So you have overcome severe back pain, visited several back specialists and you are now committed to keep looking after your back so that you will never suffer such pain anymore. You were told to keep your abdominal muscles strong and were given a few other exercises to keep doing at home. If you want to maintain the health of your back, its strength and flexibility, this yoga movement is for you, a great one to add to your exercise regime and do a few times a week.
This exercise tones and strengthens the upper body, the core muscles, gluts, shoulders, arm and neck muscles. It is also good for balance and left-right coordination. Please try it and let me know how you get on! As always, discontinue if the movement is causing you any pain.
Start on all fours on a yoga mat or a carpet, hands shoulder-width apart underneath the shoulders and knees hip-width apart under the hips. You may like a blanket under the knees if that is more comfortable.
Stage 1: only the legs
• Exhale and move the right knee to the forehead and the forehead to the knee. Your spine arches up like the back of an angry cat.
• Inhale and lengthen the leg away behind you while straightening the back, so the head, trunk and right leg are all in one line.
Repeat a few times and then try the same with the left leg.
Stage 2: add the arm movement
• Do the same movement with the legs but while your right leg is straightening, bring the left arm up and next to your ear so it is also in line with the trunk and the right leg.
• While bending your right knee towards your forehead, bring the left arm backwards by the side of your body.
Stage 3: Holding the pose — “the Hunting Dog”
Once you have done the pose dynamically, you can stay in the “long version” (with the leg, arm and trunk all in one line) for a few breaths or up to a minute. This pose is sometimes called the “hunting dog.” Focus on your alignment and keep the centre of the body steady and strong. Make sure the lower back does not dip down. If you feel this is the case, lengthen the lower back by slightly tilting the tailbone down, thus lengthening the lower back. While breathing in, feel the ribs expand to the side, then contract the abdominal muscles (pulling the abdomen up towards the spine) while breathing out.
Rest in child’s pose afterwards.
For the correct alignment of this exercise, it helps to practise a few times near a low mirror, so you can check if the pelvis is even, your back straight and the trunk, arm and leg are in one line. Alternatively, you could connect with me for an in-person or a Skype session to practise this and other great exercises for your back!