5 Gentle Yoga Poses For Relieving Back Pain
If you are struggling with back pain, the only consolation is that you are not alone. Most people deal with some level of back pain in their life time. It is one of the most common causes of losing hours at work, not to mention the discomfort and frustration that comes along with not being able to do daily activities. If you are in acute pain, seeing your Doctor and resting is the best thing to do. If you are able to move around fairly comfortably and are ready to stretch gently, I would like to share some gentle yoga poses with you. This is a very gentle sequence but please check with your physician before practicing it.(Ritu Kapur is the owner of Sohum Yoga and Meditation studio in Westborough, MA. She has been working as an Occupational Therapist with different age groups for over 20 years and is a Registered Yoga teacher. You can reach her at Ritu.Kapur@Sohum.org. Check out her class schedule at www.SOHUM.org.
To do these poses, place your yoga mat on a carpeted space or use two mats to give enough padding for your spine. Keep a few thick blankets to help position your neck, head and legs in comfortable place.
1. Partial Recline: This is one of the simplest yet most effective poses to bring your spine back into alignment. Lie down with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Rest your head on a blanket so it’s in straight line with the rest of the spine. Make sure it’s not tilted too far up or down. Tuck your tailbone by lifting it up and gently placing it back on the ground. Feel your lower, middle and upper back completely resting on the mat. This position will allow the normal curvatures of your spine to come to a resting place. As you rest here, you can place your hands on your belly and focus on your breath for 2-5 minutes.
2. Alternate Knees to chest: Bring your right knee in towards your chest, place both hands on the knee and give your knee a hug. You can add some ankle rotations here. Take 5-10 breaths, release the leg back on the mat in bent position. Repeat on left side.
3. Reclined Tree Pose: While you are lying down on your back, straighten out your right leg on the mat. Bend your left leg and then drop the left knee towards the ground so that the sole of the left foot can touch some part of your right leg and allow it to rest. You can add a rolled-up blanket under left knee for support. Raise your arms above your head. Allow yourself to gently stretch from head to toes as you inhale. As you exhale, allow your arms to come to a resting place either above the head or by your side. Your elbows and hands should feel rested. You can use yoga blocks or blankets for support as needed. Stay in this pose for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
4. Reclined Twist: After Reclined tree pose, you can bring both knees to chest and rock side to side a few times. Then stretch your arms sideways in T- shape. Rest both feet on the ground with knees in bent position. Drop both knee to the right side and gently turn your head to the left side. This stretch can be very gentle in the beginning and you can go deeper as your spine allows more pain free movement. Repeat on the other side. Take 5-10 breaths on each side.
5. Shavasana with support under the knees: Keep a rolled-up blanket or a bolster under your knees. Make sure that your feet are on the ground and then allow them to rest completely. Allow your legs, hip and spine to completely rest against the ground. Rest your arms at a slight angle by your hips with palms up and fingers slightly curled. Rest your head on a blanket, close your eyes with inner eye gaze resting on your breath. Simply notice your breath like a silent witness. You can surrender completely in this pose as the name suggests (Shava in Sanskrit means dead. You can literally play dead here as if you have no control over your body or your breath). Let it go! Stay here as long as you want.
When you are ready to get up, gently roll over to your side and stay there for a short time before you begin to get up. Press your weight onto both the elbow of the side you are on and the hand of the opposite arm and slowly raise yourself about half way, letting your spine and neck hang gently for a bit before slowly continuing to come up to a full and comfortable seated posture. You can sit tall and meditate on your breath for 3-5 minutes. The whole practice can be done in 10-20 minutes depending on how long you stay in each pose.
As the pain subsides over the next few weeks and you feel stronger to try more poses, talk to your Doctor or yoga teacher about adding poses for strengthening. Remember that you should have comfortable and pain free range of motion before you begin the strengthening routine.
Illustrations by Jeffrey Longo
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