Because lower back pain is prevalent for many people, it is important to have some reliable resources to help remedy the discomfort. Having a variety of strategies and techniques to relieve lower back pain is essential for continued health.
In a previous blog post, the following yoga postures were featured: Low Cobra Pose, Active Child's Pose, and Standing Forward Fold. The intention of these first set of postures was to encourage release of tightness, soreness, and discomfort. Building strength in the lower back is also important to help reduce the risk of any further injury to this sensitive region of the body. The following yoga postures are intended to provide you additional resources for tension release and strength. The idea is to foster mobility for a fully functional back.
Cat (Marjaryasana) & Cow (Bitilasana) Flow
These are two yoga poses in this flow: Cat Pose and Cow Pose, that are commonly done together in a fluid motion to relieve back pain. Start the sequence on your hands and knees - table top pose (Bharmanasana). Be sure to align your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your wrists. Inhale and lift your head and open your chest. Your back will arch creating a mild backbend. Allow your belly to drop and pelvis to tip back. This is Cow Pose. When you exhale, tuck your chin toward your chest, round your back, draw your navel toward your spine, and tilt your pelvis forward. This is Cat Pose.
Continue through these two movements guided by the rhythm and flow of your breath.
As you breathe and move, you are creating a gentle undulation of the spine which opens your entire back. With the rocking motion of your pelvis, this releases tension in your low back area.
You will also notice that the flow opens your chest and shoulders because of the motion of your torso.
Your are also welcome to hold these postures as static positions. For example, inhale into Cow Pose. Hold the backbend posture while still breathing in and out. Pay attention to the muscle contraction in your back. This encourages strength throughout the back muscles that support your spine. You can do the same with Cat Pose. Hold this posture to create that rounded feeling in your back. It stretches the muscles along the spine, particularly in the lower back. In addition to that, it strengthens your core when you contract your abdominal muscles. This, too, encourages supportive strength in your body.
To finish your Cat & Cow Flow, you can sit back onto your haunches into Child's Pose as a way to relax the body after your fluid motion. This will prepare you for your next exercise.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
This is a common posture that is often performed while moving through Sun Salutations. In its own right, though, it can bring relief to your lower back. Begin on your hands and knees. Tuck your toes then lift your hips into the air until you've formed the inverted V-shape of Downward Facing Dog.
Press your palms firmly into your yoga mat to add strength and stability to your upper body. This will also cause your spine to elongate more in this position. Place a slight bend in your knees; this keeps your hips mobile and further lengthens your back. Because the lower back tends to compress from sitting and standing positions, this inverted pose for the body allows for length and relief in the lower back. You can simply hold the posture for ten slow breaths or add some gentle movements side to side to encourage more relief. Rest in Child's Pose when you are complete.
Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
This is a backbend yoga posture that fosters lower back strength. It is a good position to do after you have performed movements that encourage tension release. Begin this posture lying on your stomach with your hands underneath your shoulders. As you proceed, it is important to build proper structure and alignment in this yoga backbend so you do not contribute to further strain to your lower back.
Be sure to extend your legs out behind you; point your toes to help engage your leg muscles. Grip the mat with your fingertips, roll your shoulders away from the floor to engage your upper back muscles. Inhale to create length throughout your entire body. Feel as if you're trying to drag yourself forward with your hands while at the same time reach your toes to the back of the room. As you exhale, draw your navel up toward your spine to create support in your core body. Your stomach will not lift away from the mat; it is just a way to activate your body. You will also feel your glute muscles flex for added support.
Once you have elongated your body and provided core support, gently lift your legs and chest off the floor. You will not need to rise very high; you should feel your low back muscles flex. Inhale to create more length in your body followed by an exhale to generate support. As you're able, lift a little higher. Continue to be aware of the sensation in your lower back. The idea is to strengthen these erector muscles with flexion, not strain them by pinching this sensitive region.
Your hands can remain on the floor underneath your shoulders for additional support. If you're able, though, lift your hands and extend them back behind you as if you're reaching for your feet. Hold here, or interlace your fingers behind you to feel the full expression of Locust Pose. Hold and breathe in this yoga position for five to ten slow breaths. When complete, sit back into Child's Pose.
These 3 yoga positions can be added to the original set of yoga postures already featured or practiced on their own. For a full regimented exercise, repeat these postures two or three more times. Take note on how you feel in the coming days. It is recommended that you practice these yoga positions 3-5 times per week for effective and noticeable results.