A very common problem we face in our 9 to 5 society is lower back pain. It is also one of the top reasons people get introduced to Yoga. Most of us have experienced it at least once in life and many develop a chronic problem over time.
Bound to our chairs, hunching over our keyboards, staring at our screens, we are working our bodies into this very typical imbalance. Extensive sitting, unilateral or repetitive movement, and lack of exercise result in hunched shoulders, tight necks, slipped discs and lower back issues.
The lower back consists of 5 vertebrae forming a slide inward curve called lordosis. This part of the spine, called lumbar, carries the most weight and is a common area of discomfort and injuries. Big muscles and important nerves meet here, supporting the back, connecting the trunk with our lower body. These muscles are known to tense or spasm causing pain. Carrying the most weight and having quite a big range of movement, they are also the most likely to cause problems. If the disks in between them are squeezed or dislocated they tend to pinch nerves which run closely to the spine. It can also be muscles around this area which cause the pain, like the iliopsoas which is the primary connector between the torso and the legs. It plays a role in hip and torso flexion as well as stabilising the lower back.
Now, as we have an idea of the reasons why we get lower back pain let´s find out what we can do about it.
As many muscles and nerves meet in this area of the body as many of them can play into the causes of pain. This is why healing the lower back includes a diverse selection of Yoga Asana.
In general, it can be said, that a regular physical practice with focus on alignment as well as balance of strength and flexibility can help you immensely to reduce back problems.
Release acute pain, mobilize, strengthen and stretch by practicing these Asanas on a regular basis. You can practice them in the following order.
MAJARYASANA & BITILASANA – CAT & COW
Connecting with your breath, these poses are practiced together. They are perfect to wake up and mobilise your spine at the beginning of your practice or whenever you feel tension in your back.The Cat & Cow movements increase blood circulation around the spine and the abdominal muscles get toned. These are important to support stabilising the lower back.
This Asana releases tension in the back muscles and helps lengthen the entire spine. It helps you to calm your mind and relieve stress. Breath deeply. With every inhalation, lengthen your arms forward, with every exhalation send your sit bones towards your heels. If you have knee problems or trouble to sit on your heels, fold a blanket and put it between your sit bones and calfs.
Practice this pose whenever you feel tightness in your lower back. You can include it in your practice at any point you feel tired or tensed.
ANJANEYASANA – LOW LUNGE
Stretches the front of the hip (hip flexors) and leg as well as the lower abdomen. At the same time, it strengthens almost the entire leg including quadriceps, ankles, gluteus maximus, and the hamstrings. You can include these low lunges in your Sun Sautations at the beginning of your practice.
This posture works similarly to Anjaneyasana and can be practiced daily to work on your base. From the toes to the tips of your fingers it strengthens your whole body, and brings balance and confidence to your entire practice.
Opening hips and chest, the extended side angle pose works the side of the body. Creating strength in the front leg, as well as lengthening and working the upper side body, this pose can energize the entire body.
The intense work in your entire side body strengthens important muscles supporting the straightening of your entire spine.
The posture helps lengthen the muscles around the ribs, creating space for your lungs. This will let you breath more freely. Do this pose in the morning and you will start your day well energized.
Not only will this pose work your abdominal muscles, which are important to strengthened the back, but also your legs. Especially, the iliopsoas muscle will be strengthened. When practicing this posture, make sure to stretch the psoas with a low lunge bending in your front knee in order to warm and work it both ways during your practice.
PURVOTTANASANA (ALTERNATIVE: REVERSED TABLE TOP)
This pose works on the entire back of your body. It is an excellent counter pose for any forward bend in your practice. If the full posture is not available for you, the reversed table top position with bent knees is a good alternative.
Another helpful posture if you feel stiffness in your lower back is the Cobra. Make sure to press your pubic bone and your feet into the floor. Roll your shoulders back and away from your ears to feel a nice stretch in your chest and your abdomen. Lift your hands from the floor and feel a little extra work in your lower back.
SALAMBA BHUJANGASANA (SPHINX)
This pose works similar to Bhujangasana. With your forearms on the floor it will be easier to hold the posture longer in oder to get the most effect from its restorative benefits.
SHALABASANA – Locust pose
Shalabasana is a very effective pose when it comes to strengthening your back and increasing flexibility of your spine. It works your arms and shoulders, massages your inner organs and tones your abdominals at the same time.
MARICHYASANA C & SUPINE TWIST
asana releases stiffness in your lower back. Make sure, you ground
your sit bones properly.
you feel like you are rounding the lumbar spine, use height under
This twists not only releases tension in your back, but it also works your inner organs. It can help with constipation and has positive effects on your liver.
Twisting will bring your attention not only to your navel region, but it will bring focus to the quality of your breath. Does it reach the base of your spine? Are you using the entire capacity or is it stuck in your chest? Deepen with every inhalation, lengthen your spine and exhale, see if you can deepen a little more into the twist. Breath is also a perfect tool to bring your mind back to the mat during your practice.
In the Supine Twist, your back is supported lying on the floor. If you feel discomfort in the pose, bring your hips more out to the opposite side you are twisting and/or bring your knees further down, away from your upper body.
SETU BANDHASANA (prop: Block)
The bridge pose stretches the front of the body while strengthening the back. Work it dynamically, lifting from the base of your spine vertebra by vertebra, coming down the same way. You can approach this Asana therapeutically by using a block or bolster under your sacrum, resting your lower back. This will still give you the many benefits of the posture without putting any stress on your lower back.
SUPTA HASTA PADANGUSTASANA
This posture stretches the hamstrings and the stretch created in the lower back helps to release compression and tension. The spine is grounded and secured from rounding which often happens when performing forward bends to stretch the hamstrings. Stretching the leg to the side will stretch your groins and hip adductors which can be responsible for your pain.
Never skip Savasana.
If you would like to learn more and deepen your practice with us, join our classes focusing on different topics and Yoga practices. We also give private sessions, as well as workshops not only on Asana practice, but also on Yoga philosophy.
Please note, if you have acute pain, it is recommended to visit your doctor before performing Asana. In general, it is recommended to consult your doctor or a physiotherapist to locate the actual reason of your pain. This will also make it easier for your teacher to help you with a tailored Asana practice.
Article author: Anette Q.