8 SIMPLE POSES TO EASE LOWER BACK PAIN
Updated: Apr 6, 2018
Lower back pain is the number one complaint I get from clients and students, so I've put together 8 easy poses that can be done in sequence or separately to help you with that troublesome and often debilitating achy lower back. These poses can be done anytime and anywhere. All you need is a mat or a towel, a yoga block (optional), and a blanket, bolster or pillow.
While our modern day lives afford many luxuries and conveniences, one of the big downfalls is the strain in puts on our bodies...specifically our lower backs. We spend a good portion of our days in our car, at our desks, slumped on the couch and hunched over looking at our cell phones for far too long rather than out tending the fields and gathering food like our active ancestors did. This lack of movement has resulted in poor posture which weakens the abdominal muscles and puts a lot of pressure on our spines leading to pain, injury and over time, can even lead to deformity. Sound scary?? Ummmm...yes?!? But before you quit your desk job and take up farming the fields, there ARE a few things you can do every day to help combat the strains of modern day living on your back.
The following sequence can be done from start to finish for a complete lower back practice, or you can choose to focus on just one or two of the poses depending on how much time you have and what feels good in your body. The focus of these postures is to gently round the lower back which helps to decompress the lumbar spine. Backbends are for the most part avoided because they only further compress an already crunched lower back. When holding these poses try to visualize sending your breath into your lower back to help create more space there. I know that that may sound like a ridiculous instruction, "you want me to breath into my back??" But I encourage you to give it a try. Breathing slowly and deeply with awareness and intention helps us to get more grounded, and allows us to relax more and more deeply with each breath. It also helps to stimulate the Vagus Nerve which can help to reduce anxiety. Anxiety and stress can be big triggers of lower back pain.
It’s very important to go slowly in and out of these postures as any quick or jerky movements can exacerbate lower back pain. Most importantly, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! If anything hurts, don’t do it! Be sure to see a doctor if you’re experiencing any sharp or severe pain. A slight level of discomfort is OK as you hold these poses and focus on your breath, but pain is your body’s indicator to back off…not listening to that could result in injury.
Uttanasana Forward Fold with Bent Knees:
1. Stand with your feet hips distance or slightly wider (whatever makes you feel most stable and supported). Spread your toes and root the four corners of your feet firmly into the floor.
2. Bend your knees slightly and fold forward, hinging from your hips. You can either let your arms hang towards the floor or you can grab opposite elbows. Stack your hips over your ankles and relax your head and neck, letting your head hang down towards the floor.
3. Make sure your knees are bent enough so that your chest and your thighs connect (for a lot of us this means bending the knees A LOT). This ensures that your lower back is rounded which will help to lengthen and stretch it rather than putting any undo stress on it. You can move towards straight legs ONLY if you can keep your chest and thighs connected with the legs straight.
4. Hold Uttanasana for 5-10 deep and steady breaths.
5. After your last breath, either SLOWLY roll up to standing or continue to next pose.
Crouch and Curl:
1. Starting from Uttanasana Forward Fold, Place hands on floor and squat down into a little ball, coming high onto your tippy toes and connecting forehead to knees.
2. Hug your navel to your spine and allow your spine to round.
3. Hold for 5-10 slow inhales and exhales.
4. After your last breath, either come out of pose slowly to avoid light headedness or transition to hands and knees.
1. Come to your hand and knees, stacking your shoulders over your wrists and your knees under your hips. Spread your fingers wide, rooting the padding of your fingertips into your mat. Press the tops of your feet down into your mat as well. Hug your upper outer arms in and slightly spin the inner elbows to face forward. Draw your navel up and in so that your abdominals are engaged. Keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine.
2. On an inhale slowly pull your heart forward through your arms and tilt your tailbone up towards the sky. Look slightly upwards without straining your neck.
3. On an exhale press your palms firmly into the mat, round your spine and tuck your chin into your chest. and your tailbone towards the floor.
4. Repeat both cat and cow in succession for about 10 rounds of breath. Go very slowly so that there is no quick movement in the lower, lumbar spine.
* Our lower backs like to do the majority of the work whenever we flex and/or extend the spine as the lumbar has the most range of motion. We want to try and focus on the upper, thoracic spine here which doesn’t have as much mobility as the lower back. By focusing on the upper back, we will slowly stretch out the lower back without putting any undo strain or pressure on it.
Balasana (Child's Pose):
1. Starting from hands and knees, bring your big toes together and sit your hips back onto your heels and your forehead to the mat or to a block if that feels more comfortable. You can also place a rolled up blanket on top of your heels to sit your hips back onto if you need more support. You can have your knees together or slightly wider than your hips. Either extend your arms out in front of you or drape them along the sides of your body (whichever feels better to you).
2. Hold pose for 5-10 breaths.
Thread the Needle:
1. Lie on your back and cross your right ankle over your left knee. Flex both feet to protect your knees.
2. Thread your arms through and interlace your fingers behind your left thigh or on top of your left shin (on top of shin intensifies hip and glute stretch).
3. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, slowly hug your left knee in closer towards your chest.
4. Hold pose for 5-10 breaths and then switch sides.
* This pose is particularly good for sciatica which is a large culprit of lower back pain.
Supine Simple Twist:
1. Lie on your back, bend your knees to 90 degrees with your feet flexed and off the floor and your shins parallel to the ceiling (like you’re sitting in a chair on your back).
2. Take a deep breath in, twist both your knees to the left and extend your right arm out to the right on the floor. Keep your hips, knees and ankles stacked and gently turn your head to the right. You can rest your left hand on top of your knees or on top thigh. OPTIONAL: Place a block between your knees for more lower back support.
3. Hold for 5-10 breaths, breathing into the full length of your spine. Don’t worry about getting your right shoulder on the floor, just focus on lengthening your tailbone towards the front edge of your mat and creating more length in your spine.
4. After your last breath, repeat twist on other side.
Apanasa (Knees to Chest Pose):
1. Lie on your back and hug both knees into your chest.
2. Allow your lower back to round and if it feels comfortable to you, feel free to wrap your forearms around your shins and bring your forehead up to your knees.
3. Hold pose for 5-10 breaths focusing on lengthening out each breath and creating more space in your lower back.
* This pose is also very good for improving digestion.
Savasana (with Low Back Support):
1. Place rolled up blanket, bolster or pillow under knees.
2. Relax your shoulders down your back so that the neck is long and the chest is open. Place your hands by your sides with your palms facing up.
3. Focus your attention on your breath, allowing it to be soft and natural. Visualize your entire body relaxing more and more with each exhale, melting away tension and discomfort with each breath. Thoughts will naturally flow in and out of your consciousness, instead of fixating on them or trying to not have thoughts at all, just simply let them flow in and out. Always bring your awareness back to your breath when you find yourself getting distracted.
4. Stay in Savasana for as long as you like. 15-20 minutes is wonderful to work up to, but if you can only afford 2-3 minutes then just do that. Any time spent in Savasana is well worth it for the mental, emotional AND physical benefits. If I could only pick one pose to do ever, this would be it! Make it a consistent part of your practice and you too will come to see why.
Most importantly, if you're experiencing lower back pain, don't ignore it! Not moving your body can lead to more atrophy and pain. Be gentle, be mindful and move your body regularly to keep it supple and strong. Please feel free to ask me any questions here and leave comments on your experience with lower back pain and/or trying these poses out. Sending so much love to all of you! From my heart to yours...