Yoga is fantastic for maintaining back strength, mobility and flexibility involving a series of poses/postures while encouraging an emphasis on deep breathing. Yoga helps to reduce muscular tension, build flexibility and strength, as well as improving balance and bone strength.
Lower back pain is a very common ailment for people from many walks of life. It is frustrating and painful and while reaching for a pain killer seems like the only answer, look beyond medication to a more holistic approach. Yoga is an affordable and accessible treatment that does not result in any unnecessary medication.
Yoga can be especially beneficial for easing and preventing lower back pain. It does so by building on the muscles that support the back and spine, such as; the paraspinal muscles, which helps your spine to effectively bend, the multifidus muscles, which stabalises your vertebrae and the transverse abdominis, which is the muscle that helps to stabalise the spine. Yoga is a calming, meditative type of exercise that also benefits your mental wellbeing as well as your physical. Not only will building upon the muscles surrounding your back give you strength and relief in an often problematic area, it will also help you to achieve a level of control in regards to any pain sensitivity.
In saying that, if yoga poses are not executed properly, they can also lead to back pain or injury. It is a very fine line between helping or hindering your back muscles. Some tips to remember to always protect your back on the mat include:
- Use and rely on props. Bolsters and blocks for additional support are great ways to ensure that you do over extend yourself, especially in tight places such as the lower back and hips.
- To protect yourself against compressing intervertebral joints, avoid extending while twisting.
- If necessary, do forward bends while sitting instead of standing and brace your belly as you extend upright.
- If you cannot reach your toes while you are standing, loop a yoga belt around your feet
In yoga, you should work on using your muscles to create a solid foundation for all of your muscles while focusing on building upon sore areas or muscles that need special attention or boosting. Remember to focus on developing healthy and natural postural and movement habits. Back pain usually presents itself due to a weak core, with the back needing to overextend itself or move in unusual ways to make up for where the core is lacking. Working on strengthening your core is a great way to avoid back pain. To build on core strength, choose yoga poses such as Paripurna Navasana (boat pose), Utkatasana (chair pose), Plank and forearm plank, as well as Vasisthasana (side plank). Work on creating strength in your back with Salabhasana (locust pose) and Virabhadrasana III (warrior III pose).
Many simple life attributes can lead to lower back pain, such as sitting all day, bad posture, bad footwear or lifting things in the wrong way. Simple yoga poses can alleviate certain discomforts and niggles within the lower back. The best of the many varying array of yoga poses for the back are:
- Child’s Pose: Takes the pressure of your lower back by aligning and elongating the spine.
- Cat/Cow: This pose allows for a nice flexion and extension of the spine, while also promoting flexibility and relieving any tension in the lower back.
- Downward Facing Dog: Downward dog is a great way to stretch out any tightness in the hamstrings, in case that is the reason you are experiencing lower back pain, which it can be in many cases.
- Standing Forward Bend: This pose lengthens the spine and stretches out the back of the legs.
- Sphinx Pose: Sphinx pose encourages a soft natural curve of the back while also engaging your abs for extra lower back support and strength.
- Knees to Chest With Slow Rock: Gives the body a natural weight massage.
- Reclined Pigeon Pose: This pose is also known as the “figure-four” and is great for stretching the inner-thigs, butt and hips.
- Reclined Supine Twist: Can provide pain relief to lower back if it is feeling tight but in some cases, it may hurt. If the pose hurts, stop doing it immediately.
It is always best to visit your doctor before adding a new exercise to your daily life, this is especially important if you have had problems with your back in any way before. If this is the case for you, some good questions to ask your doctor are:
- What movements to avoid?
- Any interference between exercise and any medications?
- Are there any modifications you could try to stay fit and injury free?
- What level of challenge would be the most productive for you, given your specific condition
When you head to a yoga class, talk with your instructor and give them the rundown on any worries or injuries and talk openly about whether they are the right instructor for you. If they believe their class is good for you, they will help you through the problem areas and guide you accurately through difficult poses.
Essentially, you want to pick poses that are going to build upon the core, increase flexibility and lengthen the spine. Yoga is such an effective tool when it comes to easing tight back muscles and, in most cases, will restore your sore back to A-grade health in no time. Take it easy when it comes to twists and remember that if it hurts you, it is not doing you any good.