Lower Back Pain - Yoga

I write this blog post with caution. As an Osteopath DO(MP) I know better then many that not all lower back pain is created equally. Not only are we looking at different levels of intensity, but also countless causes. As a yoga teacher, I am aware of many poses that can assist in relieving the pain. So this is written with a simple warning: Listen to your own body - it's way smarter then I am. I am offering a few simple releases for lower back stiffness and aches. If you try any or all of these, pay attention to how it makes you feel and proceed from there. All of these poses can be done with the depth (or as shallow) as feels right for you. 

Below I have listed a strengthening movement - a passive release, a flexibility pose and an active stretch. One, or all of them in combination just might be the ticket for you at the end of a long work day. If you find they help- then stay with it! With all of them, employ some deep breathing. Its a great opportunity to multi-task. We've all heard the benefits of deep breathing, but maybe don't get to it during a busy work week (TIP: It just takes dedication and a decision to actually do it, it doesn't take time out of your day). But if you've tried and find that you forget, make a commitment to engage in those deep breaths while in your yoga pose of choice. 

STRENGTH: The superman exercise isometrically works not only your butt but also your back and hamstrings. Lie face down on the floor with your arms extended to the front and your legs extended to the back. Contract your butt and back muscles to simultaneously lift your legs and arms a couple of inches off the floor. Right leg, left arm, then left leg and right arm. Hold this position for at least five seconds as you continue to breathe normally. Relax. Repeat the isometric contraction 10 to 20 times. If using your arms it too much on your low back (remember, there’s a bit of a back bend in this!) then use your legs only, leave the arms out of it. After all, this is about your gluteus! They are the powerhouse your hips and keep everything holding where it should be.

PASSIVE RELEASE: Set up a cozy space around a wall, feel free to use a folded blanket under your sacrum, or, just lie in bed with your legs up the headboard. Shimmy your hips as close to the wall (or headboard) as possible, then start walking your feet up the wall until your body is in a somewhat L-shaped position. Make this a comfortable pose, if you like, place a pillow under your head. I prefer to see your arms at your side, palms open to the sky. This allows for a gentle external rotation of the shoulders. This is opposite to what we tend to do all day, hunched over a computer or driving in an internal rotation. But if you prefer arms on your belly, that’s ok too. If I have suggested deep belly breathing, this is a great pose to get both pieces of homework completed at once. Stay in the pose for at least 10 minutes for optimal benefits. The semi-supine aspect of the pose combined with controlled breathing leads to a slowing down within your body. Inverting the legs/feet has long been known as an effective treatment for reducing swelling and pain in the lower extremities. This can be therapeutic after flying, physical activity or from the detrimental effects of sitting/standing during the day. The angle of the body reduces the curve of the lumbar spine, which will elongate and stretch the back muscles. The pelvic muscles naturally release and relax in this position (more so with a cushion under the pelvis) resulting in a constructive exercise for a hypertonic (tense) pelvic floor. This is a passive release for the psoas muscle.

ACTIVE:  Pigeon is a well known yoga pose with many benefits. But it’s intense! Far too intense for many, especially those with lower back pain, sciatica symptoms or hip misalignment. So, here’s a great way to get all of the benefits without the painful intensity of a traditional pigeon.Laying on the floor, get your hips up as close to the baseboard as possible. Feel free to place a folded blanket under your sacrum, or even do this on your bed, legs up the headboard.

Both legs start straight up the wall. Bend your right ankle over your left knee, as seen in the photo above. Then begin to walk your left leg down the wall. This slowly pulls your right shin towards your chest. Only bend that left leg as far as feel comfortable. You might not end up looking just like the above photo. That’s ok! Listen to your body, you don’t want to experience pain, just a stretch. Breath deeply and hold for 2 – 5min. To deepen the stretch, press your right knee away from your body. Switch sides. Take note of any differences from one side to the other and let me know at our next appointment.

*This can be done without the wall as well. It requires you slipping your right hand through the space between your legs to grip the back of the left thigh. Your left hand comes around to find the right hand. Take an interlocking finger grip behind the left thigh and pull that thigh in towards your body. This is a bit harder on your shoulders, and for those who are particularly tight through the hips, getting a grip might be problematic.

To Help with Spinal Flexibility : Start in table. Knees under hips. Wrists under shoulders. Flat back. Fingers pointed forward, elbow creases face each other. INHALE – Lower belly button to ground, open the heart centre, left forehead to sky, tip sit bones up. Complete inhale to the top of the lungs, hold for a moment. EXHALE – Reverse the movement. Draw belly button to spine, tuck chin to chest, arch the back. Complete exhale empty the lungs.   **Make the movements as deep or as shallow as feels right for you**

Stabilizes the sacrum to release lower back pain

  • Supports back by engaging abs
  • Stretches the low, mid and upper back, the front torso, the hips and the neck
  • Loosens spine
  • Stretches hips
  • Massages and stimulates kidneys and adrenal glands, and tones the uterus
  • Relieves stress and calms the mind
  • Improves vital information flow through the spinal cord
  • Improves spinal flexibility 

** Move through this for 3-5 minutes

Dana Smith