Back pain is a simple complication that, in the western world, we are all too familiar with. Whether it’s from sitting at a desk in front of a computer for hours a day, from unintentionally slouching behind the wheel of a car for long periods of time, from strenuous manual labor, stress, or even menstruating, we have all experienced the toll that back pain can cause. Even in a yoga class, it is one of the more common ailments people choose to share at the beginning of class with their yoga teacher.
Relieving Back Pain with Yoga
A healthy back means a healthy spine, and healthy spine is so important to the well-being of the rest of your body. Luckily, yoga’s got our back (pun very intended) when everyday life brings it pain and imbalance. In yoga we move the spine in various ways, that lead to the strengthening and stretching of our back. These movements can help bring relief to temporary or perpetual back pain. Here are my favorite movements and yoga poses to help combat both lower and upper back pain:
Chances are, if you’ve ever been to a single yoga class, no matter the style, you did a couple of cat-cows. There’s a reason so many teachers incorporate this simple movement into the beginning of a yoga class- it provides a massage to the spine and awakens the back. As you alternate from arching the back to the ceiling in cat pose, to dropping your belly towards the earth in cow pose, you are providing a stretch to the spine in two different directions that feel wonderful after a long day of sitting.
Child’s Pose Balasana
Child’s pose is a beautiful thing. Not only does it provide an amazing resting position before or after any asana, it also provides much relief to back tension. When doing child’s pose with the knees together it creates a stretch for the lower back. Holding the pose in this manner, you can easy alleviate any lower back tightness or tension. You can choose to keep the hands along the sides, or stretch the arms long in front of you, pressing into the hands to create more intensity in the back stretch.
Foward Fold Uttanasana
Another very simple, yet very effective yoga posture for finding relief from back tension is to fold forward over the legs, with the crown of your head weighing down towards the earth. When we spend our days standing or sitting for hours on end, or spines become compressed. A forward fold is a great way to give the vertebrae a break from this compression, and let gravity create space in the spine again. While the pose is great for both upper and lower back pain, bending the knees deeply while in the forward fold can create more relief for lower back pain.
Happy Baby Ananda Balasana
Happy baby is always a welcome pose for me at the end of a yoga class, but especially after a long day of manual labor of any form. In happy baby, as we stretch the tops of the thighs to the earth, our spines gently stretch out on to the earth in a soothing manner. Further, as you rock forward and back, or side to side in this pose you get a nice massage for the lumbar spine and middle back. It feels especially good if the back is tight or full of tension knots.
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