Marda Zechiel, Yoga Manager
Are you suffering from chronic or occasional back pain? Multiple studies have shown that yoga can be the solution to relieving back soreness if particular attention is given to the correct muscular usage and alignment. In fact, several studies have discovered that yoga can be even more beneficial than the usual care for back pain when it comes to improving back function. According to a study published in the journal, Archives of Internal Medicine, people who took yoga or stretching classes are twice as likely to cut back on pain medications for their back aches as people who managed symptoms on their own.
There are certain yoga postures that can stretch and strengthen your muscles and return your back to its proper alignment.
*It is always a good idea to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you are prone to pain. Once you receive the approval of your doctor, try these soothing poses in the sequence below.*
A great way to begin or wind down your day. Start on all fours on your hands and knees. Bring your knees as wide as your mat with your big toes touching. Then, stretch your arms out in front of you, sinking your hips down on your heels and resting your forehead on the mat. Hold for 10 breaths.
Table Top to Cow and Cat pose
Come up from Child’s pose and position knees under hip bones and wrists under shoulders, aligning or stacking your joints into Table Top position. You can start by dropping your head and letting your neck muscles relax. As you inhale, go into Cow pose by lifting your head and tailbone and letting your belly drop toward the floor. Keep your shoulders down and away from your ears. As you exhale, come into Cat pose by pulling your belly up, rounding your spine toward the ceiling and tucking your chin toward your chest.
Continue to synchronize these movements with your breath or spend a few extra breaths in Cow, as this really helps to open the lower back. Take 5-10 breaths here.
Downward Facing Dog
From Table Top, tuck your toes and begin to straighten your legs and lift your hips, coming into an inverted “V” shape. Move your hands forward slightly if needed and actively push the floor away. If you feel back pain beyond a gentle stretch, or if your spine rounds due to short hamstrings, try bending your knees and pressing your chest towards your thighs. Move gently in the pose for a few breaths, bending and straightening legs and then hold for 5-10 breaths.
Standing forward bend or Rag Doll
From Downward Facing Dog, walk your feet toward your hands, bringing them hip distance apart. Bend your knees slightly and fold your torso over your thighs, touching your belly to your legs if possible. Allow your arms to hang toward the floor or grab your elbows with the opposite hand. Let your head hang freely. Stay here for 10 breaths.
Plank to Cobra or Upward Facing Dog
Cobra pose-from a Plank, lower to your belly and position your hands under your shoulders. As you inhale, press your hands into mat and lift your chest. Keep your core engaged (drawing your belly button to your spine) and point your toes so that your knee caps lift off the mat.
Upward Facing Dog pose-if Cobra feels like it is enough, stay with this pose. If you want to move into Upward Facing Dog, press into the mat, further straightening your arms and keeping your wrists under shoulders. Press the tops of your feet and hands into the flooras they are the only points in contact with the mat. Make sure to keep an engaged core, draw shoulders back and lift sternum forward.
Come back to Downward Facing Dog for a few breaths and then complete this sequence with Child’s pose.
The above series can get you started. If you are newer to yoga, do this sequence once or twice a day, trying to stay in each posture for the recommended breaths. If you have any questions about these poses, please ask any of your GATC Yoga instructors. We would be happy to help!