One of the joys during the easing of lockdown restrictions this summer has been to walk or hike in nature. Still now, with the threat of a second lockdown in the air, walking in the outdoors is our precious chance to feel more free and connected with nature. When you have back pain, however, long walks or hiking may not always be pleasant. The whole body feels more tired as the back muscles tighten and ache. In this blog I am describing a few simple releasing exercises that can be helpful to stretch your back during a long walk.
Before we delve into the stretches, it is important to know how to prevent back pain in the first place, and walk in a way that supports rather than tires your back. I have written about posture and foot alignment while walking in this blog: https://beneyoga.co.uk/correcting-bad-posture-4-walking-exercises/. Also working on posture and back strength in general is important; if you would like to learn this through private zoom classes, do contact me here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/.
Now, since we may still find ourselves on this walk with an aching back, there are a few exercises that can ease lower back tightness. All we need to do is lean forward against a wall or a tree. The idea is to stretch the back of the legs gently and stretch the muscles along the spine.
-Stand facing a tree or a wall.
-Place the right foot about 1 foot-length away from the surface in front of you.
-Place the left foot a comfortable distance behind you, with the toes facing our at a small angle and the heel completely on the floor.
-Both legs are straight, and the hipbones are both facing forward.
-Inhale and lift the arms high, placing them about shoulder distance apart on the tree or wall.
-Shift the weight of the hips over the back foot.
-Engage the lower abdominal muscles to keep the lower back long. No part of the back should feel like it is sinking downwards. Think instead of lengthening the tailbone away behind you and keeping the abdomen up.
-Keep your head between the arms.
-Stay for 4 to 5 breaths.
-Exhale to come out of the position.
-Repeat with the left leg forward.
When the back is really aching and needs a rest, it can feel wonderful to lie with the whole trunk on a flat surface. A table could be found on your way, or as in my case, a flat rock.
-Stand close to the surface that you are going to lie on, let’s say a table.
-Bend your legs so that the hip fold is level with and against the edge of the table.
-Controlling the movement with your hands on the table, exhale and slowly lower yourself so you lie with your abdomen on the table. Try not to arch the lower back while you go forward.
-Keep the legs bent or straight, depending on what feels more relaxing.
-Rest for a minute or two, with your head on folded arms.
-To come up, exhale and use your arms, keeping the back relaxed.
If your back pain also involves shooting pain down your leg, this position needs to be adapted. You can contact me here to learn how.
Both positions come out of the Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs course, which I teach and will start again in a small group via Zoom in mid September. Please contact me here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/contact-for-yoga-classes-in-chiswick/ to learn more about this group course for people with lower back pain.
Not all lower backs like this position, but if your back is happy with the tree stretch and has not been painful for quite a few months, a forward bend can be a nice way to stretch your back during a long walk. The hamstrings can resist a good stretch and because they are often tight in people with back pain, I suggest keeping the legs bent.
To come up, bend the knees more, place your hands on the legs, exhale and come up with a straight spine. This is important to avoid over-stretching your back.
After your walk, it is heavenly to stretch your legs up the wall, so have a look at this blog https://beneyoga.co.uk/heavy-legs-summer-yoga/ to know how.