Greeting friends, today we’re serving up a Yoga Snack™ about the back!
According to the National Institute of Health: Back pain is the #2 reason why people visit a doctor and miss work and yet the cause of most back pain remains a mystery. Furthermore, medical doctors have a difficult time knowing how to treat patients complaining of back pain. Researchers are spending a lot of time looking at how yoga is different than other exercise for treating back pain. Positive findings support the notion that a regular yoga practice will strengthen back muscles and reduce or eliminate pain.
These poses are intended to encourage you to gain basic knowledge and understanding and learn how to manage back pain naturally, without medication.
The following 5 yoga poses can be practiced almost anywhere and are appropriate for beginners or advanced practitioners.
1. Child’s Pose.
This is an active pose of surrender. Start on your hands and knees. Exhale and gently sit back to rest your hips down towards your heels. Knees wide, toes touching. Toes can be flat or tucked under. Let your chest rest between your knees or on the mat. Rest your forehead or chin on the mat. Extend your arms out in front of you or rest the arms along side your body if shoulder stiffness prevents you from extending them forward. Find the most comfortable position where you can stay comfortably in stillness as you observe your natural breath. Release your thoughts and breath into your spine. Stay in this pose for 15-30 breaths.
2. Wizard Pose
This pose works similar to Child’s Pose, but adds a gentle twist. Begin the same way you begin Child’s Pose, on hands and knees. Lift and extend the right arm up and out to the right on an inhalation and then lower it between the left knee and left arm on an exhalation while slowly folding forward from the waist. Rest your shoulder and head on the floor. You can keep your left arm extended in front of you, walk your hand over to the right to deepen the twist or take it behind the back for a more intense stretch. Place attention on your breath while visualizing energy moving through the front and back body.
3. Cat Cow.
This is a mini sequence that massages and awakens the muscles of the back. Start in kneeling position. Hands and knees on the floor. Palms directly below your shoulders. Inhale and arch your back, hugging your shoulder blades together on the spine, lift the chest and open the heart. Engage your muscles and press your tailbone up to the ceiling, pull the lower rib cage in, Lift the chin and look up. Exhale and round the back, tuck the chin to the chest, look at your belly. Puff up the kidneys in your back body. Round your entire spine. Repeat the sequence of arching and rounding the back several times in rhythm with your breath.
4. Triangle Pose.
This pose improves flexibility of the spine and corrects alignment of the shoulders. Begin standing with feet spread about 3 feet apart. Point the right foot forward and the left foot at a 45 degree angle. Extend your arms out in a “T” shape, level with your shoulders, parallel to the floor, palms face down. Keeping your hips stable, legs straight and muscles active, lower ribs pulling in toward the spine. Inhale, begin to bend to the side, moving your right hand down to rest on the lower shin (or a block), while raising the left arm up toward the ceiling or the sky. You’ll feel a lengthening on the left side body. As you inhale and exhale, rotate your rib cage up. Draw you belly in. Relax your head and neck. Look up towards your thumb, if it’s comfortable. Inhale and exhale for about 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side. (If you have a high degree of lower back pain, please avoid this pose.)
5. Sphinx Pose.
A variation of Cobra Pose. Provides a gentle back bend that lengthens the spine, releases tension in lower back, opens the chest and shoulders and expands the lungs. Improves blood circulation and stimulates abdominal organs. Lie face down on your mat. Hips are heavy, thighs together, big toes touching. Extend your hands in front of you, palm face down, resting on forearms. Inhale, press into the inner edges of hands and wrists. Lift your head, shoulders, chest and rib cage, rooting your hips and lower belly (navel) into the earth. Throat back. Chin back. Gently lift and arch the upper back, keeping the spine long and shoulders soft pulling together on the back plane of the body. Inhale and exhale deeply through the nostrils. On an exhalation, gently lower the forehead down. Pause. Repeat 10-30 times.
The benefits of yoga are extensive and go well beyond the physical body, so this is one of those topics where we can only scratch the surface. The spine is an elegant and complex system composed of 33 individual bones (vertebrae) connected by ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons, joints and other tissue. Each has a unique function and must maintain proper alignment and strength for optimal mobility and to avoid unnecessary strain on the back and other parts of the body. Remember that there’s a wonderful aspect to yoga that isn’t present in other healing modalities. It is so simple and yet supremely powerful. It is proven to release you from the thinking obsessed mind, calm the central nervous system, provide restorative potential to the body and add a sense of focus and improved concentration. It is the inhalation and exhalation. The body MUST move with the breath. The breath is a means of observing yourself and the absolute key to a healthy yoga pose.
It’s important to note that performing poses in a sequence verses a single pose, will produce even greater results. These poses are just a starting point. There is no end to the possibilities that can be achieved through a regular yoga asana and meditation practice. Enjoy the journey. Peace, love and Namaste.