Back pain is on the rise, which is no real surprise given how many people spend the majority of their days sitting at a desk and driving everywhere. Being sedentary is bad for the back, but it can also be tough on the spine to go from a day of sitting to an intense workout. Keep your spine happy with these 4 yoga poses and see why so many people swear by yoga for back pain.
If you have any kind of spine problem, consult your health care practitioner prior to doing yoga or other exercises. Be especially careful to avoid deep forward bends if you have a herniated or bulging disc in the lower back. Do not do headstands if you have cervical spinal issues.
While you do these yoga stretches, be sure to breathe deeply, in and out of your nose if possible. Holding your breath as you move can lead to a lack of oxygen in your muscles, causing them to tense up, cramp or spasm.
1. Supine Hamstring Stretch (Supta Padangusthasana)
Lay down on your back and bend your right knee into your chest. Place a strap or rolled-up towel around the ball of your foot and then straighten your leg toward the ceiling. Press against the towel with your right heel and into the floor with your left.
Hold the stretch for three minutes and then switch sides. If your lower back feels uncomfortably strained during this pose, bend your left knee and put your foot flat on the ground when you’re lifting your right leg (and vice versa).
It is important in this pose to remember to push the straight leg away from your body against the resistance of the strap, rather than pulling your foot toward your body.
2. Two-Knee Twist
Lay on your back with both knees pulled up to your chest. Put your arms out to create a T shape, with the back of your arms against the floor. Exhale and lower your knees down to the right, to the ground, keeping your shoulders firmly against the ground the whole time. Hold the stretch for a minute or two, return to centre, and then repeat on the other side.
If you find that your shoulder lifts as you do this stretch, move your knees a little further away from your arm as you lower them to the ground.
The sphinx is one of the most easily recognised poses in yoga for back pain. It is particularly good for strengthening core muscles and back muscles while encouraging blood flow.
Lay on your stomach this time, and prop your body up using your forearms. Your elbows should be directly beneath your shoulders, the same width apart, with your palms flat on the floor. Breathe out as you press down through your palms and the tops of your feet and press your pubic bone forward. Breathe deeply in and out as you hold the pose for a minute or two.
4. Legs Up Wall (Viparita Karani)
This stretch is great for relaxing your lower spine muscles, and for encouraging venous return to prevent varicose veins! Try it after a long day on your feet, or after a tough workout.
Even better, it’s as simple as lying on your side and scooting your buttocks up against a wall. Next, swing your legs up the wall so you are lying on your back with your heels against the wall. Relax your legs to allow the wall to support their weight. Hold the position for 5-10 minutes.
Yoga for Back Pain – How it Helps
Yoga can help correct postural alignment issues, enhance your flexibility, and strengthen your core muscles that support your spine. This makes yoga an effective tool for preventing and managing back pain throughout life. Some physicians even prescribe yoga for back pain! Click here for an awesome online yoga course!
Several studies have shown yoga to be effective at reducing pain in chronic conditions. In one study, people with chronic back pain who attended a one week intensive yoga retreat had greater improvements in flexion and extension, and decreased pain-related disability compared to those doing comparable physical exercises (Tekur et al., 2012).
If you have a spine condition and decide to give yoga a try, look out for a practitioner who specializes in yoga for back pain. And, as always, be sure to check with your doctor before doing any new exercise.
Tekur, P., Nagarathna, R., Chametcha, S., et al. (2012). A comprehensive yoga programs improves pain, anxiety and depression in chronic low back pain patients more than exercise: an RCT. Complement Ther Med, Jun;20(3):107-18.