Yoga for aching backs

 

Many adults suffer from chronic lower-back pain due to postural misalignment, injuries from heavy lifting, repetitive injuries from forward-bending movements, scoliosis, strained ligaments, intervertebral disc disease or degenerative arthritis.

Yoga practitioners with tight hamstrings and a flattened curve in the lower back who practice with too much emphasis on aggressive forward bending can also experience lower back aches. In a sitting forward bend, the pull of tight hamstrings (which attaches to the ischial tuberosities at the base of the buttocks) encourages the pelvis to tilt posteriorly. This means that when reaching toward the toes, all the forward movement occurs by hinging through and straining the lower back. Tight abdominal muscles may also contribute to posterior hip tilt as they pull up on the pubic bones and pull down on the front rib cage. Tight hips can also contribute to back pain as the hip muscles attach to the pelvis and the sacrum attaches to the pelvis via the sacroiliac joints. When hip muscles are tight, the alignment of the spine is directly affected.

The best way to prevent or minimise lower back pain is through balancing strength and flexibility in the back extensors, abdominal muscles,  hip flexors and extensors to create a stable foundation for pelvic neutrality and neutral extension of the spine.

Students experiencing back pain should be asked to back off from where they might otherwise go in all stretching and strengthening related to the lower back even if free of pain in these asanas.

Useful asanas:

Reclining

Supine pelvic tilts/ bent knees to chest: to create awareness of flattening spine against ground, and for a gentle massaging effect of the lower back.

Reclining twists such as Eagle Spinal Twist: passive way to increase side-to-side spinal flexibility

Supported bridge pose: with a block placed under the sacrum for support.

Happy baby pose: to stretch a tight lower back.

Partial slow crunches and side-to-side crunches as long as back is flat on ground, to strengthen the abdominal muscles and obliques

Supta Padangusthasana: Stretches hips, thighs, hamstings, groins and calves and strengthens the knees. It helps to relieve backache and sciatica.

Cobra: a slight back-bend to increase flexibility in the spine while opening the chest, shoulders and abs.

Svavasana: with a blanket rolled up under the lumbar area for spinal support, or with legs resting on chair

 

Standing

Cat and cow: as a good warmup for the spine, and in helping students to become aware of anterior and posterior pelvic tilt. The emphasis is on lengthening the whole spine and not overuse of L5/S1 by collapsing the lower spine.

Wide Child’s Pose: as a counterpose to Cobra, to stretch the lower back.

Wide squat: a good lower-back release which also targets tight hips.

– Trikonasana (Triangle) Pose: Good for strengthening the back and legs and stretches the iliotibial band along the outer hip.

Sitting

– Pigeon pose: This pose may not seem like the most obvious pose to treat back ache, but tight hips can contribute to lower back pain. Pigeon pose stretches hip rotators and flexors.

–  Bhavaradjasana I: This pose stretches the spine, shoulder and hips and massages the abdominal organs. It can help to relieve lower backache, neck pain and sciatica and stress, and improve digestion. It is especially useful in the second trimester of pregnancy for strengthening the lower back.

 Joanna Khoo
200hr weekend Jan-May 2014