A Short Yoga Routine to Relieve Lower Back Pain
By Abi Carver
“An important principle to embrace is that pain is typically a good thing as it can help us identify something in our lives that is not good for our long term health.” – Dr Mercola
The Good And Bad News
Let’s start with the bad news. Back pain affects as many as 8 out of 10 people in the United States.
The good news is that, if you are one of the many people who suffer, a short, simple yoga routine practiced every couple of days could completely alleviate your discomfort.
What Causes Back Pain?
One of the leading causes of chronic lower-back pain is a sedentary lifestyle. Human beings were designed to run, jump, climb, hunt, gather and play, but instead, we sit to eat, sit to commute, sit at work and then sit in front of the television when we get home.
Spending so much time in the seated position shortens the hamstrings and hip flexors, putting immense stress on our lower backs.
How Does Yoga Heal Back Pain?
Yoga relieves back pain in a number of different ways:
- Yoga releases tension in tight muscles.
- Yoga loosens up connective tissues surrounding the bones and joints.
- Yoga builds strength in the stabilizer muscles that support the spine.
- Yoga moves the joints through full range of motion, bringing fresh nutrients, oxygen and blood to the cartilage.
- Yoga increases hip mobility – tight hips are one of the main causes of back pain.
- Yoga increases flexibility in the hamstrings, which – when shortened – puts stress on the lower back.
- Yoga promotes body awareness so that you are better able to recognize and treat aches and pains.
- Yoga incorporates conscious breathing techniques, which allow the body to relax, releasing tension around painful areas.
- Yoga improves posture and alignment.
- Yoga reduces stress and anxiety, which can also be causes of back pain.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Yoga Practice
If you suffer from chronic back pain, I strongly advise you see a physical therapist to guide you in your rehabilitation and to check if it is safe for you to follow this routine.
I have broken down the sequence into short videos and pictures so that you can take it at your own pace and to help you in the learning process. When you come to each pose, move mindfully, in any way that relieves tension and discomfort, swaying from side to side and modifying the pose to suit your own individual areas of tightness and misalignment. Be careful not to just switch off and follow the sequence mindlessly. Instead, pay attention to how each pose can offer you the most significant relief.
Some of the poses are fairly advanced, so don’t feel you have to master the whole sequence on your first time through. Take it slow and be careful not to overstretch or move your body in a way that increases your discomfort.
Repeat this routine every few days to keep your back pain at bay.
Begin each yoga session with a few deep breaths in and out through your nose to relax your body, calm your mind and bring your full attention to the routine.
Warm up your spine and the backs of your legs with a couple of half sun salutations. As you swan dive down, keep your back flat and bend your knees as much as you need to as you come into a standing forward bend.
Stay in ragdoll for as long as you’d like, swaying from side to side and releasing your spine with every exhalation. Again, you can bend your knees as much as you need to.
Alternating between cat and cow pose increases mobility along the entire length of the spine and stretches the neck, shoulders, back and abs.
In downward dog, it is perfectly fine to keep your knees bent. First, focus on stretching your spine and, over time, your calves and hamstrings will start to lengthen. Instead of forcing your heels down towards the mat, walk out your feet to gradually increase the flexibility and suppleness in the backs of your legs.
This mini core sequence strengthens the abs, obliques and lower back muscles. You can stay in each of the poses for up to 10 breaths, in and out through your nose, but correct form is of primary importance, so build up slowly to lengthen holds.
In high lunge, focus on dropping your pelvis and bringing your front thigh parallel to the mat as you start to open up your hips.
Take as long as you need to in low lunge, lizard and pigeon pose, moving in any way that relieves areas of tightness. Breathe deeply in the poses as you start to feel your entire pelvic area release and realign.
Half Reclining Hero
Half reclining hero is an intense quad stretch. Start on your elbows and progress to the full version of the pose only when you feel ready. If you find this pose difficult at first, raise your hips up on a cushion or folded blanket.
Bridge and Wheel
Bridge and wheel are intense backbends that stretch the spine and strengthen the entire body. Wheel is very advanced, so build up to it slowly, starting with just a few breaths and progressing to longer holds as you gain confidence.
Reclining Spinal Twist
Reclining spinal twist realigns and releases your spine. We finish with a short body scan meditation to allow the adjustments in your body to sink in.
Full Back Pain Routine
Please let me know if you have any questions about the sequence or if you would like any advice in personalizing the poses to alleviate your own specific areas of pain or discomfort.
About the Author
Abi Carver is a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Instructor and NASM Qualified Personal Trainer. She has just launched “Yoga 15”, an app that combines the two for home practice. She is passionate about helping men and women create a yoga habit that supports them physically and mentally, at home and at work. She is also passionate about healthy, ethical eating and maintaining a robust rest and rejuvenation practice.
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