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Lower back pain affects most people for one reason or another at some point during life. It could be the extra weight of pregnancy, lifting something incorrectly, sitting for too long or the result of an injury from playing sports or a car accident. Whatever the case, for individuals who suffer from chronic back pain, it can affect their ability to work and may even result in a more sedentary lifestyle which can bring about additional heath concerns. Depending on the cause of back pain, sufferers may find that many traditional methods of fitness are painful or uncomfortable, luckily yoga can offer some pain relief along with the side effects of stress relief, flexibility, better breathing and improved circulation, which do far more for the body then the side effects you’d get from a pharmacological approach.
The following postures will help to release lower back tension by bringing oxygen and blood into the area, and lengthening and strengthening the muscles. If any of the following positions are difficult to get into on the floor, modify by sitting in a chair with the back as comfortably straight as you can hold it.
Start by coming into a comfortable cross-legged position in Sukhasana, Easy Pose, with your left leg in front of or on top of the right. You may want to sit on a cushion or a folded towel or blanket to add some lift under the sit bones for additional comfort. Align your shoulders over the hips and rest your hands along the legs, taking a few deep breath to center and prepare for your practice.
Moving as you exhale begin to walk your hands or fingertips forward to a suitable distance in front of the body. You may be comfortable resting on the forearms, as pictured, or you can relax deeper as long as the sit bones remain on the mat and there is no discomfort in the legs, feet or lower back. You can also rest the hands on top of a block if the floor itself is out of reach. Hold here as you take about 5-10 abdominal breath, letting the body relax deeper into the stretch if it is so inclined.
From the forward fold, on your exhalation begin to walk your hands or fingertips to the left, bringing the torso over the thigh, your focus to the knee or relaxing the head forward, lowering the nose towards the knee. Rest on the blocks, hands, forearms or if the body allows, bring the chest down to the thigh relaxing deeper. Holding here for about 5-10 abdominal breath, then walk the hands back to center and begin to slowly sit up as you inhale. Coming back to Sukhasana, change the cross in the legs, right in front of or on top of the left. Repeat the forward fold, holding for the same number of breath and then add the side stretch, exhaling as you move to the right. Hold here, taking conscious breath then walk the hands back to center and slowly come back up, checking in with the body.
Turning the body longways on your mat, lay down on your stomach resting your chin to the mat, pull the arms into your side, elbows bent so the fingertips are pointing forward and in-line with the chin. Moving into a modified Bhujangasanaor Cobra Pose, called Sphinx, press down through your hands as you inhale begin to lift the torso up, sliding your fingertips forward to align your elbows with your shoulders. Bring your focus down between the arms or lift the chin to bringing your gaze towards the ceiling. Make sure the pelvis and hips are comfortable and relax the legs as you take 5-10 deep breaths into the belly and back. When you are ready to lower, move as you exhale bringing the chin down and sliding the hands back.
Utthita Balasana or Extended Child’s Pose is a great counter stretch to Sphinx pose, giving the upper body a bit of a rest. Moving from an all fours position, as you exhale, begin to slowly lower the hips towards the heels. The hips and heels don’t have totouch or come close to touching. You may find the postion is more comfy with a block or blanket between the heels and sit bones to offering some additional support. The head and hands are also welcome to rest on top of blocks to allow the body to relax. Hold here for 5-10 breath, then slowly walk the hands in as you inhale, sitting up into a comfortable postion.From a seated position move with control onto your back, relaxing as you lay down and take a few deep breath and settle the body.
Draw the left knee onto the chest hugging the leg in with the right arm. If you feel tension in the lower back, then bend your straight right leg to bring the foot to the mat for additional support. As you exhale, move the left knee over the body towards your right side into Supta Matsyendrasana, a Reclined Twist. The knee can rest on a block or the arm can support the leg if it doesn’t relax comfortably to the floor. Take another 5-10 breath on this side and then repeat on the other side with the right knee moving in and then over toward the left side of the body, supporting the leg however is most comfortable to hold for 5-10 breath.
After twisting, draw both knees into the chest and take a few deep breath into the back. If it feels good, gently rock from side to side for a little back massage to release any lingering tension.
Slide your arms down to your sides and return your feet to the mat. Coming into a supported Savasana for 2-3 minutes, allowing the body to rest, your practice to integrate and your energies to balance.
Please note that the information presented in this article is not intended to prevent, diagnose or treat any illness or malady. Please seek recommendations and advise from a qualified Medical or Naturopathic practitioner before beginning a yoga practice. This information is provided as a resource only. Remember to always move with care and control into and out of the postures, making sure that you only practice positions that are comfortable and relaxing for you body!
If you have any Questions or Comments, please post below!
Ashley Freeman is a registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. Certified in Raja Yoga, her experience includes private in-home lessons, workplace wellness programs, and group instruction teaching various class formats and yoga styles. Find her on Google+