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Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain

Hi yogis,

Back pain is hands down the most common problem I come across among people who first come to yoga. Many new students embark on the practice solely in hopes that it will relieve their physical pain and struggle. And it absolutely can. Yoga is wonderful for healing the body from the inside out, and there are so many more poses and sequences besides this single article that can help.

It’s important to note that everyone’s physical pain is individual to them, and may be caused by something different than the person on the next mat. It also may be at a different level of pain on any given day. Basically, there is no “One Size Fits All” back-healing sequence. Therefore, as yoga students, we need to stay very alert of the sensations in our body as we move through each pose. We need to learn the difference between discomfort due to stiffness, and pain caused by an injury. If any pose gives you immediate, sharp, stabbing pain, come out. If you simply feel a little unease, discomfort, or dull achey sensation, do your best to breathe through it so that the body can transform and heal.

Generally speaking, this sequence is a great one to implement into your daily life even when the pain is actively present. Most of us will find it beneficial, especially when practiced consistently. Practice when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed at night several times a week. Of course, listen to your body and honor what it tells you.

Cat/Cow:

Start on hands and knees, knees under the hips, wrists under the shoulders. On an inhale, arch your spine by dipping your belly toward the ground, and lifting the tailbone, chest, and gaze up toward the sky. On your exhale, round your spine, tucking the tailbone and bringing the chin toward the chest. Practice these for 5-20 rounds.

Downward Facing Dog:

Tuck the toes, straighten the legs, and draw the heels down toward the ground. Lift the sit bones up toward the sky and press the chest down and toward your thighs. Feel space and openness in every vertebra as you lengthen the entire spine as much as possible. Feel free to pedal the feet out a few times to get into the feet and back of the legs more. Breathe here for 5-20 breaths.

Child’s pose:

Come down onto your knees, sit back on your heels and let your forehead rest on the mat. Arms can be straight forward or back by your legs. Allow the body to be heavy. Feel the hips sink down toward your heels as you breathe here for 5-30 breaths.

Sphinx pose:

Lie down on your belly. Keep your legs straight and prop yourself up on your forearms to come into a backbend. Keep the elbows under the shoulders, shoulders out of the ears. Gently pull your heart forward to deepen the stretch and lengthen the lower back. Breathe here for 5-20 breaths.

Happy Baby Pose:

Turn over onto your back. Grab the outside edges of your feet and draw the knees down on either side of your torso. Do your best to press the tailbone and shoulders into the ground to get the whole spine in contact with the mat. You can stay still here or maybe rock side to side if that feels good, perhaps even straighten the legs wide for an extra hip opener.

A Note on Twists:

While in the process of feeling pain, it’s not usually ideal to do twists. Of course it will be different for everyone, and everyone’s pain is from something individual. But in many cases twisting with lower back pain present can actually exasperate the injury. You will know if this is you- the moment you enter into the twist it will be more painful.

So if you’re actively feeling acute pain, lay off the twists as a healing modality or treatment. If you don’t have acute pain in the present moment, twisting is absolutely beneficial to address chronic back pain. So to sum it up: As long as you’re not in a current episode of acute pain, twists are so great for the body. But in the moment of chronic low back pain, skip the twists until the pain diminishes some.

With that in mind…

Supine Twist:

Lying on your back with your arms out wide, bend your knees and drop them over to ground on the right side. Keep drawing the shoulders down toward the ground to deepen the twist and open the chest and upper spine. Breathe here for 5-20 breaths. Then on an inhale, raise the knees back up through center and take them over to the left, twisting the other direction.

After your practice, it’s best to take a few quiet introspective moments of rest, lying down flat on your back, legs out straight, palms face up, eyes closed. If this feels bad on your lower back as well, place a bolster, pillow, or rolled up blanket underneath the knees to ground the hips and spine.

I hope this article helps you heal. If you have questions, comments, or concerns please let me know! I’m happy to help you find the perfect poses for your personal lower back pain. And stay consistent! Healing is possible with practice. <3

With love,

-E

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