“The body is your temple. Keep it pure and clean for the soul to reside in.” ~ Geeta Iyengar, daughter of B.K.S
Varying in level, the pain can be severe or worse, temporary or permanent, based on sex, age, lifestyle, occupation and other social situations. In 2012, nearly 29% of the US population age 18 years and older self-reported having had low back pain.
But what is important to understand here is that all of us visit the physicians for back ache and find temporary solutions in inflammation medicines, pain killers, injections etc. We need a complete solution that would deal with the problem with precision and force.
Yoga can provide several healing benefits for people suffering from lower back pain, as it stimulates the mind and strengthens the body. An article on using Yoga to treat low back pain stated, “Yoga, which often couples physical exercise with breathing, is a popular alternative form of “mind–body” therapy. [It] may benefit patients with back pain simply because it involves exercise or because of its effects on mental focus.”
A controlled trial conducted in 2005 to determine whether yoga was more effective than conventional therapeutic exercise or a self-care book for patients with chronic low back pain showed that Viniyoga was effective in improving function and reducing low back pain, and the benefits persisted for at least several months.
Let us look at some easy-to-do yoga poses which not just work on the back muscles and spine but also opens and strengthens the hip muscles, psoas and sacrum for a strong and healthy back.
Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain
Extended Puppy Pose or Uttana Shishosana
How to: Start by coming in an inverted table top position and ensure your shoulders are above your wrists and your hips are above your knees. Now walk your hands a little further. Bend forward and push your hips backwards, straightening the spine as you exhale and go down. The hands are in an active position and elbows are straight & not bending.
The forehead gently touches the floor or mat and keep a slight curve in your lower back. The spine is stretched as the hands are pressed in the ground for extended support. Stay here for 10-15 breaths. Take a deep breath in and come back to repeat 2 sets more.
Why to: This pose increases blood flow to the head and relaxes the mind. It stretches your back and spine, opens up all blockages and increases the blood flow in the back as well. It strengthens the back, arms and hips simultaneously.
Toe Knee Twist or Supta Matsyendrasana
How to: Come in supine position and extend your arms sideways, forming a T shaped position. On exhalation, bend the left knee while the right leg remains straight. Inhale & exhale deeply and lift and place the left knee over the right side of the body, crossing the right leg. The shoulder blades are planted on the floor and free of any stretch.
Let gravity pull the left knee down, this enhances the spinal twist. You can also gently place your right hand on the left knee for extra pressure. The face is turned towards the left, with eyes closed. Stay for 10-15 breaths and repeat on the other side. Do 2-3 sets.
Why to: A deep spinal twist, the position of the bent knee releases any kind of blockages in the back and increases the blood flow. This pose also strengthens the spine while hydrating the vertebral discs. Furthermore, it realigns the back and loosens up the hips as well.
Bridge Pose or Setu Bandhasana
How to: Lie down in supine position and bend both the knees. Inhale and draw the heels closer to the buttock with feet pressed on the floor. Now as you exhale, press the feet and lift the torso & buttocks up. This will create a lock between the chin & the neck, leading to Jalandhar band. You can clasp your hands behind the back and firm the arms into the floor, with fingers interlacing each other. If you are on an advanced level, you can hold the heels with both hands. Hold for 10 to 15 breaths and gently release the pose. Repeat 2-3 times daily.
Why to: This pose directly works on the back & hip muscles and reduces discomfort caused by lower back pain. It strengthens the hips and releases any form of stress in the back by realigning the spinal cord. Also, the inverted formation moves extra blood to the head, thereby relaxing the mind and rejuvenating the self.
Sphinx Pose or Ardha Bhujangasana
How to: Come down in prone position with legs joined and feet in one line extended backwards. Bring attention to the tailbone and firm it. Rotate the thighs inward creating extra space in the back and sacrum. Squeeze the buttocks as you come into the pose by lifting only the torso up, but navel planted on the ground. The hands are in front, with elbows firmly set under the shoulders and placed on the floor while the forearms parallel to each other and extending further and palms facing downwards. The face is lifted with gaze fixed on the ceiling, exhale and come back. Hold the pose for 10-12 breaths and repeat 2-3 times.
Why to: A beginner’s back bend posture, this pose is a safe option for those trying yoga for the first time. A therapeutic posture, it strengthens the back muscles, lengthens the spine and firms the buttocks.
Reclining Hand to Big toe Pose or Supta Padangusthasana
How to: Lie down in supine position. Beginners can find a wall to press the leg into & allow extended support. Take a belt and wrap it around the ball of the right foot and hold the outer edges with both your hands. Inhale and lift the right leg up to 90 degrees while the other leg remains straight pressed down to the floor.
Now, gently bring the right leg towards your forehead, feel the stretch in the right calf, push the right heel up and toes pulling towards you. The extended leg should not bend or lift. Do not force yourself, but with practice the hamstring muscle will open up, allowing the leg to go further backwards. Advance level practitioners can directly hold the big toe of the right leg with right hand. Stay in the pose for 1 minute, breathing evenly. (beginners can hold the pose for 20-30 seconds and increase with practice.) To release, exhale, bend the knee, release the belt, straighten the leg back to the floor. Switch to left leg.
Why to: A hip opener and psoas stretching pose, the lifted leg stretches the back muscles and increase the flow of the blood in the back and buttocks thereby releasing stress & discomfort. The pose stimulates the prostate gland and soothes sciatica, menstrual cramps.
A miraculous cure for lower back ache, these poses will show significant decrease in the pain within first week of practice. Keep practicing for three months for long term results. Yoga is a journey, not a destination. It is not the shape of your body but your mind that matters. A pose cannot be practiced for a stipulated time and left aside. Making yoga a way of life is the key to a healthy body and mind.