Everyone with back pain knows that there is no 15-minute fix; everyone doing yoga knows that 15 minutes a day is not long enough to really get into the practice. Nevertheless, when you have back pain, making time for daily stretches will help you. It is making regular, small changes that can make a big difference. This is what I observe with my students who schedule 10 to 15 minutes for their yoga routine in the morning or before going to bed. The 15-minute Back Care Basics described in this blog are designed to gradually ease lower back tightness and can make a difference if you do them daily.
When it comes to back pain and yoga, I always have to specify: this practice is for people with mild lower back pain. Back pain can have many causes and each cause requires a different approach. If you have had a herniated disc in the recent past, or if any of the movements below hurt, these poses are not for you. There are other movements that could help you and a specialised yoga therapist can tailor them to your needs. If you are interested, don’t hesitate to use my contact page to schedule a phone conversation.
Apart from doing the short practice below, your back will be helped by observing and possibly adapting your posture (check out my blogs from last summer about posture, e.g. this one about sitting). It is also helpful to tackle stress relief, and this blog may have some helpful tips. Finally, strengthening back muscles as in this blog, and abdominal strengthening with my videos are also important building blocks.
Cat — Cow — Child
-Start on all fours, hands underneath the shoulders and knees under the hips.
–Cow: inhale and lift the chest slightly, look down and forward to keep the neck long. Notice how your shoulder blades have moved away from the ears.
–Cat: exhale and arch your back, bringing the navel area up and allowing your shoulders to move towards the ears.
-Repeat the cow position with the inhalation.
-Exhale and move the hips back towards the feet into child’s pose. Rest in this position for a few breaths before starting the sequence again. If your head does not touch the floor then fold your hands to support the forehead.
-Repeat this sequence 2-5x.
Hug one leg
Turn around to lie on your back. If you find it more comfortable, use a pillow under your head.
-Gently relax your chin towards the throat.
-Keep one leg extended on the mat and hold the other one towards you, hugging it with both hands. If this position feels tight on the back of your waist, keep the extended leg bent with the foot on the floor.
-Allow the arms to “hang down” from the leg: don’t pull the knee towards you as this may create tension in the shoulders and groin area.
-Repeat with the other leg.
Both knees circling
-Bring both knees towards the chest and place one hand on each knee.
-Circle the knees around, away from each other, as in the breaststroke swimming movement. 6-10x in each direction.
Twist with the knees together and feet on the floor
-Please be careful with this movement and avoid it if it hurts.
-Still on your back with the legs bent and feet on the floor, place your knees and feet together and spread your arms out to the side.
-Breathe out to lower your knees to the left as you roll your head to the right. Keep both shoulder blades and sides of your feet on the mat. The picture demonstrates a twist with the feet lifted but keeping the feet on the mat tends to be easier on the lower back.
-Breathe in and raise the knees to the centre.
-Breathe out and lower the knees to the right, looking over to the left.
-Keep alternating sides, 3-5x to each side.
Always finish by lying on your back with the legs bent (or straight if that feels better for your back) for 5 minutes.
-Observe the movement of your abdomen as you breathe: the abdomen rises slightly with the inhalation and relaxes down with the exhalation. This is due to the movement of the diaphragm and this free movement is crucial for the body to function well, for the back to release and the mind to unwind.
New Back Care workshops
For those of you living in West London, I am starting monthly Back Care yoga workshops, on the first Saturday of every month, 3:30pm to 5pm. This workshop is for people with mild lower back pain who would like to release back tightness, learn how to manage back pain or prevent it from getting worse. Apart from stretching back, hip and leg muscles, we will be strengthening abdominals and gluts. There will also be plenty of releasing exercises for the shoulders and neck. Please contact me here to find out more.