Back pain is one of the most common problems people experience today. As we’ve become increasingly more sedentary, we are putting more and more stress on our backs. Finding time to exercise is absolutely essential, but often one of the best ways to help our backs is with a few yoga poses.
As a chiropractor in Alaska, I know that yoga targets specific groups of muscles in both the back and abdomen. Stronger muscles support the spine, which reduces the amount of pressure placed on the spine and the connective tissues. This will lead to less pain over time. Yoga also stretches muscles, such as the hamstrings, that also relieve pressure on the back, especially the lower back. Even Harvard agrees that yoga is one of the most effective tools for easing low back pain.
You must be careful about which poses you do. When you are experiencing pain, your back muscles will already be tense. You might be feeling stress and anxiety about your back, wondering when this pain will end. With your back already not in the best condition, you must stick with poses that help strengthen your core and divide the stress over your body (instead of putting more pressure on your lower back). You also need to learn how to do the poses correctly and stick to that method. Be sure to choose a yoga instructor who not only is known for being a “stickler” for proper poses but who understands those with back pain and the poses that work best for this issue.
Our modern-day lives are filled with conveniences (drive-through restaurants) and jobs that usually require a great deal of sitting. While our ancestors might think this sounds ideal, our sedentary lifestyles have led to many health issues, including back pain. The following poses were chosen because they are great for people who spend hours sitting every day. The best way to help relieve pain is to move the muscles and help realign them. Decompressing your spine is also important after being sedentary most of the day.
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There is a great reason why yoga has become so popular. It is an exercise that has helped thousands of people with lower back problems because it is effective and easy to find an instructor.
How To Use Yoga Poses Effectively
Making sure you do the poses correctly is essential to ensure that you aren’t hurting yourself. When done properly, these poses can reduce the stress on your lower back and relieve pain.
The following yoga poses help to elongate the spine and strengthen the muscles around it, such as the Latissimus Dorsi muscles in the lower back, the abdominal external oblique core muscles in the abdomen, and the erector spinae muscles, to name a few. Doing these poses regularly will provide stronger abdominal and back muscles, which provide stronger support for the lower back.
Child’s Pose is an easy and effective pose that helps stretch your back and elongate your spine. As you go into the child’s pose, you will feel the stretch from your hips to your feet. Your upper body is relaxed as your lower half is passively stretched.
Hold the pose between 1 and 3 minutes. By the end, your spine will be decompressed and you will have had a nice, focused stretch. Elongating your back helps to counter all of the time you spend sitting and compressing the spine.
Sphinx pose also decompresses your spine, but it works against the pressures you put on it every day by sitting for hours at a time. By curving your back in the opposite manner, you are helping to relieve tension from long hours of sitting or standing and slouching.
Of course, it is best to learn to have good posture, but even then, your spine is being stressed. This pose can help relieve that stress. By giving you a way to gently complete a backbend with the support of the floor, your back is getting a more focused release. This pose also helps to lengthen your abdominal muscles, which will provide better support for your spine.
Practicing cat-cow can provide a healthy stretch to the back. You switch between arching the back (cow) and rounding it (cat). The spinal extension helps more than just your back as well; when done properly, you will have stretched your shoulders and neck as well.
This is a great exercise for any kind of back pain, not just lower back pain. This is an excellent pose, provided that you move slowly and deliberately, there is little chance that you will do the pose wrong. The primary benefits are that you improve flexibility along your spine, including your neck.
Standing Forward Bend
The standing forward bend helps stretch your back by reaching down to touch your toes. You will need to be careful of your knees: they should be bent. Locking your knees straight can hurt them. The muscles which cross our lower back and pelvis, the Psoas muscles, are often very tight from long hours of sitting. They tend to pull up, which puts more pressure on our knees. Until you are more flexible, keep your knees slightly bent. This will prevent knee pain and make it easier to keep your balance.
Remember that you should not be forcing yourself for this pose. If you cannot touch your toes or the floor, that is alright. Doing yoga regularly will help you reach a little further. However, what is important is to stretch your body, not to strain it. If you have had back surgery, do not attempt this pose without a professional to make sure you are doing it right.
Some of the primary benefits of the standing forward bend are the lengthening of the hamstrings, hips, and calves, the decompression of the spine, and allowing you to be more aware of how you hold your body.
The benefits of this pose go beyond just what it can do for the spine. Yoga, in general, is known for relief from stress and anxiety, and this pose is said to be super beneficial in this area. It is also believed to improve digestion.
Easily one of the best-known yoga positions, downward-facing dog, stretches your entire body. One of the reasons it is so effective at helping lower back pain is that it stretches your leg muscles, particularly the hamstrings and calves. Nearly all cases of low back pain involve tight hamstrings, which pull the lumbar spine out of position. It can also help you strengthen your arms.
There is a good reason why this is such a popular pose. It gives your full body a bit of attention. It helps to stretch the triceps and rotator cuffs, relieving upper back tension. It tones your waist a bit, but it is the good stretch of the hamstrings which will further help relieve stress on your back.
For a chiropractor, the biggest benefit is that this pose releases pressure on the lumbar spine via the hamstrings.
The extended triangle is a pose that should be done very carefully as it requires both twisting and stretching. You may want to wait until you have mastered the other poses before trying this one. If you have a herniated disc, you might want to avoid this pose entirely. When done right, you can really stretch your entire body. It is also a great exercise to relieve stress as it requires you to focus on the body and nothing else, clearing the mind.
Make sure that you do not push too hard while doing this pose. If you cannot reach the floor, use a prop (such as a chair or sturdy box) for your hand. Make sure you do not overextend or twist your back. Your core should be engaged throughout this exercise.
Like several of the other poses on this list, the extended triangle stretches most of your body. You will feel the stretch in your hips, thighs, groin, waist, and hamstrings. It should never feel too tight or painful – that means you are stretching too far. By working these muscles, you are providing better support to your back.
Another nice pose to strengthen the back, the bridge pose can lengthen the spine if done correctly. It can be equally effective for upper and lower back pain. You do need to be careful not to put too much stress or pressure on your shoulders and neck when doing this pose. Also, control your body as you roll your back to the floor. Do not just drop your hips, or let gravity do most of the work.
Remember not to arch your back or use just your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles should be doing as much work as your back.
The bridge pose benefits all of your core muscles, including your abdominals, glutes, and back. Giving you a good stretch from your neck all the way down your spine, it is easier to relax when you finish. It is also another good pose to help relieve stress as most of us carry stress in our shoulders and upper back.
The knees-to-chest is a very relaxing pose that can be a great way to end a yoga session. It elongates your back to stretch the muscles. You can also do this pose on its own when you need to take a break from sitting. It will give you a few moments to relax and breath more normally.
The primary benefit to your spine is that it will become more limber over time. It can work to release stress built up over the day. The pose is also recommended to relieve stomach issues and to calm you after a stressful day.
Learning how to do these poses rights is necessary to help instead of hurt your back. Don’t rush through the poses either. Yoga can do as much harm as good when the poses are not executed properly. According to the 2016 study, older people are more likely to hurt their back, with people 65 and older being at the greatest risk.
When you do each pose, focus on the pose. The following are tips that will help you do each pose correctly:
- Yoga isn’t about twisting and extending. Move slowly and deliberately so you can avoid both twisting and extending at the same time. For example, for the extended triangle pose, stretch your back first, then twist. Do not try to do both moves simultaneously. Your stomach muscles engage during the stretch, so they will support your back when you twist into the final position.
- Use support. Even if you have great balance, strengthening your core often means relearning how to stand and move. Use yoga equipment, blocks, or bolsters when you need it.
- Don’t strain to touch your toes or lengthen your hamstrings. If you have lower back problems, forcing a pose will only make it worse. Instead, us a yoga belt to loop around your feet.
- Learn poses with an instructor. Request a focus on ensuring the poses are not only done correctly but that you reach the position in a way that will not hurt your back.
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