Pain in the back seems to be something a lot of people are just getting used to. But at what cost? Back, hip, and joint pain can be early signs of osteoporosis. Standing desks, sun lamps for Vitamin D, and ergonomically correct chairs are growing in popularity to minimize working people’s back, bone, and body harm. Yoga is something we can do to care for our bones for free.
Mild to severe chronic pain is so common that 1 in 3 American women experiences chronic pain, as do 1 in 4 American men. A lot of this pain originates in the spine. When is this pain an indicator of a need or our body asking for attention? Sitting on a train, 80% of adults sitting around you will experience lower back pain. Back disease runs in my family, and I spend more time on the computer than my parents did. I cherish my yoga practice for its physical and preventative health benefits. These are yoga poses for lower back pain that have brought restoration to my body in big ways after stress, trauma, typing, and texting have compromised my back health. They feel as good as they look. Thank you, YogaRIOT for providing this beautiful space for back restoration.
Cat & Cow
Breath is a huge part of yoga. In Cat – Cow, you move to and from each pose with your breath. On all fours set your palms on the ground lined up under your shoulders. With your knees about shoulder distance apart exhale fully, drop your head towards your chest, tuck your tailbone in towards your belly button, and make your chest and stomach into an arch to come into Cat. Stretch your elongated spine up towards the ceiling slowly through your deep and full exhale. Inhale deeply into Cow as you lift your shoulders back, bringing your head up towards the wall in front of you and shining your heart forward. Push your hips up and bottom back towards the back of the room in a wide expansive back, shoulder, and hip opener. This whole pose is one long inhale. Each inhale and exhale is one breath. Allow yourself the space to benefit fully from your practice by breathing continuously and deeply.
Lay flat on your back and place the palms of your feet together. Pull your feet towards your pelvic muscle and rest them on the floor with your knees out towards the sides. Allow gravity to do its work. Use your breath and core and leg muscles to press your knees closer to the floor. Follow your breath and rest. You are a butterfly resting on a leaf.
Then sit down on your mat or the floor and place your feet right in front of your thighs, knees together. Wrap your arms around your legs bringing those feet as close to your body as you can today. Sit up straight lengthening your spine and gaze upward and forward. Breathe and rest here for 8 breaths.
Let your legs relax as you lay on your stomach and place your elbows close to your body and palms flat on the ground. Allow the base of your spine up to the crown of your head to be your space in this pose. Look up. Stretch your head or shoulders side to side gently as you need to and breathe here, gently opening up your lower back.
Sitting on your knees, spread your knees hip distance apart, and relax your bottom toward your feet as you bring your torso down, forehead on the mat and arms reached out in front of you. This is a resting pose that serves as a counter pose to Bow. Stay here as long as you like.
Resting in forward fold bring your hands to your elbows, and let your head hang heavy. Shine your heart up towards the left and as you inhale bring your arms up in a circular motion. At the top of the pose, with your head and heart shining straight up, continue your inhale, and as you start down the right side of the circle, exhale completely. Let the knee your face is hovering over bend slightly as you get there in the rotation. Come around to the bottom of your forward fold again, and, as you come up a second time on the left, inhale completely. Move with your breath. As you reach the top of the pose, inhale. As you begin to rotate to the right again, begin your exhale. Repeat for a third time then reverse which arm is on top and the direction you are rotating, this time from forward fold rotating in a circle clockwise beginning on the right. Bend your knee slightly as you glide over it. Repeat 3 times.
Come onto your back and rest for a few breaths. Feel your vertebrate on the floor. Bring your legs up high into the air supporting your lower back with your hands. Pull your legs over your head bringing your knees towards your forehead and toes towards the mat. If you can, plant your feet on the mat up above your head. Your hands can either continue to support you in the pose by holding your low back, or you may lace them together and press the outsides of your hands into the ground for support. This is a closed hip pose, so keep your knees close together and feet no more than shoulder length apart. For those who aren’t quite there yet, Deaf Man’s Pose is a great inversion to do here, as well no matter how close your knees get to the ground.
Laying on your back, tuck your chin gently towards your chest. Breathe fully and continuously. Bend your knees towards your armpits and grip the outside of your feet. Hold your feet, bringing your knees away from each other and towards your armpits. Relax your neck and shoulders. Rock gently from side to side in this pose. This is a restorative pose. There is never a wrong time to go to Happy Baby. After all, babies do this all the time!
Lay on your back. Let the energy at the tips of your fingers and toes go. Let the worries slide off your eyelashes and cheekbones. Breathe and thank yourself for what you just did for your body. Relax your vertebrate, line your hips up comfortably and let them rest in place. Lay your hands out towards your sides, palms towards the sky. Relax your neck. As you breathe deeply, relax your shoulders. Think of each muscle in your body from toes to head and consciously choose to relax each of them, one by one.
Your back is healing and happy. You are gaining endurance, muscle, patience and years in your life. Keep your practice. Join a studio if you want the structure! You are worth it.
Also by Alyse: 3 Yoga Breathing Exercises for Stress Relief
Related: 8 Ways to Use Yoga Props at Home
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Photos: Alyse Toulouse