When I was sixteen, I suffered horribly from lower back pain. I went to the doctor and was prescribed valium, muscle relaxers, and giant horse pills to relieve the pain. Though the symptoms were treated, the actual problem was not. My mom was taking yoga classes at the local gym and I began going with her. After a few months my back pain had greatly subsided! It’s been years since I’ve started doing yoga, but I can now do plow pose, which was utterly impossible at the beginning of my yoga journey! This is a sequence to help ease back pain and strengthen the back muscles. Remember to only push yourself as far as you can go comfortably while getting a good stretch. As your practice continues over time you will become more flexible in your spine to where you can do more advanced poses with ease (there is still work involved, but it should never be painful).
All poses should be held for at least one minute (or as long as your body allows it relatively comfortably), the longer you hold the pose the more benefit and stretch you will get out of it. Keep your breathing steady.
Begin with Mountain pose. Plant your feet firmly into the ground, raise your arms and breathe in. Elongate your spine and breathe deeply for at least one minute.
Forward fold by bending at the hips—not the spine, clasping your elbows with your hands. Gently hang, and feel your spine begin to loosen.
Slowly come up back into mountain pose vertebrae by vertebrae. Your head should be the last thing to come up out of the fold.
Slowly bend backwards and arch your back into half moon back bend (ardha chandrasana).
Go back into mountain pose and then forward fold, this time leaving your arms outstretched. Bend as far as possible without causing pain. If you are really flexible you may be able to put your hands under your feet, but do not push your body if you can’t do it. Flexibility will come in time.
Walk your hands out, or lightly jump your legs backwards to go into Downward Dog. The goal is to have your heels touch the floor and hands flat, while the body remains in a triangle position. Keep flattening out the small of your back to press into your heels. If your heels don’t touch the floor that is fine, just keep pressing your heels down to achieve a nice stretch in the calves. There should be no tension in the neck during this pose. Remember to breathe deeply.
(Bubba is my grandma’s lovely rescued pooch! He was once abused and has learned to trust again through plenty of love and tender care. If you are thinking about getting a pet, please save a life and adopt from your local shelter.)
Get on your hands and knees. Hands should be shoulder width apart and knees hip width apart. As you breathe out, round your back and press all air out of the body. This is called Cat Pose. Breathe in and let the belly fill with air, while arching the back into Cow Pose. This is one of the best sequences for back pain, and will really help the spine to gain flexibility.
Pigeon Pose is one of my favorite stretches. You begin by taking one leg behind you and another leg folded in front of your body. Fold over the front leg. Repeat on the other side.
Go into Upward Facing Dog by first laying your body down, belly on the ground, then pushing your arms up with the chest active and held high. If your back can handle it, activate your legs and lift them with feet pointed.
Sage’s Pose gently twists the spine. Sitting upright, cross the right leg over the left and place your bent right elbow upon your knee. Place your left hand slightly behind you and gently twist. Repeat on the other side.
Seated Cow with Eagle arms loosens tension in the upper back. Stack your legs on top of each other like little arrows, and twist your arms over one another. Repeat with the opposite leg on top and opposite arm on top.
Go into Bridge Pose by lying on your back and bending your knees, lifting your buttocks and lower back while the shoulders remain on the floor. If you are able, take hold of your ankles. If not, keep your hands on the floor.
Lie down and go into Fish Pose. Clasp your hands together and arch your lower back as much as possible. When you are finished lay flat on the ground to let your back rest.
Sit on your knees and lay down with either your arms in front of you or behind you, whichever is most comfortable. This is Child’s Pose and is extremely relaxing. Remain here as long as you’d like.
Finish your session by hugging the knees to the chest and gently rocking back and forth to massage your spine. Lay flat afterwards and relax for a few minutes to allow the work of your practice to sink into the body.
(Isn’t my little sister the cutest?! Do not attempt this next pose at home ;P )
All photos courtesy my beautiful mother, Amy Sorvillo.
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