In my blogs about yoga for back pain the emphasis is often on relaxation: releasing tightness and relaxing the body and the mind. However, even with back pain we need a bit more ‘oomph’ sometimes. Stimulating yoga poses include standing poses, back bends and dynamic flow sequences, but many of these could make your back pain worse. Try this feel-good yoga sequence if you want to feel energised in a way that is still gentle and caring enough if your back needs plenty of TLC.
I keep marvelling at the fact that yoga poses can change our mood. Of course we generally tend to feel more at peace and contented after yoga, but particular poses can actually make us feel more relaxed or more energised. This earlier blog on confidence discusses the position that has been scientifically proven to give more confidence before a stressful event. After the previous blog about sleep-inducing poses, some of my students asked about stimulating ones. Do try out the movements below and let me know how they make you feel. You can try them first thing in the morning, which is often a good time before the day starts running away with you. Or you can do them as a break in the middle of the day: get up from your desk to move and stretch.
It is not straightforward to make a sequence that would suit most people with lower back pain. The following yoga sequence is kept very gentle but at the same time it moves the body to bring in more oxygen and energy. When you have back pain it may seem like all movements hurt and you unconsciously hold yourself, which may lead to more rigidity. It is important to find ways to keep your body mobile while avoiding pain. So do try these movements but stop when they hurt. If you have mild or serious back pain and you would like to know exactly which movements would benefit you, please contact me, or another specialised yoga therapist. You can also subscribe to this blog to receive the “Keep you Back Safe at Home Guide” for free.
Arm and semi squat movement
- Inhale and raise your arms forward with the palms facing up as in the picture above. Bring them next to or slightly behind your head if that feels comfortable. Exhale lower them down.
- Inhale and raise your arms to the side and shoulder height. Exhale and lower them down. Let your breath dictate the rhythm of the movement. 3x
- Inhale and come onto the toes, exhale slowly down, 3x. Then combine the two arm movements with coming up onto the toes.
- Inhale and raise your arms in a “ten to two” position, come up onto your toes. Exhale and bend your legs as if you want to sit on a chair while placing your hands just above the knees and looking to the left. It is important to engage the muscles of your lower abdomen as you exhale. Inhale and straighten the legs again while bringing the arms up. Exhale to lower the arms and the heels, going into the semi-squat and looking over to the right. Repeat several times.
Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart and swing your arms from side to side. Allow them to swing loosely. If your back pain is in the sacrum, keep your hips facing forward or avoid the twist altogether and just swing your arms forward and back.
Gentle side stretch: breathe in one ribcage under the hand
Stretching one side of the body is lovely to create more space and freedom in that side. It definitely has a feel-good factor. However, side stretches can aggravate some causes of back pain, so I am giving two varieties, the second of which creates space in the side body without stretching too much.
- Take hold of the right wrist, turn the palm up and stretch your arm up and slightly to the left. Stay 4 to 5 breaths in this position, breathing into the right ribcage. Repeat a few times on each side.
- Lift the right arm and place it on your head or against a wall. Place the left hand against the right ribcage and breathe underneath your hand, i.e. focus on the movement of your ribcage against the hand. Repeat on the other side.
Balance holding one leg
Take time to shift your weight over to the right leg. Keep lifting through the right hip, feeling increasingly stable on the right foot. When you feel the left leg can go up lightly, bring the knee to the chest so you can hold it with both hands (or you can leave it lower down as well or on a chair). If balancing isn’t easy, hold on to a wall or chair. Engage the muscles of the lower abdomen to keep the core strong. Breathe and stay for up to a minute. Repeat on the other side.
-Place your hands underneath the shoulders so that the tips of the fingers are in line with the top of the shoulders.
-Engage the muscles of the lower abdomen to protect your lower back and hold the core firm.
-Leave the legs heavy, press down slightly through the toes and the knees.
-Raise the head and shoulders forward and up without pushing with the arms. Because you are not pushing on your arms this is a small movement that spares the lower back but lengthens and strengthens the upper back.
-Keep the back of your neck long, looking at the mat rather than forward. The neck is supposed to continue the curve of the upper spine in this pose.
Roll over and rest on your back for a few minutes. This part of the practice is very important if you want to feel all the benefits. If we simply jump up after a yoga session without the final rest, we may keep tensions in the body. Equally important is to take the time to do abdominal breathing.