as a release for tight hips, you can see how to use Deer pose as a twist here.
This particular hip opener can be practiced with a short (Yang) or long (Yin) hold depending on your needs. Although I demonstrate this pose briefly in the video, you could spend anywhere from 1-5 min in the pose on each side.
Depending on your particular bone structure, one or both knees could be unhappy so if you feel discomfort in either knee, try sitting up on more height. If that doesn’t take care of the discomfort then don’t do this pose and find a different Yoga asana to release your hips. You either have the bone structure to practice this safely or not. Don’t suffer through it hoping that ‘someday’ when your hips open your knees won’t suffer in this pose. Instead just listen to your body and choose another pose.
This particular hip pose is pretty unique in that you get to explore both internal (back leg) and external (front leg) rotation of the hip joint in one Asana.
In the video below I’ll walk you through the ‘how to’ of using Deer pose as a hip opener.
You could hold each side for 1 min in a more Yang practice or for up to 5 min in a Yin practice.
Here’s to Happy Hips
If you have Back Pain or tension twists can be a powerful tool to help release tight muscles in your back. The twist we are going to explore in this post is pretty deep so if you are currently in acute pain you may want to skip this one and practice twisted reclined deer pose instead which you can find here.
However, if you are not in acute pain, have been practicing Yoga for a while and need a deeper twist this one may fit the bill.
Have some Yoga blocks and/or bolsters on hand for this one (or blankets and books work in a pinch too) to bring the floor up to you or fill space between your knees. Because this is a deep twist many of us will need the support of props.
Saying ‘Namaste’ with hands and palms touching each other at the center of our hearts is sort of a staple in Yoga classes. Sometimes a few brave students ask about it and its meaning but many students just automatically do it, without knowing the meaning behind it.
So it can become sort of a meaningless gesture that people just automatically perform at the end of class.
So what does Namaste mean? And why might we choose to do it, other than trying to look like one of the ‘cool Yoga kids’?
According to senior Yoga teacher Aadil Palkhivala:
“Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means, bow me you or I bow to you.”
This bow is not bowing down in servitude or lowering oneself, but instead, this bowing is in recognition and reverence for each other as fellow travelers on the path and an acknowledgment of our interconnectedness.
The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is an all-pervading oneness within each of us that is located in the heart center. This gesture is a way of honoring that connection and oneness within each other.
We place the hands together at the heart center in Anjali Mudra (palms touching together), close our eyes and bow our head to our heart. In some traditions it is done by first placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is a deep show of respect.
In the Western Yoga circles “Namaste” is usually said aloud with the gesture, but in India, the gesture itself means Namaste. There is no need to say the word while bowing.
In a Yoga setting whether it be a teacher and student or students practicing together, Namaste allows us to come together energetically to honor that place of connection and reverence.
We bow our heads to our own hearts and the heart connection with the others in the room. If it is done with that intention in our hearts, it can serve as a reminder that we are all one and that everyone is our teacher. To bow in humility to our own heart and the hearts of others.
Typically Namaste is done at the end of class because the mind is calmer and the energy in the room is more cohesive and resonant. Most often the teacher initiates Namaste as a symbol of gratitude and respect for their students and a way of honoring their own teachers. This is then followed by an invitation to return the gesture to the teacher, then the other students they practiced with.
Namaste is a reminder of this universal truth that we are all one when we live in our hearts.
My heart to your heart, Namaste
This particular pose was one of my most requested videos! Little bridge is another pose that can be done either as a Yang pose to strengthen the body and create energy or a Yin pose using a block for support so that you can hold the pose longer.
Many of my students love this pose and have found it very helpful for relieving lower back pain. However, no Yoga pose is good for everyone. So if you have SI joint instability or other SI issues you should always check with your healthcare practitioner before practicing this.
Our Sacrum (the triangular bone above your butt crack) has a very small amount of movement front to back. These movements are called nutation and counter-nutation. When we practice Little Bridge Pose with a block it holds our sacrum in a counter-nutation position which can feel really good for the lower back in many of us once we are out of the pose.
You’ll need a Yoga brick for this pose, often I say books can be used in place of Yoga bricks but in this case you for sure need a brick. Remember there are three heights to a Yoga brick so you can use whichever works for your proportions and flexibility.
As a bonus for many of us if we make sure our feet are Parallel and not wider than your hips you may also get a sweet little hip flexor stretch too. That’s not why we are doing the pose per say but it’s a nice bonus for those of you who get it.
In the video below I’ll walk you through the complete how-to of Little Bridge pose.
I have experienced chronic neck pain on and off for years so I have learned the hard way what works for me and what doesn’t.
Sometimes when we are experiencing neck pain our tendency can be to do really big neck stretches (I know I’ve been guilty of this) like somehow if we can really get into it it will go away. Sadly, that’s not the case. When we are dealing with chronic pain that is the worst thing we can do.
Staying in a discomfort-free range of motion that feels safe and won’t cause us to feel sore afterward is the wisest way to practice.
Brahma pose is perfect for those of us who experience chronic neck pain. As you practice along with me make sure you are moving slowly, mindfully and stopping each movement long before you ‘feel a stretch’. Less is really more here.
In the video below I’ll walk you through this step by step.
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