A common condition for many people is back pain. Nearly 8% of all adults experience some sort of back discomfort. This may be due to muscle strain, an injury or recent surgery, or other chronic back issues like arthritis.
If you have back pain, it is advised that you consult a physician for proper diagnosis and treatment. You may also ask whether or not a gentle yoga practice would help your condition. If you get the green light, here are a few yoga poses that can assist you with relieving back pain.
The first thing to remember when dealing with any type of back pain is that you want to be gentle so as not to aggravate the injury any further. The following four poses are designed to provide gradual movements, strengthening, light stretches, and tension release for added relief.
Cat / Cow Flow
This is a yoga posture that is comprised of two positions that flow together to maintain mobility in a stiff lower back. Start the movement on your hands and knees. Feel free to use a blanket or something soft under your knees and wrists for added comfort. Ensure that your wrists are aligned under your shoulders and your knees are directly underneath your hips.
Inhale and tilt your pelvis back. This will create a mild backbend. Allow your belly to relax and open your chest while tipping your chin slightly upward. This is Cow Pose. Be mindful of how much of an arch you create in your back; you do not want to add any more pressure to this part of your body. When you exhale, tuck your pelvis forward while pulling your navel up toward your spine. This will encourage your back to round. Allow your chin to tuck in toward your chest. This is Cat Pose. This will add a rounded stretch sensation along the whole length of your spine.
Continue to breathe in and out as you flow through these two poses. The slow steady movement will increase the mobility in your back while improving your flexibility. Take 10 to 20 breaths then rest. As needed, you can repeat the yoga flow sequence 2 or 3 more times.
This is a back strengthening posture that can help with generating more stability if your back feels weak due to experiencing back pain.
Begin this pose lying on your belly. Place your hands beneath your shoulders and ensure your legs are long with pointed toes behind you. When you inhale, slowly press into the floor and gradually lift your chest off your yoga mat about 10cm. As you lift, grip the mat with your fingers and create a slight tug as if you are dragging yourself forward. At the same time, activate your legs and feet by reaching toward the back of the room with your toes. This will ensure spaciousness in your low back as you are creating a mild backbend with this posture. When you exhale, draw your belly button toward your spine for core activation. This will provide added support in the pose.
Remain in Cobra Pose for 5-10 seconds while still breathing in and out. Lower yourself to the ground to relax for about 30 seconds before performing the posture again. You can repeat this yoga backbend 2 or 3 more times to provide more strength in the erector muscles. These are the stabilizing muscles of the lower back.
Child's Pose with Side Stretches
This next pose provides an opportunity for your back muscles to lightly stretch. Child's Pose can be performed anytime yet is quite effective after practicing the above yoga positions.
From Cat/Cow Flow or Cobra Pose, sit back toward your heels. For greater comfort in this pose, you may want to take your knees a bit wider than your hips. As you sit back, allow your arms to extend out in front of you. Rest your forehead on the ground or on something soft like a towel or small pillow.
This body position creates a lengthening and stretch effect through the entire back. As your arms and hands extend forward, imagine your hips reaching toward the back of the room. Hold this posture for 30 seconds to 1 minute to experience the benefit of the stretch.
After holding the position, you can add a side stretch. Reach both hands toward the left corner of your yoga mat. This will create a stretch along the right side of your body. For an added extension, reach more toward the left corner with your right hand. Feel the lengthening sensation along the rib cage from your armpit down to your hip. Take 5 to 10 breaths into that side of the body. When complete, return to center, pause, then repeat the stretch on the other side.
Supported Fish Pose
This pose is another backbend but adds an element of relaxation. You will need a large cushion or yoga bolster to practice this posture. Come to a sitting position in front of your bolster or large pillow. (If you are using a yoga bolster, position it crossways on your yoga mat.) Carefully drape yourself over the bolster. This yoga prop creates a supported backbend for a gentle stretch and tension release. For added length, be sure to extend your legs out in front of you.
Another leg posture for Supported Fish Pose is to bend your knees and have the soles of your feet touching. This creates a mild hip opener which also provides a nice release in your low back. Hold the posture for 3 to 5 minutes.
The final pose you may want to practice for back pain relief is Savasana. It is a very common yoga posture and is often performed at the end of any yoga practice. It is well suited here since it is intended to be relaxing, soothing, and meditative.
Simply lie flat on your back. Your legs will extend out in front of you while your arms relax by your side. You can use a blanket underneath you if you need extra support for your body. As best as you can, allow your entire body to relax with no muscle engagement. Often back pain is stimulated by stress and tension throughout the body. In Savasana, you are giving your body and mind the opportunity to fully release and relax.
Stay in the pose for as long as you'd like, but 5 to 10 minutes is sufficient for the benefits of the posture. As mentioned, you can practice this pose after the above-described positions or you can perform this pose on its own. Experiment with this and the other poses for 7 days. Record how effective these yoga postures are for providing relief to your back pain.
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