The lumbar region or lower back is a sensitive spot especially if you have an office job or even one that has you standing or moving lot. Pain in the lower back can make your days a nightmare and can even affect your mood. Thankfully, research has shown that yoga can be very effective at dealing with lower back pain. Yoga emphasizes flexibility, strength, and stretching of the muscles and spine, which improve function and relieves soreness. While it is advisable to see a doctor if you have severe pain, those with occasional pain and soreness will benefit a lot from poses that strengthen and stretch the muscles, lengthen the spine and get you back into proper alignment. The focus on steadiness and balance soon makes the body develop defences against lack of flexibility in the hips, and weak pelvic and abdominal muscles which are the major cause of back pain. Strengthening these muscles help improve posture which reduces the soreness. It also increases blood flow to tight muscles making you more flexible.
Check out these five yoga poses to relieve and prevent back pain.
The Happy Baby pose also known as the Ananda Balasana is a magical and easy pose mostly done in yoga and Pilates classes. It stretches the hamstrings and relaxes the lower muscle group helping maintain optimal wellness and vitality.
How to Do the Happy Baby
- Lie on the back with the spine in a neutral position and allow the spine to adopt its natural curves.
- Draw the knees toward the chest while keeping the hip sockets supple so that you lift the legs, while the tailbone and the hips remain on the floor.
- Bend the feet until the soles of the feet are facing the ceiling
- Grab each big toe with the first finger on each toe and pull down gently. The feet should be parallel to the ceiling, as you draw the knees toward the chest and release the hips in a relaxed pose. You could also modify the pose by bringing the hands to grasp the foot around the arch just outside the foot.
- Breathe deeply and take a few minutes to allows the hamstrings to stretch
- Relax the spine naturally onto the mat
Benefits of the Happy Baby Pose
- Opens the Hips – It helps to melt away the emotional baggage and tension in the hips. It releases the pent up energy by opening up the tight areas in the hips, which is beneficial for the back and spine.
- Lengthens the Hamstrings – The pose works the inner thighs, groin, and hamstrings stretching them. This stretches these parts and hence reduces the risk of an inner thigh injury, groin strain, and hamstring tears. It will also strengthen the kinetic chain thus facilitating a speedy and smooth recovery.
- Releases the Sacrum – The Sacrum not only supports the upper body and spine to give you a strong pelvis it also protects vital life-giving organs. By doing this pose, you decompress the sacrum making it stronger and the body healthier.
- Gives a good stomach Massage – The Ananda Balasana gives a massage that stimulates the digestive system. With a healthy digestive system, it relieves and prevents issues such as bloating and constipation that may result in serious health complications such as irritable bowel syndrome and piles.
- Unlocks the Svadhisthana Chakra – The baby pose enhances a sense of intimacy, pleasure, and belonging by unlocking the sacral chakra. By harmonizing the chakra, it makes our relationships that much deeper.
- Boosts your Mood – It activates positive nervous energy and relieves stress to transform your mind into that of a carefree young infant by reinvigorating and zapping anxiety.
- Revitalizes the Body – It is powerful in negating any feeling of tiredness as it enhances cheerfulness, vitality, and heightened energy.
- Fosters Happiness – With a Sanskrit meaning of blissful baby, it provides much-needed relief and provides happiness and childlike energy that all of us need from the stress of modern living.
Supine Figure Four Pose
Known in Sanskrit as Supta Kapotāsana meaning pigeon or by its other names Dead Pigeon and Eye of the Needle, it is effective at stretching and mobilizing hip muscles, such as the piriformis and the glutes. Given that you can get stiffness on the back from tight hips, the asana can be effective at relieving and preventing back pain.
How to do the Supine Figure Four
- Lie on the back and then place the soles of the feet flat on the floor hip-distance apart. Walk the heels towards the body till you can touch them with the fingertips.
- Cross the right foot with the ankle on the left thigh below the knee and keep the right foot active and flexed so that its toes are pointed toward the right knee. Prevent the knee from injury by keeping the right knee relaxed throughout the pose.
- Lengthen the tailbone toward the mat and while keeping the low back in a natural position and press the right knee away from you.
- Put your right arm in the space between the legs and curl your fingers on either the back of the left thigh or the front of the left shin. Pull in the left leg close to the chest.
- With the back of the shoulder relaxed on the floor and the head down, release the tension in the neck.
- Hold the pose for a few breaths and then exhale as you come out of it releasing the left leg while lowering the soles of the feet gently onto the floor. Now sway the knees from side to side to release tension.
Benefits of the Supine Figure Four:
- Strengthen the foot, ankle muscles and the quadriceps
- Helps to enhance concentration and practice balance
- Tones the core
- Relieves lower back tension
- Stretches the glutes and outer hip muscles
How to Do the Ragdoll
- Start with the feet about hip-width apart with the feet parallel to each other
- With the hands at the hips, bend the knees slightly and with the back straight bend forward from the hips
- Cross your arms and then place the hands on the opposite elbows. Now rock from left to right to get a full spinal release
- Breathing from the nose take in 5-10 breaths while holding the pose
- Now place your hands on the hips and then go back to a straight standing position as you inhale
Benefits of the Ragdoll Pose
- Releases Tension – If you sit at a desk for hours, the pose lengthens the spine and releases tension leaving you feeling relieved after doing the pose.
- Lengthens the Spine – The pose elongates the spine while you are in the relaxing pose, which helps to create decompression and space making for a more open and spacious feeling.
- Releases Tension – If you are feeling the tension on the face, jaw, lower back or shoulders, the ragdoll pose provides a deep release to relieve tension and open up the body. This makes you less tense giving you a calm and relaxed vibe.
- Provides Deep Stretching – You get a great stretch in the calves and hamstrings while also getting a good stretch of the neck, shoulders and upper back.
- Enhances Body Functions – The pose massages the internal organs as it inverts the body to help improve digestion and clear sinuses when you bend forward.
- Relieves Stress – The pose relaxes the entire upper body to release stress in the neck, shoulders and back. This also helps relieve stress, insomnia, and fatigue.
Cat and Cow Pose
Marjaryasana/Bitilasana in Sanskrit, it combines the cat and cow poses to make for a great relaxation sequence, warmup sequence or specifically as a way to prevent or relieve back pain.
How to do the Cat and Cow
- Start with the knees and hands on the floor with the wrists just below the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Keep the spine in a neutral position with the back engaged and the back flat as you inhale deeply.
- Round the spine towards the ceiling as you exhaling in the belly button and engaging the abs. Let the neck release and tuck in the chin toward the chest to make the cat.
- On the inhale, let the belly relax and then arch the back lifting the tailbone and head toward the ceiling to make the cow position.
- Go back and forth between the two poses until you believe you have warmed up the spine enough
Benefits of the Cat and Cow
- Enhance Mental Capacity – It is a powerful pose as the breath-synchronized movement invigorates prana, promotes intentional focus, and enhances coordination. It has also been associated with better mental stability and emotional balance.
- Lengthens the Spine – It relieves stress from the lower back and provides a calming effect on your mind.
- The cat and cow tones the female reproductive system– relieving menstrual cramps, and also relieves sciatica and lower back pain.
- The movement increases the flexibility of the spine, shoulders, and necks and stretches the muscles of the lungs, chest, abdomen, and hips thus relieving back pain.
- Done right, it releases tension in the neck and upper back while the activation of the tailbone improves spinal movement, which enhances the flexibility for back and forward bends.
- It activates the second chakra – the Swadhisthana chakra relieves depression and emotional turmoil and enhances the ability to learn and focus.
Known in Sanskrit as the Balasana, the child’s pose is a resting pose that is effective at relieving tension, stress, and calming the mind by stretching the thighs, legs, and hips.
How to do the Child Pose
- Start from the table pose and then lower the hips to the heels as you exhale and lower the torso toward the floor.
- You can have the fists or palms stacked underneath your forehead, the arms forward and the palms flat on the floor
- Slowly inhale and actively press the belly against the thighs
- Hold the pose for 4 to 12 breaths and then exhale
- Release the pose as you bring the palms under the shoulders as you slowly inhale as you come back to a sitting position
Benefits of the Child Pose
- Has a Calming Effect – It is great if you are experiencing stress and anxiety as the inward folding of the body sends a signal of safety that has a relaxing effect on the mind.
- It Enhances Digestion – If you have digestion issues such as bloating, resting your belly on the thighs helps give the internal organs a massage and helps enhance digestive processes.
- Lengthens the Lower Back – It is great for elongating and stretching the lower back as folding over the legs reverses the pressure on the tailbone which usually causes lower back pain. This is great if you spend a lot of time sitting over your desk with your spine is compressed for a long time.
- Opens up the Hips – Just like the back, the hips may be compressed if you spend a lot of time sitting in a chair as this can tighten the hip muscles. The pose helps you relax the belly and hip muscles that open up and stretch when you do the Child pose.
- Reminds you to Rest – Sometimes you can lose yourself in the active asanas and forget to rest. This pose reminds you that resting is just as important and that you need to find a balance between effort and rest.
There are many yoga exercises to help with back pain but starting with these five should go a long way to helping relieve soreness in the back. They work a range of muscles and the spine and will not only help with lower back pain but will also enhance your practice.
Now it’s your turn, what other yoga stretches have you been doing to ease your back pain?