When you have chronic low back pain, it begins to affect your ability to enjoy day to day activities. Whether you sit in front of a desk all day, drive a lot, busy with house work, work in labour or have kids to chase around; chances are you experience or have experienced the crippling effect of pain in the low back.
Now it's important to realize that in order to manage low back pain, you need to combine poses that stretch the low back, as well as strengthen the low back muscles, to offer the lumbar spine more support. I've picked out some of my favourite yoga poses to help get you out of pain. You'll notice that I've placed some of the postures into pairs, as they are best done together, however not necessary except in the case of this first pair: cat & cow pose;
Cat & Cow Pose
These poses are intended to be done together in succession with the breath, inhaling into the cow pose and exhaling into the cat pose. This simple movement stretches the entire back as well as abdonmen and hips. It increases spinal and mobility.Be sure to have the wrists directly below the shoulders and knees below hips. Focus on length while arching and rounding the spine, using the breath to move through the movements and improve flexibility, range of motion and stretching the entire back. Tip: Run through at least 5 rounds of breath (5 breath in to cow, 5 breath out to cat)
With this one pose you can stretch the entire back, decompress the spine and lengthen the hamstrings. Focus on relaxing the upper back, pressing into the fingertips while reaching the tailbone up to the sky and back. Sink into the heels, bending the knees if needed to ensure a long spine.
Apanasana & Supine Twist
Apanasana or knee to chest is the perfect feel good stretch, it lengthens the spine while stretching the low back, similar to childs pose, but without the worry of bearing weight on the knees. You can also press the arch of the back into the ground and rock gently from side to side providing a massage for that low back area.
From your knee to chest pose you can move right into your supine twist, lowering one, or both knees over to one side. If you have chronic pain, it's important to move into this pose slowly, lowering onto a pillow to reduce intensity. Once you start to give into the pose you'll be amazed as you feel the release of tension in the low back even hearing the odd pop or click as you release built up pressure between the vertebrae , decompressing and lengthening the spine.
Bonus* Both poses are great for digestion!
Reclined Pigeon Stretch & Hamstring Stretch
When we have tightness in the hips or hamstrings, we often compensate the lack of flexibility and movement in those areas by calling upon the low back to help. This puts extra stress and strain on the low back. Both the poses above help to relieve tension in the hips and hamstrings as well as the low back, all while lengthening the spine. Instant relievers for me!
The reclined pigeon stretch is great for stretching out the outer and inner hips while providing a low back stretch (bonus relief for sciatica). The hand to big toe pose or hamstring stretch helps to lengthen the hamstrings and provide low back relief. Don't have a yoga strap? Grab a towel and roll it up. Tip* be sure to keep the shoulders relaxed and away from the ears in both postures. Try for 30 second intervals, eventually moving to 2 minutes each leg.
This pose tones the spine and strengthens the back muscles while bringing spine back to its normal curvature. We sit a lot, which flattens the low back, losing that natural curve, this flattening is where a lot of low back pain comes from.
Be sure to reach the tailbone and crown of the head in opposite direction, getting maximum length and don't hunch the shoulders towards the ears.
Hold for 15 second increments, eventually moving to 1 full minute.
Bridge Pose & Plough Pose
Bridge pose is a great beginners yoga pose for those suffering with low back pain. This pose strengthens the core muscles while stretching the back and hips. Begin with slow movements using the breath to open up some space, exhaling as you lift up into the pose and inhale as you lower. After 4 rounds of this, lift into the pose and see if you can hold for 4 full breaths.
Plough pose is one of my favourite poses for stretching the low back and fees great after working the back and core in bridge pose. Come into it by lifting int bridge and bending the elbows to support the low back, lift the legs up and over the head, letting them float or allowing the feet to touch down on the floor behind as your flexibility improves. Be sure not to look around or move the neck in this pose. Try for 4 breaths. Alternative pose for beginners is to prop a pillow under the low back and lay
on your back with your legs up the wall. Legs up the wall can be held 1-3 minutes. Bonus improves circulation.
Remember to always listen to your body, always refraining from any stretches that make the pain worse or difficult to take full steady breaths. Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise routine and ensure the back pain is not from something more serious, such as a slipped disc, sciatica nerve damage or a number or other medical conditions that should be treated with other interventions besides yoga.
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