I have a confession before we dive into this soothing article . . .
I caused my own sciatica.
Yes, you read that right. I unknowingly developed sciatica from an overzealous, unsafe, ego-driven yoga practice.
I strived to nail every yoga pose, to go as deep as possible, to attempt advanced postures without properly warming up, and in turn, my body shut down. It stopped being the bendy pretzel it once was.
My body had had enough.
And eventually, after months of subtle pain that led to debilitating pain, I too had enough.
This is where my journey to healing began.
So what the hell is sciatica?
Sciatica is a condition that causes tenderness/pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve line. And guess what – the sciatic nerve is the longest damn nerve in the body (no wonder it’s such a troublemaker).
The sciatic nerve starts at the lower spinal cord, weaves through the deep layers of the buttocks, down the back of the thigh, along the outer edge of the leg, and all the way into the foot.
As I said, it’s a long-ass nerve – about half the length of your body long!
Your next obvious question should be, what causes sciatica?
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, I don’t have any medical certifications, and I’m a fresh out of the oven yoga teacher. I’m wholeheartedly sharing my experience, my pain, and my journey to healing to inspire your journey. Please take what you need from this and leave what you don’t.
That being said, I will shed some light on what I’ve discovered through my journey of sciatica. And trust me, I’ve discovered a lot . . .
Sciatica is caused by two common culprits – the lumbar spine and the piriformis muscle.
If you’re a total anatomy newbie – like I was and still am – let me further explain those two culprits.
The lumbar spine is the lower back area that connects the thoracic spine (middle to upper back) and the sacral spine (the tailbone).
The piriformis is a sneaky muscle located deep within the buttock, it attaches your sacrum to the top of your femur (thigh) bone.
It’s important to understand the difference between these two in order to locate where the pain is originating from and then how to heal this pain.
If the pain is starting from the lumbar spine and aggravating the sciatic nerve here, then you’re dealing with sciatica. But if the pain is starting in the booty area and then aggravating the sciatic nerve, then you’re dealing with piriformis syndrome.
And to make it even more confusing – a lot of people experience both scenarios, both lumbar and piriformis pain (I fall into this category).
So how do we heal our beautiful selves?
Well for starters – we cut out any ego-driven bullshit and learn how to listen to your body. And when I say listen, I mean TRULY turn on your inner guide, tune into the subtleties of the body, and then outwardly practice yoga with this awareness.
Cut out the deep backbends, the advanced whatever, put your knees down, take child’s pose frequently, and start to use yoga as medicine (its true purpose).
You got all that?
Okay . . . back to our scheduled programming.
There are a handful of methods to healing your nerve pain and there’s no right or wrong path, except for not starting down a path. I also highly recommend speaking to a medical professional before you make any drastic decisions.