My entire life I’ve been plagued with chronic lower back pain. This probably originated from years of sports, and then years of sitting in a desk in school followed by more years of sitting at a desk once I became an adult and got a full time job.
I don’t necessarily have a constant pain in my back; it’s more like the pain decides periodically when it wants to bother me and does so in a fairly crippling way.
I have to go to the chiropractor at least a 5-6 times a year, and I look like the hunchback of Notre Dame when I have to walk around when the pain is at it’s worst. This past weekend I woke up on Saturday morning and started to get out of bed, and stopped suddenly. I could feel the pain crawling from my lower back and into my spine as I bended it.
As I (slowly) made my way into the living room and sat down in front of my computer to begin hunting for chiropractors near me, I started thinking about when I’d taken yoga in high school.
My instructor had shown me poses to relieve the stress on my back that I could do while the rest of the class continued on with the regularly scheduled poses planned for that session. Childs pose, I remember specifically, had been especially helpful.
While thinking about all of this, a plan started to formulate in my mind. I needed a blog idea for this week anyways; why not just use myself, again, as the guinea pig for this one? I decided to hold off calling the chiropractor and instead investigate about how yoga could help to soothe my lower back pain.
What I found was pretty interesting: Yoga isn’t just a short-term fix for your back pain; it can actually help you to put an end to the pain in general. This is because yoga helps to increase strength in specific muscles and muscle groups. The more you do specific yoga poses, the more your muscle strength will improve.
One key for strengthening your muscles is gentleness; which yoga provides. Gentle is crucial for helping and avoiding more injury… specifically pertaining to your back. When your back and abdominal muscles are targeted and conditioned, back pain can not only be greatly reduced, but altogether avoided.
The center of yoga is stretching and relaxation. Yoga poses should be held from as little as 10 seconds to as long as a minute (or longer, it’s your preference!) This allows the targeted muscles to stretch and flex, which encourages them to relax and helps for them to become more flexible. The painful and tense muscles to loosen up, relieving you of discomfort.
Discovering all of this was enough for me to be sold on the fact that I would definitely volunteer as guinea pig for this post, and I began figuring out which moves I wanted to compile together.
My father is an avid yogi, and so my first step was to turn to him. He suggested an incredibly simple stretch... touching my toes. Rather than just go for the gold right off the bat and force myself to bend bar enough down so that my fingertips grazed my toes, he suggests moving very slowly.
Begin with your feet together, standing straight up, arms at your sides. Then breathe in deep and exhale, while slowly rolling your body down until your torso is parallel with your legs. Hang at a comfortable position, wherever your body naturally stops you and let your arms dangle down in front of you.
Continue to breathe deeply in the position, every couple of deep breaths your body should naturally stretch a little bit more and you’ll feel yourself lengthening, your fingers getting closer to your toes.
Do this for as long as you need, regardless if your hands ever make it to your toes or not. That isn’t the important part of this stretch, straightening out your body and spine is.
To soothe my back, I did this move in the shower and let the hot water focus itself on the lower part of my spine. My reasoning for this was to help my muscles to relax even more and let go of more tension.
My next move is the two-knee twist. I might google this one first, it's a little difficult to explain. Lay on your back and bend your knees into your chest. Stretch your arms out in a “T” position. Exhale deeply, and bring both of your knees to the ground on your right while making sure you keep your shoulders firmly on the ground. If your shoulder is lifting however, lower your knees down, further away from your right arm.
Try holding this for at least a couple minutes on each side, if not more.
From here, I move to the ‘sphinx,’ you’ve probably seen your dog do this one many times. Lie on your stomach and prop yourself up onto your forearms. Point your feet and firmly press your palms and stops of your feet into your mat. Then, lift your back up and curve (you should be pressing your pelvic bone forward) it towards the direction of your feet. Your head should be tilted away from the floor and facing a bit upwards.
Again, try holding this for a couple minutes if you can. You’ll feel sensation in your back, but the move allows for blood to flow into the lower back to help heal it.
Next; the ‘pigeon.’ This was one of my favorites to do and brought a lot of relief to my back. Begin in ‘childs pose,’ take your left leg and stretch it out completely behind you and point your toe. Then, bring your other leg in, towards your left hip, so that it rests underneath of you. Stretch out your arms in front of you, and hold this pose for 2-3 minutes on each side.
I did these four multiple times a day, and stayed in each position much longer than a minute each. By starting the exercises that morning, I was hoping to catch the pain in my muscles off guard and be able to stretch and loosen them enough so that the pain would subside rather than grow worse.
I’m not sure if perhaps my lower back pain in general this time just wasn’t as bad as it usually is, but normally I have about 4-5 days of pain.
The first day that it appears, the second day I visit a chiropractor, and the next two-three I’m sore and healing. This time however, my pain lasted all of two days. The first day that it appeared, and then the second I was sore but it wasn’t awful.
I still have some residual soreness (on the third day) when I move a certain way, but overall my pain is almost completely gone. I believe the yoga poses I did definitely helped me in avoiding a trip to the doctor and multiple days of pain.
I strongly recommend investing the time into these poses and seeing if they aid you in your discomfort. If you have any other tips or poses for easing back pain, comment them!
|Sky Andersen holds down the role of blog writer at Yoga Accessories. Currently studying Public Relations at Virginia Commonwealth University, she is passionate about all things writing, photography, travel and of course- yoga.|