Out of the many claims made about Yoga today, relief for the low back pain sufferer is a proven fact.
Let’s face it, low back pain sucks. For many of us, low back pain becomes a major part of the story of our lives. For some, it begins early, for others it starts as we age. We can all sense when our back is about to give out. The foreboding feeling is one of incoming pain, immobility and helplessness. Some immediate relief can be found through doctors, chiropractors and massage therapists. Sometimes surgery and drugs seem like the only long-term solution. For a growing number of people though, life style changes, often through physical therapy and yoga, are the long-term answer. I argue from personal experience that developing a regular yoga practice will offer the same benefits of physical therapy with many added bonuses overall for the low back pain sufferer. And its not just me saying so, either. In a report about a case study (Medscape Medical News 09/29/16), a regular yoga practice was shown to be as effective in relieving pain for the low back pain sufferer as physical therapy. Now this is hardly definitive proof that all low back pain sufferers will benefit from yoga or that all yoga is good for back pain. However, a growing number of us are finding solutions in our yoga practice. The additional benefits of practicing yoga regularly are vast, and pretty exciting. The biggest for me was development of mindfulness. It is amazing how a simple shift in focus to the breath immediately brings you into the present moment. Not a bad bonus at all. Just like any physical activity, remember to consult with your physician or physical therapist before beginning the physical aspect of the yoga practice.
These poses are not for people with severe back pain that requires medical attention. The following poses could be for people who see a physical therapist and would be a great addition to the work you already do once a week. It also is great for prevention.
“The most straightforward interpretation of our findings would be that yoga’s benefits on back function and symptoms were largely physical, due to the stretching and strengthening of muscles.” (Web MD, Karen J. Sherman, PHD, MPH a senior investigator at Group Health Research, study on yoga and back pain). This improves circulation to the spine and nerves. Whether you have chronic or just discomfort it is important to not just depend on medicine, but to be pro-active before you have to seek medical attention. As you move you develop your muscles and have more flexibility and strength.
10 Yoga Poses to help relieve Lower Back Pain
1. Cow Pose & Cat Pose
Start on all fours (tabletop position) and switch between arching your back and rounding it out. This smooth motion massages the spine and extends the low back.
2. Revolved Triangle Pose
This pose is great for prevention by combining strength and stretch. Stand with your feet about three feet apart. Align your right heel with the arch of your left foot. Square your hips forward and place your left hand near your right toes. A block is often helpful here. Rotate to the left rib into a side twist to the right. Reach your right arm towards the sky. If this hurts, or is too hard to stretch, raise the height of your block. Look either down at your left fingers for a neck release or up at your right thumb for more stretch. Repeat on the other side.
3. Waterfall Pose
Place a bolster or block a couple of inches away from a wall, further if you have tight hamstrings. Lay one hip close to the wall and swing the legs up as you come onto your back. Shimmy in towards the wall until your lower back is comfortably resting on the prop. You should feel secure on your lift with the whole of your pelvis supported but not digging into the waist. Lie either with the arms out 45 degrees to the side, palms up or arms over the head if your shoulders feel open enough.
4. Downward Dog
With your feet and hands on the floor, raise your hips so your body is in an upside down V position. Let your head and neck relax, and spread your shoulder blades. Reaching and extending your body will help open your lower and upper back.
5. Seated Forward Fold
In a seated position with your legs extended forward, reach for your shins, ankles, or feet, bending at the hips. It is important to reach your sternum forward so you can extend the torso.
6. Child’s Pose
Come to all fours, sit back. Extend your arms forward and your hips back so that they are resting on your heels Bring your forehead to the floor. You will feel a long, rejuvenating stretch down your back and through your hips. You can add a block or pillow underneath for additional support.
7. Bridge Pose
Lying on the floor, comfortably position your feet close to the buttocks, hands palm-down by hips. Make sure the feet are hip width apart, and the outsides of the feet are parallel. Feeling good contact in your heels, inhale and lift the pelvis off the floor one vertebra at a time. Keep rolling the thighs in, flatten the belly and lift the breastbone towards the chin.
8. Locust Pose
Locust is a great way to add strength to your back and buttocks. As you lie on your stomach with your forehead on the floor, slowly lift you head, legs, and arms up and away from the floor. Hold the pose as long as you can and then release.
9. Bow Pose
As you are laying face down, just like locust pose, reach your hands back and grab hold of the outsides of your ankles. Lift your chest and thighs away from the floor by drawing your chest forward and the back of your thighs toward the sky. This posture is great for your back, but if you have an injury can be a very intense pose.
10. Supine Twist
Lying on the floor, extend left leg out, bend your right knee and pull it up towards your right armpit. Keep your left leg straight and take your right knee across your body to the left. Extend the right arm to the right and take your gaze towards your right hand. You may roll all the way over onto the left hip until your knee touches the floor. Repeat on the other side.
Back pain is not anything to take lightly. Prevention and movement is important to a pain-free life. Always listen to your body. Yoga is never a contest. Please speak with the instructors with questions and modifications. Never force any posture that could cause injury.