So your doctor has recommended stretching to help alleviate your back pain and you'd like to try a few yoga stretches. Which ones do you choose?
In patient centered health-care yoga is an amazing tool clients can use to help alleviate pain. Today there are several different styles of yoga available to practitioners in the west. Some styles may be better at providing relief for your body than others. Experiment to find out what feels and works best for you.
Below is a beginner-oriented sequence to help release tightness in the muscles of the lower back. Most of these postures are regularly practiced in Forrest Yoga classes. Forrest yoga offers its practitioners - in every class- exercises that help strengthen and lengthen the core.
1. Breathing Into Your Lower Back
Start laying on the floor, legs bent feet resting flat on the floor or if you want use a chair, rest the lower legs on the chair. Place your hands under your lower back. As you inhale focus on expanding the belly and lower back so the lower back presses into the hands with each inhale. Do this for at least 3 minutes. This warm up exercise increases local circulation and also helps increase awareness in the lower back.
2. Pelvic Tilts
Lay on the floor with the legs bent, feet resting on the floor. On your inhale tilt your pelvis up, press your lower back into the floor. On your exhale release the pelvis. Repeat this gentle rocking movement of the pelvis for a few minutes. This exercise gently increases circulation and flexibility in the lower back.
3. Abs with a Roll
Roll a large towel so its' diameter is approximately 8 inches or more. Lay on the floor, legs bent, feet flat on the floor, roll between thighs, roll close to the pelvic bones, hands interlaced behind the head. On your inhale, press the lower back down into the floor, curl tailbone up squeeze the roll, on exhale curl head and shoulders up, at the end of the exhale pull belly down, press lower back again into the floor. Inhale release the head and pelvis, hold the breath, press lower back down, curl tailbone up, squeeze the roll, exhale repeat the same movements as during the first exhale. That two reps. Do a minimum of 3 reps. As you get stronger try practicing this exercise with the feet off the floor, legs bent at a 90 degree angle, or legs straight up. This exercise builds strength through the back and abdomen.
4. Back Release Pose
Laying on the floor, feet flat on the floor, cross right ankle over left thigh, right ankle close to the knee. Reach right hand between the legs, lift left foot off the floor and interlock fingers either around the left shin or left hamstring (you can use a strap here if you need to, or if the stretch is very intense you can keep the left foot on the floor). On inhales expand your lower back and belly, on exhales gently draw the left thigh to the chest. Try not to strain through the neck, arms or upper back. Hold for 5 to 8 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side. This exercise flexes the hips and stretches the muscles of the lower back and hips.
5. Savasana with legs on a chair or legs up the wall
Give yourself permission to rest for at least 5 mins in either of these positions. These positions create space in the lumbar vertebra and ease tension in lower back muscles.