If you feel exasperated with nagging back pain or tight shoulders and neck, this blog is for you. These self-care tips for a healthy back demonstrate simple practices to release tight muscles and strengthen core muscles. While feeling stronger and more flexible on a physical level is a good start, no good back care programme is complete without breath optimisation and relaxation. After all, the mind and body are intrinsically linked, so repetitive and mindless exercises are not sufficient to deal with back pain. If you would like to learn more about back care, read to the end of the blog to find out about my new 5-week back care group class, starting this April.
Stretch and release
A sedentary lifestyle, habitual movement patterns, emotional upset and stress can all lead to tightness in the body. Doing the following exercises regularly can help release the muscles along the back. The breath-movement coordination is important to also focus and relax the mind.
Cat and Cow
-Start on all fours, with your hands under the shoulders and knees under the hips.
-Exhale and bring the navel up towards the spine, rounding the spine upwards for the cat position. Allow the head to hang down.
-When you inhale, lift the sternum and collarbones, allowing the spine to gently arch downward.
-Don’t look up to much to avoid crunching the back of the neck.
-Repeat both 4 or more times in the slow rhythm of your breath.
Can’t go on hands and knees? Why not book a private session to learn about all the alternatives for this movement? You can contact me here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/
Lie on your back and hug your knees for a few moments.
-Place the feet on the floor with the knees bent, feet and knees together.
-Extend the arms to the side, at a 90- or 45-degrees angle.
Exhale and move the knees to the side.
-Inhale the knees to the centre and exhale them to the other side. Repeat 4-6x.
-Try to keep both shoulder blades on the floor.
-The head can move too, looking away from the knees.
Have you noticed how these practices don’t encourage strong stretching? When we approach our body gently, it is more willing to heal. To read how to stretch most effectively, you may be interested in this blog: https://beneyoga.co.uk/tight-muscles-how-to-stretch-efficiently-with-yoga/
Strengthen core muscles
I have written extensively about core muscles, which muscles they are exactly, and how to strengthen them safely when you have back pain. You can read more in previous blogs. For the purposes of today, the following practice strengthens the rectus abdominis.
-Lie on your back with one leg bent and one leg extended on the floor.
-Press down on the foot that’s on the floor, through the four corners of that foot.
-Raise the straight leg with the inhalation to the level of the other knee. Exhale and place it down slowly.
Repeat the same number of times with each leg.
If this gets easier, don’t place the foot down completely but hover it an inch above the floor before lifting it again. This strengthens the glute muscles, also important to support the lower back.
If you have no idea where to start and strengthen abdominal muscles safely, I made a video especially for you. You can find it here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/videos/
Free your breath
Abdominal breathing in a rest position is extremely powerful, as it allows the diaphragm to move freely. Because this main breathing muscles is so intrinsically linked to other structures in the body, its free movement massages the abdominal organs and the heart. It can even help release certain back muscles.
-Lie on your back for this practice. If comfortable, rest your legs on a chair, bent 90 degrees. Otherwise, keep the legs bent with the feet hip-width apart.
While resting, place your hands on your abdomen and feel how the hands rise when you breathe in, and go down as you exhale. Simply ‘listen’ to this rhythm and movement, allowing it to be free.
-If you have trouble finding the right movement, think of a balloon underneath your hands: it inflates when you breathe in and deflates when you breathe out.
Relax and reset
Our body and mind are connected. Stressful times in our lives often translate to tensions in the body. This is why yoga therapy is so effective for back pain: together with targeted movements, you learn breathing and relaxation techniques to calm the mind. After a yoga class, because you were breathing calmly and focusing on the practices, you may well find peace of mind or feel more content. What once seemed insurmountable, you have found the inner strength to deal with.
For this relaxation, lie on your back, inhale lightly through the nose. Visualise that you can exhale through your back into the earth. Once you have found this releasing quality of the exhalation, you can imagine letting go of other tensions. With every exhalation, surrender anything you don’t really need in your life right now, any worries and fears. Allow gravity to absorb it all.
Keep every inhalation light. Every exhalation invites you to feel a little heavier, broader and more relaxed.
New 5-week back care group class
It’s not always easy to practise by yourself. The guidance in private or group sessions will allow you to concentrate more and do the practices correctly and for longer.
If you prefer to work in a group and would like more self-care tips for a healthy back, my new 5-week back care group class may be just what you are looking for. This course is ideal for milder back pain and can help maintain a healthy, flexible and strong back. After five weeks, you will know how to release tight muscles and strengthen core muscles safely. While optimising your breath will have a positive effect on your overall wellbeing, relaxation techniques will help you to calm the mind.
My new back care classes will be a valuable addition to your self-care programme, with practices you can easily continue by yourself. These small group classes are online, with a few in-person places for people in Chiswick, London. Commit to five weeks, either on Friday mornings 8am or Saturdays at 4pm British Summer Time, for £100. Contact me here for more information or to register: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/
If your back pain is more persistent and complicated, private sessions are more appropriate. To get the individual attention and advice, do contact me for a free consultation.