If pain relievers have been your long-time companion, you likely want to forget the trauma of chronic lower back pain forever. It is also possible you just want to keep your back strong and resilient, stretching when you can. There are beginner-friendly yoga poses for you to try.
Yoga is highly recommended for intense lower back pain. This is not blind trust but is based on numerous studies that show that this ancient practice has great power. To provide relief from a sore back and improve function, it emphasises stretching, strength, and flexibility.
Yoga as an Alternative to Medicine
The Annals of Internal Medicine published the outcome of research in July 2017, suggesting that yoga may be able to help reduce a person’s reliance on medication. The study ran for three months, and 70% of the subjects lived off pain medication. One group was to engage in physical therapy, and another group was required to read about pain management strategies. The third group included subjects assigned to yoga.
The results at the end of three months showed that while the number of people using medicines in the reading group remained unchanged, only 50% of the physical therapy and yoga subjects were still using it.
Yoga is best for occasional soreness or chronic pains. Certain postures may help lengthen the spine, stretch and strengthen muscles, and realign the back properly, according to Jennifer Bayliss, a Massachusetts fitness expert. Yoga focuses on balance and steadiness, allowing your body to develop defences against any causes of back pain. Such causes include low flexibility in the hips, in addition to weak abdominal and pelvic muscles.
Strengthening these muscles improves your posture, reducing the load on your back, and the aches you experience. Stretching also increases flexibility by providing tight muscles with greater blood supply.
Yoga and the Brain
Researchers now know the effect of yoga on the brain to help decrease pain. In May 2015, the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience published another study by the National Institutes of Health, showing significant differences comparing the brains of people who do yoga and those of people with chronic pain. The regions of the brain that help in dealing with pain showed reduced tissue in those with chronic pain. This means yoga is likely neurologically protective.
Before starting a new fitness regimen, consult your doctor, especially when you easily feel pain. If he approves, these seven yoga poses will help ease your back pain. They can be done in any order. Gradually improve the intensity though, by holding them for longer periods of time. Other benefits of yoga include lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, sound sleep, and less depression and anxiety symptoms.
1. Downward-Facing Dog to Stretch Hamstrings
This is a classic yoga pose, and excellent for stretching the whole body. It targets back extensors. Extensors are the large muscles that support the spine, help you stand and lift objects, and form your lower back.
Guide: Begin on your hands and knees, placing your hands slightly anterior to your shoulders. Press back and raise your knees away from the floor, lifting your tailbone in the direction of the ceiling. You can gently push your heels towards the floor for an added hamstring stretch. The pose can be repeated 5-7 times, each time holding this position for 5-10 breaths.
2. Child’s Pose to Elongate Back and Relieve Stress
This pose makes you appear like one resting, but it is active for back elongation. It is excellent as a de-stressor after a tiring day.
Guide: Kneeling, stretch both arms straight in front of you while face down, sit back so that your butt muscles (glutes) rest just above your heels. Maintain the position for 5-10 breaths, repeating as often as necessary for a soothing stretch.
3. Pigeon Pose to Relax Hips by Stretching Rotators
Pigeon pose is often difficult for yoga beginners. However, it is useful for stretching hip rotators and flexors. It is not easy to see how this can help treat backaches, but tight hips may contribute to lower back pain.
Guide: Keeping your feet together, begin in the Downward-Facing Dog pose. Your left knee is then drawn forward and turned out to the left so the left leg is bent and almost perpendicular to the right one; both legs are lowered to the ground. Just keep your back right leg fully extended behind you, or carefully pull your back foot away from the ground and inwards to your back, for added hamstring stretch (DO THIS ONLY WHEN YOU HAVE MORE EXPERIENCE!). Maintain the position for 5-10 breaths, then switch and repeat as needed.
4. Triangle Pose to Lengthen Torso Muscles and Build Strength
To strengthen your back and legs and while lengthening the muscles along the lateral parts of your torso, the Triangle pose is a great option. It also stretches the muscle fibres along your outer hip – your iliotibial or IT band.
Guide: Stand straight with your feet together, then lunge your left foot 3-4 feet backwards while pointing your left foot out at 45 degrees. Rotate the chest to one side, opening up the pose by extending your right arm to the ground and the left arm in the ceiling direction. Do all this keeping both left and right legs straight. Your right arm may not touch the ground at first, so bend only as far as is comfortable while maintaining a straight back. Maintain the position for 5-10 breaths, switching and repeating as needed.
5. Cat and Cow Pose to Loosen the Back and Get You Warm
This is perfect if your back is achy and sore. It loosens your back muscles, whether as a warm-up for another workout or as part of a yoga routine.
Guide: While in an all-fours position, move into the Cat pose by slowly pressing your spine upwards, and keeping your back arched at the same time. Hold for some seconds and then do the Cow Pose by pulling your spine inwards. Then, keep your shoulder blades pressed back and raise your head. Alternating the Cat and Cow helps your spine move onto a neutral position, relaxing the muscles and relieving tension. Repeat 10 times, going smoothly from Cat pose to Cow pose, and back to Cat. Repeat as needed.
6. Upward Forward Bend to Release Tight Back and Hamstring Muscles
This is also known as a forward fold. It stretches the hamstrings and back muscles, easing tight, tense shoulders.
Guide: Standing straight with feet apart up to shoulder-width and knees loose, exhale and hinge at your waist bending forward, and reaching toward the floor. Reaching the floor may be hard at first. Stop where your hamstrings begin to feel tense. Repeat pose 5-7 times and on the last bend, hold the position for 5-10 breaths.
7. Upward-Facing Dog to Stretch and Engage Vital Muscles
This pose works to release your chest, engage your back, and stretch your abdominal muscles.
Guide: Begin by lying flat on the ground with both palms facedown by the centre of your ribs. While pulling your legs together, press the tops of both feet into the ground, use the power of your back (not hands), to raise your chest from the floor. At first, your legs should extend straight out. Hold the position for 5-10 breaths, repeating as needed.
Yoga offers immense benefits for conditions that many rely endlessly on medication for, without minimal relief. With growing evidence from scientific research that yoga can make a positive contribution to overall health, your back issues can quickly become a thing of the past. Consult your doctor, and then make the most of these seven simple yoga poses.
Also Read: 7 Yoga Poses For Two People