When you wake up with a tight and achy back it usually eases or disappears completely after some movement. Rather than waiting for the stiffness to diminish by itself, you could try some targeted and gentle exercises right after waking up. The morning routine described in this blog is designed to mobilise your back gently and reduce the time it takes to feel more at ease. It is also lovely for those who do not have back pain upon waking but simply want to start the day with a nice stretch.
Before getting out of bed:
Bring your knees up to the chest. Place your hands on the knees and circle them together in one direction and then the other. This mobilises the lower back.
The way you get out of bed is very important:
So as to avoid muscle spasm due to a wrong movement, roll over to the side and use your arm to get up rather than crunching up. This “crunching up” — lifting the trunk up and to the side — can cause already tight back muscles to strain and spasm. This is especially true if your abdominal muscles are weak. If you are interested in a safe way to strengthen abdominal muscles when you have a sensitive back, do have a look at my video.
Once out of bed, do the following exercises as soon as you can. You start by lowering yourself on hands and knees on a yoga mat or carpet. Take some time for these exercises so you don’t have to rush them: performing the movements in a relaxed way will be part of releasing the back.
A note for those who have back pain due to a recently herniated disc: this sequence is not appropriate for you until you have been out of pain for at least 3 months. If you are interested in yoga therapy for herniated discs, do have a look at this previous blog and if you wish get in touch for private sessions.
For everyone doing these exercises: if a movement hurts, please skip it.
All fours rock:
-With the hands under your shoulders and knees under the hips, rock forward and backward gently, keeping the back straight. Inhale to move the weight forward over the wrists, exhale to bring the weight back.
-If your wrists bother you, it may be easier to make fists instead of having the hands flat.
-If your back allows it, you can inch your way towards the feet, so that you eventually end in child’s pose. Child’s pose can be tricky for some people’s feet, if the muscles at top of the feet are tight. You can remedy the discomfort by placing a rolled towel under the ankles.
All-fours to Child’s pose:
-Once you have reached child’s pose, inhale and come back to all fours. Exhale and return to the child’s pose, feeling the spine lengthen as you bring the pelvis towards the feet.
-Alternate between the two poses in time with your breath. Don’t dictate the breathing rhythm with your mind but allow the exhalation to be as long as it needs to be.
Holding one leg:
-Turn around to lie on your back.
-Keeping one leg extended, bring one knee up to the chest and place both hands on the knee.
-Allow the arms to weigh down from the leg and relax in this position.
-It usually feels good to roll the head from side to side: to one side with the exhalation and back to the centre with the inhalation — a few times to each side.
-Repeat with the other leg.
-Bring both knees up to the chest and extend the arms to the side.
-Exhale and lower the knees to one side although not all the way to the floor. The hand on the side your legs are moving to is ready to support the knees so your legs are not hanging mid-air.
-Inhale the knees to the centre and exhale to lower them to the other side.
-If this stretch does not hurt, continue for a few more repetitions to each side.
-Finish by holding the knees in the centre.
Rest with knees bent:
Finally, rest for 5 minutes on your back with the legs bent and feet on the floor. Pay attention to your breath and the sensations in the body; try to use these few minutes to rest the mind.
Important! Getting up safely from the floor is similar to getting out of bed: first roll over to the side and then push yourself up with one hand. My video demonstrates this getting up and down from the floor here.