Most of us are not strangers to experiencing back pain and for a lot of people it can feel like a constant companion. You’re afraid to do anything too strenuous incase you aggravate it, and you find it really limits the things you’re able to do.
Yoga has been practiced to ease back pain, along with countless other benefits, for centuries. It’s main advantage is not magically disappearing the pain, but that it strengthens your core muscles in the back and torso region, so it is much harder to hurt. Yoga also corrects your posture, which is also a big culprit in back pain. If you’re not standing or sitting correctly, you could be putting a lot of stress and strain on your back.
Always remember if you have back pain then don’t throw yourself into these routines, get warmed up first and ease your way through the poses. As time goes on, you’ll become more confident and your muscles will strengthen, allowing you to move through them more easily.
If you suffer from serious back pain, then it’s worth having a talk with your doctor before you set out to begin yoga. Also, the best way to learn how to do these correctly is with the guidance of a yoga practitioner, who can straighten out any mistakes you may be making and help you to find the correct form.
To give you an idea of the poses that strengthen the back area, here are 7 yoga poses to strengthen & Ease bad backs.
Cat Pose – Marjaryasana
Description: Start on your hands and knees, hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Keep your fingers facing forward and hands, shoulder width apart. While exhaling, round your spine upwards towards the ceiling and drop your head, tightening your abdominals in towards your spine. Inhale and uncurl your spine, remaining on your hands and knees.
Benefits: Stretches out your abdominals, spine, neck and chest.
Common postural errors: Arching the lower back. Tips: Draw your shoulders away from your neck to keep the curve at the centre/top of your back.
Cow Pose – Bitilasana
Description: After exiting Cat Pose, on your next inhalation arch your spine, lifting your chest and sit bones towards the ceiling , keeping your head straight and gazing forward. Exhale and return to a neutral position.
Repeat the Cat into Cow poses 10-20 times.
Benefits: Stretches out your abdominals, spine, neck and chest.
Common postural errors: Jutting your rib cage out. Tips: Focus on raising hi bones and keep your gaze forward, neck lengthened.
Cobra Pose – Bhujangasana
Description: From a prone position, place your palms under your shoulders and legs flat to the floor. On inhalation slowly raise your chest up, bending backwards as much as possible and hold for 10-15 seconds. On exhalation bring your body back down to the prone position. Repeat 5 times, taking a 15 second break between each hold.
Benefits: Strengthen the spine, stretches the chest, shoulders, and abdomen, firms the buttocks, and relieves stress and fatigue.
Common postural errors: Overarching the neck and lower back. Tips: Keep your gaze directed down at the floor and focus on bringing movement into the area between the shoulder blades.
Child Pose – Balasana
Description: Begin by kneeling on the floor, with your hips aligned over your knees. Bring your legs together so that your big toes are touching and lower your body to rest your buttocks on your heels, separating your knees. Exhale and lower your torso down to your inner thighs, elongating your neck and spine, while stretching your tailbone down toward the floor. Place your hands on the floor beside your feet, palms facing up the way. Relax your shoulders toward the floor, widening them across your upper back. Now place your forehead on the floor and hold for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
Benefits: Stretches the spine, thighs and ankles.
Common Postural Errors: Compressing the back of the neck Tips: Inhale into the back of your rib cage and round your back to create a dome shape.
Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana
Description: From Upward Facing Dog, kneel on your hands and knees with your knees directly below your hips. Stretch your hands out slightly in front of your shoulders with your fingertips facing forward and hands should-width apart. Exhale and press against the floor keeping your elbows straight. Lift your sit bones up toward the ceiling and your knees away from the floor, lengthening your hips away from your ribs and elongating your spine. Press your heels against the floor, contract your thighs and try straightening your knees. Turn your thighs slightly inward and broaden your chest and shoulders. You should position your head in between your arms. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
Benefits: The Downward Facing Dog Pose strengthens your arms and legs, while stretching shoulders, calves and hamstrings.
Common postural errors: Sinking shoulders down into spine. Tips: Focus on contracting your thighs and lengthening spine to stop shoulders from sinking.
Extended Triangle Pose – Parivrtta Trikonasana
Description: From the Mountain pose, move your feet until they are roughly three feet apart, with your pelvis, chest and head aligned. Inhale and raise both arms straight out to the side, until they’re parallel with the floor, palms facing down. Exhale, and keeping your legs straight, pivot on your heels to turn your left foot all the way to the right and keeping your heels in line with each other.
Lower your torso to the right, as far as is comfortable and keep your arms parallel to the floor. Once your torso is fully extended, drop your arm so that your left hand rests on your ankle and extend your right arm to the ceiling. Extend your arms as far as you can in opposite directions and turn your head to focus on your left thumb. Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat instructions with opposite leg.
Benefits: It stretches the spine, back, shoulders, ankles, hips, groin, hamstrings and calves. It also alleviate backaches.
Common postural errors: Twisting your hips. Tips: Keep your leading knee centred over your foot and if you feel unbalanced, you can practice with keeping your back heel against a wall.
Garland Pose – Malasana
Description: Begin in Mountain Pose and keeping your heels on the floor, extend your arms directly in front of you, bending your knees and folding your body forward and downwards by dropping your pelvis and moving your thighs slightly wider than your torso. Exhale and lean your body forward so it fits snugly between your thighs. Press your palms together as in prayer, and place your elbows against the back of the knees. Press your knees into your elbows, inhale and hold for 30 second to 1 minute. Exhale and straighten your knees, slowly returning to the mountain pose.
Benefits: The Garland Pose tones abdominal and pelvic floor muscles while stretching the snakes, groin, legs and lower back.
Common postural errors: Leaning forward or sinking shoulders. Tips: When you Squat, if your heels come up and don’t lie flat on the floor, try placing a blanket or towel underneath and start again.