This tutorial was previously published on March 13, 2017.
Is back pain the bane of your existence? It’s the number one complaint I have from clients, friends, and family. Severe back pain can mean a serious problem if there has been an injury to the discs or muscles, but the most common back pain is simply from sitting too long or bad posture. Strengthening the core muscles does help, but that’s more of a long term solution. Sometimes our backs are screaming at us after a long day and we need immediate relief. Inversions, postures where the heart is placed above the head, decompress the spine which can provide enormous relief for back pain. The trick is you need to stay in each pose long enough to allow the muscles to release and create space between the vertebrae. Hold each pose for 1-2 minutes at first, working up to more. When you are starting, frequency is more important than the duration of time in each pose. Eventually, your back pain will diminish and in most cases, completely go away. We spend almost all our lives compressing the spine. Why not treat your back to these 4 pain relieving inversions?
1. Extended Puppy Pose– Great for elongating the spine and giving your shoulders a gentle stretch. Start on all fours, making sure your hips are above your knees and your shoulders above your wrists. Walk your hands forward as your forehead lowers to the ground. Keep lengthening the spine by pulling your hips slightly towards your heels and pressing your hands into the floor. Your elbows should not touch the ground. Breathe as you lengthen the spine. Pull your abs in while allowing your lower back to still have a slight curve.
2. Standing Forward Fold– This is my favorite stretch for the entire spine that includes a full release for the neck. Stand with your feet in parallel and hip distance apart. Bend forward at the hips, allowing your hands to rest on the ground. If this is not possible, cross your arms and hold onto your elbows. If your hamstrings are so tight you can’t relax the back, soften your knees. One of my favorite things to do in this position is gently shake my head “No” to each side. This helps to release any tension in the neck. To come out of this pose, roll up one vertebrae at a time until you come up to a standing position.
3. Forward Fold on a Chair– A simple pose can be done at work, at home or anywhere you have a chair. I’ve even done it in airplanes when my back hurts. It’s just like the Forward Bend except you’re sitting down. This is a less intense version that eliminates any strain on the legs. Sit on a chair with feet flat on the ground and your legs spread wider than hip width. Fold forward at the waist so that your arms and torso fall in between your thighs. You may completely relax the arms onto the ground or cross your arms holding onto your elbows. Gently shake your head “No” to each side to release the neck even more.
4. Supported Shoulder Stand– In yoga, the full shoulder stand away from a wall is extremely beneficial, but requires more strength to hold than doing it against a wall. I’ve chosen to use a wall for this pose for a safer version. This pose should be avoided if you have any neck injuries. Lie down on the floor with your legs up a wall. Press your feet against the wall and bend your knees as you lift your hips as high as you can. You will be balancing your weight on your shoulders. Keep your arms on the floor, reaching long towards the wall, or place your hands behind your back to support your torso in a more vertical position.
My mom would always tell me that I should hang upside down to avoid getting gray hairs. I thought she was joking, but as it turns out, inversions do bring oxygen and nutrient rich blood flow to the brain, face, and scalp. With that comes clearer skin, healthier hair, and mental clarity. Back pain or not, inversions are what our bodies need!
Have you tried doing inversions lately?
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Photo: Crystal Chin