If you’ve ever
experienced back pain or discomfort, you’ll likely agree that
a healthy back is easily taken for granted until, well, it no
longer feels so healthy. According to the U.S. National
Institute of Health, 8 in 10 Americans will experience back pain
during their lifetime. Americans spend at least $50 billion
annually on back pain, making it the most common cause of
job-related disability and workplace absences in the country.
The bad news: with statistics like these, if you’ve not
already experienced back pain at some point in your life, it’s
likely you will. The good news: whether you’re looking to
prevent future back injury, soothe current back pain, or
strengthen and maintain a healthy back and spine, yoga can help.
self-awareness, teaching and encouraging the exchange of bad
habits such as poor posture for healthy ones. Slumping over your
laptop? Yoga will remind you to sit tall and soften the
shoulders. Leaning forward to send a text message? Yoga prompts
you to gently stretch your hamstrings and psoas in order to
lengthen the back body, perhaps standing taller with time and
reversing the spinal curve.
Along with offering
body awareness and postures to counter habitual movements, yoga
targets specific areas of the body to stretch, condition and
relieve tension. Yoga also provides a gentle yet effective
option for re-entry into an exercise regimen following pain or
injury, when stopping exercise altogether can be tempting and
possibly result in chronic pain over time. A yoga practice for
your back will often include preventative stretching of the
back, abs and spine to build strength in the trunk (think core,
upper legs, hips), increase stability and lighten the load
carried by the spine and pelvis. A balancing practice by nature,
yoga addresses both the front and back of the body to support an
evenly fortified core, lengthening to counter compressed discs
and curvature that often accompany a shortened front or back
body and less than ideal posture.
benefits for the back are many, and readily available to you
with just a few postures. You will enhance your strength;
improve spinal alignment and ease tension throughout the body.
/ Cow Pose ( Bitilasana)
Provides a full spinal stretch, balances the spine-pelvis
alignment, offers gentle spinal warm-up and relief to back
tension and stiffness
Start on your
hands and knees in a "tabletop" position. Make
sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your
wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular
to the floor. Center your head in a neutral position, eyes
looking at the floor.
As you inhale,
lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling,
allowing your belly to sink toward the floor. Lift your head
to look straight forward.
back to neutral "tabletop" position on your hands
and knees. Repeat 10 to 20 times
Open chest and shoulders, strengthens the abs, back and glutes,
counters curvature of the spine and fatigue.
For this pose you
might want to pad the floor below your pelvis and ribs with
a folded blanket. Lie on your belly with your arms along the
sides of your torso, palms up, forehead resting on the
floor. Turn your big toes toward each other to inwardly
rotate your thighs, and firm your buttocks so your coccyx
presses toward your pubis.
Exhale and lift
your head, upper torso, arms, and legs away from the floor.
You’ll be resting on your lower ribs, belly, and front
pelvis. Firm your buttocks and reach strongly through your
legs, first through the heels to lengthen the back legs,
then through the bases of the big toes. Keep the big toes
turned toward each other.
Raise your arms
parallel to the floor and stretch back actively through your
fingertips. Imagine there’s a weight pressing down on the
backs of the upper arms, and push up toward the ceiling
against this resistance. Press your scapulas firmly into
Gaze forward or
slightly upward, being careful not to jut your chin forward
and crunch the back of your neck. Keep the base of the skull
lifted and the back of the neck long.
Stay for 30
seconds to 1 minute, then release with an exhalation. Take a
few breaths and repeat 1 or 2 times more if you like.
Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Stretches the spine and hips, strengthens thighs and glutes,
encourages chest opening.
Lie supine on the
floor, and if necessary, place a thickly folded blanket
under your shoulders to protect your neck. Bend your knees
and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to the
sitting bones as possible
pressing your inner feet and arms actively into the floor,
push your tailbone upward toward the pubis, firming (but not
hardening) the buttocks, and lift the buttocks off the
floor. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Clasp the
hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help
you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
buttocks until the thighs are about parallel to the floor.
Keep your knees directly over the heels, but push them
forward, away from the hips, and lengthen the tailbone
toward the backs of the knees. Lift the pubis toward the
Lift your chin
slightly away from the sternum and, firming the shoulder
blades against your back, press the top of the sternum
toward the chin. Firm the outer arms, broaden the shoulder
blades, and try to lift the space between them at the base
of the neck (where it's resting on the blanket) up into the
Stay in the pose
anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute. Release with an
exhalation, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.