As most people know, yoga is terrific for muscle flexibility, breathing/mediation, building up core strength and correcting posture. There are specialized yoga courses for almost everything, for example, yoga for flexibility, yoga for seniors, yoga for back pain, yoga for core strength, yoga for stress and so on. A general rule is to exhale when exerting.
To warm up, relax into stretches gently until your muscles are warmed up before going into deeper stretches. Many experts have advised that people should never stretch till they felt pain. They should stretch till they feel resistance and let the tensions melt away gradually.
Yoga with specific focus on back pain, helps to stretch and strengthen your back and abdominal muscles that provides critical support for your spine and back.
When I first started, I would just quickly morph into various yoga poses, did a few sets and I am done with the exercise. I did the exercises half heartedly and in haste. After doing for a couple of months, I felt that it’s not very effective for me.
After my relatives and friends strongly encouraged me with their testimonials, I delve deeper into yoga. I found out that, having a meditative mind and breathing are very important, not just the pose.
What I have learnt is that I have clear my mind, not to think of anything else and just concentrate on my breathing and the stretches. Before going too deeply into the poses, I do mini stretches to warm up. Without warming up properly, there is a greater chance of injury. I find that the exercises becomes more effective if you are more relaxed and able to concentrate on getting the muscles being worked better.
Within 2 weeks, I began to notice improvements on my back and I was walking around with an improved posture. Yoga is now one of my preferred methods of treating my back pain. I am not an expert on Yoga and I only practice the simplest poses.
As every person is different, some yoga poses might be more beneficial to others. Yoga exercises can also be slightly modified to suit your preference. Here are my takes on these popular yet simple yoga poses for back pain relief for beginners or for warming up.
This resting pose is the simplest and most relaxing yoga exercise. 🙂
Pose Position: In a kneeing position, lean your head forward to just touch the ground with your arms(palm facing upwards) by your sides. Your buttocks should be resting on your heels. Breathe in when going into the pose. Hold for 20 secs and repeat.
Great for: Stretching the lower back & hips. Relieves stress.
My take: I prefer another version of it by stretching my arms out in front of me instead. When I stretch in this pose, I can feel the pulling of my back muscles better and feel the shoulder pull as well. For a warming up or warming down stretch, I rate this a 7/10.
Cow & Cat Pose
Pose Position: All fours position. Breathe in as you arch down your back (Cow) and look forward. Breathe out as you round up your back and tuck in your chin (Cat).
Great for: Spinal flexibility, stretching shoulders, back and hips. Relieves stress.
My take: Great exercise especially when I have been sitting down for quite a while to stretch and relieve my back and bottom discomfort. My rating 7/10.
Downwards Facing Pose
Pose Position: Bend forward with your feet and hands flat on the ground. Make sure your legs and body form an inverted V shape. Weight distribution should be equal between your hand and legs.
Great For: Stretching hamstrings and calves. Strengthening shoulders and arms.
My Take: Great for warming up. Hamstrings and calves are stretched effectively. I also like it that with the head down, blood flow is going towards my head. I find it hard to hold the position and concentrate on my breathing. 6/10
Pose Position: Lying on your front with toes pointed outwards, slowly lift your upper body up (by straightening your arms) while keeping your hips towards the floor.
Great For: Back, back & more back. Abdominal, shoulders & arms.
My Take: One of my favorite effective exercises. Really helped my back to loosen its back muscles. I like to do a slight modification to this exercise by twisting my right shoulders to the left and vice versa. I find that more back muscles are being used. Rating this pose 9/10.
A similar but more difficult pose are the locust poses. The positions are same, lying front down on the floor.
- Version 1: Arms by your side. Lift your chin and shoulders, while keeping the rest of the body on the floor.
- Version 2: Arms by your side. Lift your legs off the ground, while keeping the rest of the body on the floor.
- Version 3: Arms by your side. Lift both your legs and your shoulders off the ground.
- Version 4: Arms behind. Lift both your legs and your shoulders off the ground.
Figure 4 Pose
Pose Position: Lying on your back with bent knees. Lift your right ankle to rest on your left knee. Place your hands behind your left thigh and bring your right ankle towards you. And vice versa.
Great For: Back, thighs and hips.
My Take: A slightly more difficult exercise. I feel that it is good for back and butt areas. As I am not very flexible, this exercise is a little awkward for me but I can see the benefits once I do this exercise regularly. Rated 6/10.
Pose Position: Lying on your back with arms stretched out in a T shaped. Bring left knee across towards the right to touch the ground with face turned towards the left. Do it for the other leg as well.
Great For: Back, neck, shoulders and hips.
My Take: I like this simple yet effective exercise that I can’t do without. My back always cracks when doing this pose which gratifying. 🙂 After repeating and holding the pose for a few times, I feel that my whole back has gone through a great exercise. I find it my back muscles working harder when my knees are reaching out to the side as far out as possible. Rate: 9/10
Pose Position: Lying on your front, lift your body up by your toes and elbows. Elbows should be below your shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Great For: Almost every muscle in your body. Core, back, shoulders, feet, legs.
My take: One of the classic all body workout. When I first started, my arms started to quiver under my body weight. Now, I am able to hold with ease. I’ll do this pose not more than 2 minutes each time. Personally, I do not think this pose will be good for longer periods as it can really stress your muscles. While in this pose, I will incorporate small rocking movements. I feel that movements for the muscles are more effective than holding the pose. Rating this 7/10.
Before Starting out…
Before you get into yoga for your back pain, discuss with your doctor if yoga exercises focusing on back pain would be suitable for you. Ask if there are any certain pose to avoid, given your condition.
If you are looking for a yoga program to join, look for a trained yoga instructor who specializes in back pain. Does he have any certification to show? How many years has the instructor been practicing? Does he know how to do a postural assessment? Ask some of his students for their feedback on the methods used by the instructor. With all this information, you will be able to make an informed decision.
My Yoga Works is quite a popular yoga exercise site. They have 40+ teachers coaching 1000+ yoga classes. These classes cater to every aspect of your life, for example, from building core strength to fitness to mediation and of course back pain relief.
To sum things up, do practice good posture. Get into some exercises to get some strengthening or stretching movements on the muscles. Your back will thank you for it!