In today’s post, I am going to present some simple poses that can help relieve back pain. Back pain, especially pain in the lower back, is perhaps the single most common reason why people seek medical attention. This is also the most common cause why people come to me for help through yoga. On a quick google search, I found several studies that have confirmed that yoga indeed provides a lot of relief to backache sufferers. Despite the well-known benefits that can come with a regular yoga practice, it is strongly advised that in case of severe pain you consult with your doctor before commencing a yoga routine.
What Causes Back Pain?
I will not attempt to go through any details on what can cause back pain. I suggest that you consult a book on the subject or visit one of many websites that deal with the topic in detail (e.g., http://www.backpaindetails.com/pain/). Briefly, these are the possible causes: injury (particularly casued in an auto accident), arthritis, spondylitis, osteoporosis, back pain during pregnancy, poor sitting, standing or walking posture, emotional stress, obesity, herniated disk, diabetes, aging etc.
Here are some basic guidelines that will help you with the back pain and also prevent any futher injury or aggrevation of the existing condition.
- Keep in mind that the body functions as a unified, integrated whole. A dysfunction in one part of the body can have repercussions in other areas of the body. Back pain is no exception. As stated above, it can be caused by reasons that are internal or external to us. Stress and poor posture are two of the important factors that can easily aggrevate an otherwise mild discomfort in the back. Thus, an integrated approach involving body, breath and mind needs to be used in dealing with and alleviating back pain. I do not recommend an approach that is limited to just a small, fragmented set of asanas only. An integrated approach should include asana, pranayama, relaxation and meditation to heal the body at all levels. Of course, in the routine that you develop for yourself, you should emphasize the asanas that are mentioned here.
- Avoid deep forward-bending poses – standing (Uttanasana) or seated forward bend (Paschimottanasana)
- Avoid deep back-banding poses – wheel pose (chakrasana), upward-facing dog (urdhva-mukka shvanasana), full locust (shalabhasana) and any other pose that creates a deep back bend
- Most twisting poses (lying spinal twist, seated spinal twist etc.), poses that develop a good abdominal strength (e.g., boat pose) etc are highly recommended
Cat and Cow Stretch (Marjarasana)
Cat-and-cow is a popular warmup stretch that helps strengthen and align the spine muscles. In addition to the spine, it also strengthens the abdominal muscles.
- Come on all fours with the spine flat like a table top, hands directly under the shoulders and knees under the hips
- On an inhalation, drop the navel down, lift the head and chin up and move the tailbone upwards, creating an arche in the spine
- On exhalation, do the reverse movement – lift the navel upwards, tuck the chin softly against the chest and also tuck the tailbone in
- Repeat the above moves for 6 to 8 deep breaths and finally bring the spinal back to its neutral position and relax.
- While inhaling, stretch the left arm out in front and the right leg behind you. Keep the stretched arm and leg straight and lifted as high as comfortable. Keep the head and chin lifted up.
- On exhalation, fold the right knee toward the chest, use the left hand to pull the knee closer to the forehead lowering the chin toward the chest.
- Repeat this move on the other side stretching the right arm and the left leg
- Repeat the two moves three more times
- From the neutral position of the spine, roll the buttocks back and relax in the child pose. In this pose, allow the buttocks to rest on the heels, and keep the arms resting alongside the body. Stay in this position for 4-5 breaths.
Modified Child Pose (Balasana)
- Keeping the buttocks on the heels, slide the hands out in front, keeping the palms on the floor.
- Try to pull the arms and shoulders in front, thus stretching and elongating the spine.
- Stay in the stretched out position for 3-4 breaths and then come back to the original resting position.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana):
- From the resting child pose, bring the arms out and start sliding the body forward, finally lowering the knees and the belly to the floor with the palms under the shoulders.
- As you inhale, begin to lift the head, neck and chest as high as comfortable, keeping the navel on the floor. This is the Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
- Exhaling, lower the chin down to the floor
- Repeat the above moves three more times, maintaining the movement synchronized with the breath
- In the final round, when you lift up into the Cobra Pose, stay up there for about 3 to 4 breaths and then lower the body with an exhalation
- Relax back in the child pose