Lower back pain is extremely common for adults of all age and activity level, and can leave us feeling miserable and helpless. Sitting too long, exercising too hard or repetitive poor movement can all result in lower back issues.
A Sitting Life
When we look at the way many Americans live we realise that a huge amount of time is spent in a seated position. A day in a seated life might look something like this; you get up in the morning and sit in a chair to have coffee or breakfast, sit in the car or on public transport to get to work, sit in at a desk in your office or meeting, have lunch seated and then sit for some more work before commuting home in a seated position where you enjoy a seated dinner perhaps followed by some television on the couch.
While this might be an extreme case of sitting, even a bit less than this can cause problems. Anatomically, when we sit the hamstrings and iliopsoas muscles are shortened, plus, we often slump forward which puts extra pressure on the discs of the lower back.
An Active Life
Even if you’re exercising a lot, or living an active life you may still struggle with lower back pain. When you exercise or do heavy lifting without fully, properly engaging the muscles of the deep core, the lower back often takes the load which can cause lower back issues. Furthermore, running or jumping repetitively compresses the vertebrae of the lower back and can result in pain.
Yoga for Lower Back Pain
Although we are focusing on how to soothe lower back pain, it is important to note that practicing specific Yoga postures can prevent lower back problems from developing in the first place. To protect the lower back we usually need to incorporate more core strengthening, particularly to the abdominals, and the deep core which runs up and down the spine.
But what about when the pain is already there? Try the postures described below to soothe your pain. Be sure to pair them with slow deep breathing and follow with a long Savasana to promote calmness, relaxation and deep healing. Please approach the following postures with care and attention to your body. if you are in chronic pain please consult your healthcare professional before carrying out the listed postures.
Supta Matsyendrasana/ Reclined Twist
Twisting the spine stretches the back muscles and glutes, relaxes and realigns the spine and can feel like an incredible massage to the hips and outer thighs. It also massages and tones the abdominal organs, and sends fresh blood to the digestive organs promoting the function and health of the entire reproductive system.
- Lie on your mat with your feet hip distance apart
- Slowly allow your legs to move to the left
- Look up or to your right
- To deepen place your left heel over your right knee, be careful of your lower back
- Hold for 5 – 10 breaths
- Release and come back to the centre
- Repeat on the other side
Salabhasana is excellent for strengthening the muscles along the spine, correcting postural problems and promoting healthy hips and hamstrings. It opens the chest and teaches the body to use the thoracic area of the spine instead of falling into the lower back. The spinal extension is also energising and stimulating, promoting happiness and clarity. If you are currently experiencing lower back pain it is important to come into the posture very slowly and with care not to crunch into your lumbar spine area.
- Lay on your belly, resting your forehead on your hands and with your toes together
- Start to peel your chest forward and upwards, tuck your chin to keep your neck long
- Lift your hands underneath your arm pits, keeping your elbows in towards your ribs
- If this feels strong stay practicing here, or,
- Lift your legs and feet, keeping your legs firm
- Keep your belly and chest on the floor
- If you need to you can move your feet slightly apart
- If this feels strong stay practicing here, or,
- Lift your arms out behind you, off the floor
- Hold fold for 5-10 deep breaths
- On an exhale, slowly release resting your head in your hands and allowing the body to relax
- Repeat 3 times, if you feel confident come into the full posture immediately, or move slowly and gradually
Marjariasana and Bitilasana or Cat and Cow pose
Cat and cow pose relieves lower back pain by strengthening the spine by balancing out the curves of the upper and lower spine. Additionally, the postures are performed as a flow, maximising energy movement and sending fresh blood to the entire spine, thus helping to relieve lower back pain and relieve menstrual cramps.
- Start in table top position with the shoulders over the wrists and knees underneath the hips
- As you inhale lift your tailbone towards the sky, draw your shoulder blades back, lift your chest, if it feels ok lift your chin
- As you exhale curl your tailbone towards your navel, draw your shoulder blades forward without crowding your ears and tuck your chin in to your throat
- This is one round, repeat 5 – 10 rounds
- As you continue you may bend the elbows to create a scooping action as you move
Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Facing Dog
Lower back pain can be caused by strained or tight hamstrings, downward facing dog is perfect for stretching the hamstrings, and when practiced regularly can help to create more flexibility in this area, promoting long term relief of lower back pain.
- Start in table top position with the hands underneath the shoulders and knees underneath the hips
- Tuck your toes under and lift your hips towards the ceiling, if you are a new practitioner keep your knees bent
- Spread your fingers, press into your hands, scoop your outer shoulder towards the floor and look out behind you
- If you feel OK to do so begin to straighten your legs and ease your heels towards the floor, keep the legs firm by pulling your knee caps up
- Hold for 5 – 10 deep breaths
- To release bend your knees and place them on the floor coming back into table top position
Looking for more ways to delve into your Asana practice? Take a look at our articles 'Yoga to Open Your Heart and Boost Your Confidence' or 'Your Essential Guide to Warrior 1,2 & 3'.