Practicing yoga is often used to help with pain prevention and management. Using a gentle yoga sequence to target the nerves and protect their ability to send signals throughout the body is important. Pain science continues to offer new information and those who use yoga can now use modern research to help them create sequences that can target any nerves that cause pain.
Current research is showing that gently moving the nerves can assist in pain management as well as the overall wellbeing of the nervous system. If healthy nerves can slide, stretch, and angulate inside of their neural tissues, then they can adapt to different loads and pressures that can make chronic pain worse.
The ability to adapt can also change sensations as well as create new pain patterns. Maintaining and improving blood flow means better nerve signals to the brain and reduced pain issues.
Understanding the Best Yoga for Nerves
As we grow and age, our nerves can benefit from yoga that helps them be adaptable and keeps them protected. The Asana technique works well as it is based on neurodynamics and the pathways of nerves. Neurodynamics is the study of how nerves move through their surrounding tissue.
Putting tension on the various nerve endings can create the movement of the nerve through the tissue. This is called nerve gliding; you are flossing the nerve so its communication with the brain is effective. Many yoga poses do this well.
They can also target inflammatory issues, increase blood flow to a healthy level, and work on making sure the communication pathways between the body and brain are working well. Ideal signaling is critical to having the immune and nervous systems that work well and are performing optimally.
The key to working on nerve health is to do nerve gliding gently and with a range of motion that is simple. There is no need to aim for intense sensation or stretching. It should be gentle and flowing as well as being a way to work with pain that is safe and accessible. A gentle sequence to target the nerves means it can help all who want assistance. It is yoga for beginners all the way up to the most experienced.
Creating a Sequence Consisting of Neurodynamic Movement
When looking to create or follow a sequence that will target the body’s nerves, there are steps to follow. The goal is to work on a particular nerve with an easy pose that has a good range of motion, is pain-free, and does not include intensive stretching. Each of these poses in the sequence should be done 5-10 times at least once per day (twice if time allows).
If a student is trying to use Gentle Yoga to work on prevention as well, then they can be added into a longer regular sequence a few times per week. Here are some suggestions for a gentle sequence to target the body’s nerves.
Supta Padangusthasana – Reclining Hand to Big Toe Pose
This pose will target the sciatic nerve which is the biggest and longest nerve that you have. It goes all the way from the lower back to the feet. It can be very painful when irritated. This happens frequently for many and can be debilitating. Working on prevention and caring for this nerve is beneficial.
Begin by lying on your back and bend the right knee while the same side foot is flexed. This will move the sciatic nerve towards the end of the foot. After this, then extend the bent knee as if to straighten the leg up.
Your leg does not have to be completely straight. Point the toes to move the sciatic nerve to your spine. The foot can be held by the hand or a band/towel. Do not push, just do this gently. Repeat 5-10 times and switch sides.
Marjaryasana-Bitilasana – Cat-Cow Pose with variation
The target for this pose is the spinal cord which is the main nerve of your central nervous system that goes from your brain stem down to the lower back. Flexing the spine increases pressure on the spinal column’s nerve so doing movements that go opposite to that will have a flossing effect on it.
Start with the Cat Pose and then look up so your neck is in extension. Gently move to the cow pose. Hold and then tuck your chin in so your neck is in flexion. Do not push this as you want to find a range of motion that is easy. This should be repeated 5-10 times.
Salamba Bhujangasana – Sphinx Pose with variation
The femoral nerve that goes along the front of the hips and thighs is the focus of this pose. The stretch is targeted but should not be pushed. Only stretch as far as is comfortable. Overstretching can cause discomfort.
Move from the Cat-Cow pose to the Sphinx pose. Once set in the Sphinx, then lift one leg while you look up. Then lower the leg as you bring your chin in. Doing this pose with an easy range of motion will help rejuvenate the nerve. It is important if you want to keep your mid to lower back healthy as well as the front of the hips. Do this 5-10 times and then change sides.
Anjaneyasana – Low Lunge
This pose will target two nerves at once. The femoral and sciatic nerve will both benefit from this pose. The back leg movement will focus on the femoral nerve that is at the front of the hip and the front leg movement finds it focus on the sciatic nerve that is on the back of the leg.
Begin with Low Lunge, putting your right knee down as the head is lifted to look straight ahead. Once set, then move your hips back so the left leg straightens. It does not have to be completely straight. Round your spine and then tuck in the chin to the knee. Do this 5-10 times as you are comfortable and then change sides and repeat.
Virabhadrasana II – Warrior Pose II with variation
Working to target the median nerve, the Warrior Pose II is a great yoga pose. The median nerve is a nerve that often is irritated in the hands and arms. It is the pressure on this nerve that causes issues such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. It is a good pose to help with this issue along with any other wrist and arm pain.
Begin by standing in Warrior II facing out on your right side. With both arms out to the side, have the palms face out towards the long edge of the mat you are on. Direct your right-hand fingers to the back but have the palm still face forward.
Direct your left-hand fingers to the front while maintaining the position of the palm to the front as well. Lean the head to the right while you do this. Repeat 5-10 times and then do it in reverse. Change the hand positions and lean the head to the left. Do this 5-10 times as well.
Apanasana – Knees to Chest Pose
This pose is used to target the nerves in your lower back as well as your hips. It works by gently relieving tension.
This yoga pose is relaxing and gentle in its ability to stretch without too much tension on the nerves. Begin the pose by laying on the mat with your back on the ground. Put both feet on the floor so they are flat, and knees are both bent. If your back is tender in any way, then feel free to use a blanket or double up on yoga mats. This will help to make sure there is no sense of pain or bruising.
Pay attention to your breathing and on an exhale pull your knees up towards your chest and then hold with your hands just below the knee joint. This pose can be adjusted depending on flexibility. If you are comfortable and flexible, then you can also do the pose with your arms wrapped around the knees, so you are holding on to your opposite elbows. There is no need to do this if you cannot. It is optional when it comes to the pose.
Make sure that the back is pressed flat to the ground and that glutes and hips are also on the mat. Think about lengthening your spine to keep them down. Do not pull your shoulders up to your ears either. Focus on letting any tension go so they are down on the mat as well.
Further work on the nerves can come with rocking side to side or backward and forwards. Again, this is only if you are able and there is no pain or pressure in doing it. It will give a light and gentle massage. Hold the pose for 30 seconds or however long is comfortable, then release, relax, and repeat.