When faced with a health challenge such as back pain, what you do every day counts, and how you start the day is very important. Starting with a morning yoga routine prepares your back in the best possible way for the day ahead. If you think about it, you already have a morning routine: the way you get out of bed, move to the shower and eat your breakfast all involve movements that may or may not benefit your back. This article will walk you through a morning yoga routine for a healthy back. You can do this practice every day to maintain a pain-free, flexible and strong back. These movements are suitable for general lower back stiffness and mild back pain. Doing the movements in coordination with the breath will also soothe the nervous system and set you up for the day with a calmer and more focused mind.
Mobilising the lower back: Circle knees
Before getting out of bed, lie on your back and bend both knees up to the chest, place one hand on each knee and circle them together, a few small circles in both directions.
Getting out of bed:
Roll over to the side and push yourself up with your arms. This is a safer way of getting up than scrunching yourself up and over, which may be difficult if your back muscles have tightened during the night.
Strengthening the feet, finding the breath
Once out of bed, and preferably in front of a window, stand with the feet hip-width apart and raise your heels with the inhalation, lower them with an exhalation. You can add the arms by moving them to the side when you come onto the toes, and relaxing them down when the heels touch the floor again. Coordinate the breath with the movement: this slower and mindful action is calming and more strengthening for the feet.
Mobilising shoulders and deepening the breath
Stay with the two feet firmly on the floor while moving the arms up and down.
Inhale and raise the arms out to the side and overhead.
Slowly lower the arms in time with the exhalation.
Repeat several times.
Back and Shoulder Stretch
Interlace the fingers above the head and turn the palms up.
The arms can be held further forward if the shoulders are tight.
Keep the position for a few breaths.
Keeping both feet firmly down, exhale and move the arms to the right. Inhale and move them back to the centre.
Repeat a few times to each side, thinking of lengthening up and over, rather than bending to the side.
Mobilising the spine: cat stretch and twist
Interlace the fingers behind your head.
Exhale and round your back while bringing the elbows towards each other.
Repeat both positions a few more times with the breath.
Exhale and turn the trunk towards the right.
Inhale and return to look forward.
Repeat a few times from side to side with the breath.
Don’t repeat if there is discomfort in the sacrum, the lowest part of the back.
Lengthening the whole spine
Place your hands on a cupboard or a wall and position the feet under your hips.
If the backs of your legs are tight, choose a wall and start with the hands much higher. The aim is to have a straight back.
Stretch your hips behind you without dipping the lower back down. Keep the head between your arms and stay in the position for a few breaths.
Resting the back
Find a soft surface for your knees and lower yourself on all fours.
Starting on all fours, with the hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips:
Exhale and bring the hips towards the feet.
Inhale and return to all fours.
Repeat the sequence a few more times and then take a minute to rest in child’s pose. If your hips don’t touch the feet, rest with the hips higher and the head on your hands or arms, provided this is comfortable.
With every exhalation allow the head and the hips to relax a little more.
Concentration and rest: abdominal breathing
After this short sequence, stay for a few minutes on your back with the legs bent and feet on the floor. Unless this hurts your back it is best to keep the legs bent.
Tell your mind to just follow the breath for a while, without pursuing any other thoughts. If your mind wanders, don’t get frustrated but simply bring your attention back to your breathing. This is harder than you think, so challenge yourself to stay concentrated for 5 minutes. This concentration sets the mind up for more clarity during the rest of the day.