In the United States, lower back pain is one of the most common ailments. How many of us run to our doctors to complain of mild discomfort to severe pain? Pain medication helps, but it doesn't fix the source of the problem.
More often than not, chronic back pain is the result of injury or lifestyle habits. Sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, and lack of exercise all contribute to poor spinal health, which can lead to chronic lower back pain or sciatica over time. Since most of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives, it's a good idea to start doing restorative yoga poses to help heal your spine and prevent further damage.
Try this yoga sequence each day to strengthen your back muscles, improve core strength, and relieve pressure in your spine and connective tissue.
1. Child's Pose
Balasana, or the commonly-known child's pose, is one of the best all-around restorative yoga poses. It is often used as a beginning pose or a rest between more challenging poses. Not only will it gently stretch the spine, but it also relieves tension in the neck, shoulders, and hips.
How To Do It: Begin in tabletop position on all fours. Sit back towards your heels and stretch your arms far in front of you. In order to make this position effective, practice deep breathing. If unsure how long each breath should be, use this guide.
2. Cat & Cow Pose
This is my favorite pose for back pain, because you will notice a huge release pressure as you complete a few rounds. It's a great way to decompress the disks in your spine and give your back full range of motion from the low back to the neck.
How To Do It: Start in tabletop with shoulders directly over wrists and hips tracking over knees. Press your shoulders and spine upwards, tucking belly button in and arching your back like a cat. Breathe out. Next, lower belly button towards the floor while lifting head and buttocks. Breath in. Repeat the sequence until your spine feels loose and neutral.
3. Downward-Facing Dog Pose
You're not likely to go to a yoga class that doesn't have this pose included. While downward-facing dog is a back stretch, it primarily stretches connective tissue in the hamstrings and calves, which will lead to better back health.
How To Do It: Once again, begin from tabletop but this time push up into a v-shape with bum in the air, arms outstretched, and heels intending towards the floor. Pedal the feet if the stretch is too intense at first. Always make sure to take a deep breath before exiting this pose, as the blood in your body has begun to pool in your head.
4. Triangle Pose
This pose is excellent for strengthening your back muscles and other crucial support muscles in your low abdominal wall, hips, and IT band. If you can't hold this pose for long, that's okay! Keep practicing and you'll see a difference as you build balance and strength.
How To Do It: You'll need a bit of balance for this one. Place a block in front of you for support and begin in a standing position. Lunge one foot backwards and place the foot at a 45-degree angle. Slowly reach opposite arm towards the block while circling the other arm towards the ceiling. Hold your belly in for a strong core and count to 30 before switching to the other side.
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5. Locust Pose
Most of us spend so much time working on the muscles we can see, such as the abs, biceps, and quads, that we forget our back needs an equal amount of work to stay balanced. This pose activates the muscle groups in your low-back area, including your glutes which support the disks in your lower spine.
How To Do It: Lie face-down on your yoga mat and engage your glutes, shoulders, and back muscles. Lift your arms, head, and legs off the mat and hold the pose for 20 seconds. Don't forget to breathe through this! Repeat several times.
6. Sphinx Pose
This gentle back-bend improves your spine's flexibility as well as stretching your abdominal muscles. Since good core strength and a pain-free back go hand it hand, you'll want to give this a try. If it's too intense, don't push your upper body all the way off the ground.
How To Do It: Lie tummy-first on the mat and lift your upper body with arms at 90-degree angles. Make sure you're using your core to hold you up, not just your arms. Keep your shoulders pointing upwards so your body doesn't "slump."
7. Standing Forward Fold
If you spend a lot of time sitting in your everyday life, chances are your hamstrings are very short and tight. As a result, your back muscles can't do what they were designed to. Not only will a forward fold lengthen tight hamstrings, but it also provides a nourishing release for your low back.
How To Do It: Stand straight at the front of your mat and slowly bend at the waist, folding your belly towards your thighs. Bend your knees slightly and reach for the ground with your fingers. If they don't touch, make it your goal to do this stretch frequently enough so they do!
8. Butterfly Pose
Tight hips can wreak havoc on your spinal health. Give them a good stretch and release tension in your low back with this common pose. The best part about it? You can easily modify it to suit your body's ability.
How To Do It: Sit on the mat with your legs in a "diamond" shape with the soles of your feet touching. Gently hold your feet together and move them towards your hips as far as you're able. If you're looking for more intensity, move your knees closer to the floor and bend at the waist towards your feet.
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9. Thread the Needle Pose
This is a wonderful restorative pose that both releases your back and stretches your glutes at the same time. You can modify this stretch by leaving your leg crossed over the other on the floor if that's enough of a stretch for you.
How To Do It: Lie on your back with your feet on the floor. Cross one leg over the other, making sure to keep your foot flexed. Pull your bottom leg towards you and feel the stretch in your glutes and hamstrings.
10. Bridge Pose
This is one of the best active poses for your posterior chain, or the collection of muscles in the back line of your body. By doing this pose frequently, you'll strengthen key stabilizing muscles for your spine, including low back, hip, glute, and hamstring muscles.
How To Do It: Begin by lying on your back. Then bring your feet to the floor and draw your ankles close to your hips. Push up from your feet and shoulders, being careful your weight rests on your shoulders and not your neck. Hold the pose for 30 seconds.
11. Reclined Twist Pose
This resting pose will improve the flexibility in your lateral spine movement and give a gentle massage to your internal organs. While the goal is to keep your arms and shoulders flat on the floor as you twist, don't worry if they don't.
How To Do It: Lie on your back on the mat and hug your knees towards your chest. Turn your body to the side slightly and reach your arms out in a T-shape. Twist from the waist down, tipping your hips and legs towards the floor. Turn your gaze in the opposite direction and keep both shoulder blades on the floor.
12. Corpse Pose
All yoga practices are sealed with the ultimate pose for relaxation, or Savasana. Even though you're not stretching or strengthening your spine in this pose, it's important for your back to have contact with a hard surface to help it re-align itself. Too often, we spend time being supported by a soft mattress.
How To Do It: Lie in stillness on your yoga mat and allow your body to absorb the benefits of your practice. Take deep and nourishing breaths while letting each muscle "melt" into the ground. There should be no effort here.
Try these poses each morning for a week and let us know how you feel! Don't forget to SHARE with your friends!