Time to stretch and strengthen your back: how to ease or prevent back pain when working from home

Working from home in these times of COVID-19 can make it extra challenging to stay fit and keep our body strong, supple and pain free. Most of us have to find work and entertainment at home, so we sit at our desk for most of the day, and on the sofa for most of the evening. Prolonged sitting weakens our back muscles, and poor posture may put stress on muscles and joints. The increase in mental stress levels doesn’t help our back health either. This blog aims to give you some yoga movements that can help you ease or prevent back pain when working from home. This is the time to stretch and strengthen your back, in an aligned, easy and enjoyable way.

The routine below can help to keep your spine mobile and your back muscles flexible and strong. Add it to your daily exercise and to awareness of your posture while sitting and moving about during the day.

As always, please stop the movement if it hurts.

Cat and cow stretch

This movement arches the spine up and down, allowing it to stretch in these two opposite directions. Move slowly with the rhythm of your breath.

-Start on all fours, with the wrists under the shoulders and knees under the hips.

-Inhale and lift the collarbones gently, lowering the middle of the spine down.

-As you do this, also bring the shoulders away from the ears and the shoulder blades down towards the waist.

-Keep looking forward and down to avoid crunching the back of the neck.

-For the cat position, exhale and arch the spine upwards, bringing the navel up towards the spine.

-Allow the head to hang down.

-Alternate between cow and cat pose and repeat both 5-7x before resting in child’s pose, which is with the hips near your feet and head supported on the mat or on your hands (see later also).

Dynamic hunting dog

-Start on hands and knees.

-Exhale and bring the right knee and forehead towards each other while bringing the left arm behind you. (You can start with just the leg movement until it is familiar).

-Inhale and straighten the head, arm and leg in one line.

-Repeat 4-6x with each side.

-Then hold each side for 4-6 breaths. Keep looking down and use the “plank breath”: exhale and contract the abdominal muscles, inhale and release them a little.

Child’s pose

-Fold your arms under your forehead if it doesn’t touch the mat.

-With every exhalation allow the head and the hips to relax more.

-If your feet don’t like the stretch, you can use a rolled towel under the ankles.

-For painful knees, put a rolled towel or thin cushion in the knee folds.

Bridge

-Lie on your back with the feet hip-width apart and not too far from the body.

-Your arms are extended alongside the body with the palms up.

-Exhale and put weight on the feet, tilt the pelvis and “roll” the spine off the floor. If the rolling action is not pleasant, lift the back up in one go; some backs prefer this.

 -Inhale and stay in the position, making sure the knees are above the ankles.

-Exhale and “roll” or gently place the spine down on the mat.

-Inhale while the body remains down.

-Repeat a few times, going up as high as comfortable and making sure you keep a lot of weight on the feet.

Hugging the knees

After the bridge pose, bend both knees towards you and place one hand on each knee.

-Exhale and allow the knees to come a little closer to you without lifting the lower back off the floor.

-Inhale and allow the knees to move further away again.

-Repeat 8-10x

It is not a big movement and should be done slowly in time with the breath.

Rest

Rest on your back with the knees bent for at least 5 minutes. Have a blanket if you are cold and a pillow under the head if your neck feels tight. Focus on your abdominal breathing: the rest of the day and all the thoughts can wait a little longer!

My videos for abdominal exercises in times of back pain can be bought here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/videos/. They consist of five 20-minute sessions for only £45.

I also have a newly made 30-minute video for targeted strengthening of gluts, abs, arms and back for £30. It is safe for people with mild lower back pain and offers different levels of difficulty. If you are interested, please contact me here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/.

I teach online these days, so wherever you are, you could join! You can contact me via the contact page https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/ to find out more. There are private classes as well as group classes of different levels.

Wishing you a beautiful and peaceful Easter weekend!

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