Yoga Remedies: Lower Back Strength and Stretch
Sharon Rekieta, Fitness Director - 2nd November 2012
Some Causes of Low Back Pain:
Backaches often result from a tug-of-war between the abdomen muscles and the gluteals (muscles in the bottom) and the hamstrings (muscles in the back of the thigh).
If the abdomen or thigh muscles are weak, the lower back frequently wins the tug-of-war and takes the load thereby working harder than it should.
Also, if you are carrying extra weight in the abdomen area, the body is pulled out of line and the lower back feels stress and strain from absorbing the extra pressure.
The following yoga stretches are not a complete list—merely a sampling of the ones most frequently prescribed.
Following the order of presentation exactly is not necessary—this order just progresses well for most people.
Although there is no recommended “hold time” or number of repetitions, most physicians recommend holding a stretch for a minimum of twenty (20) seconds and repeating stretches one to three times.
Basic Yoga Guidelines:
Inhale and exhale at a relaxed, comfortable pace through the nose only.
Move through the stretches slowly following your breath rhythm.
Never strain or fight with your body—always listen to what your joints and muscles are saying.
Yoga Stretches for the Lower Back:
Single Bent Leg Hold: Lie on your back with the legs extended and relaxed on the floor. On an exhale, bend one leg in towards the chest and hold the leg behind the thigh. On an exhale, curl the head and shoulders up toward the knee of the bent leg. On an inhale, lower the head and shoulders and release the leg.
Ball: Lie on your back with the legs extended and relaxed on the floor. On an exhale, bend one leg at a time in towards the chest. Hold the legs behind the thighs or across the shins. On an exhale, raise the head and shoulders curling into a ball shape. Hold still or rock gently back and forth. On an inhale, release.
Bridge with Roll Down: Lie on your back and bend both legs. Place the feet on the floor about six to eight inches apart. On an inhale, engage the gluteals and raise the hips toward the ceiling. On an exhale, start at the base of the neck and roll the back down to the mat trying to lower one vertebrae at a time.
Preliminary Eagle Spine Twist: Lie on your back with the legs bent and the feel together and close to the hips. Open the arms away from the hips. On an exhale, lower both knees to the left about halfway to the floor. On an inhale bring the knees back to the center. Continue rocking the knees side to side.
Eagle Spine Twist: Assume the same position as the Preliminary Eagle Spine Twist. On an inhale, pick up the right leg and cross it closely over the left. On an exhale, lower both knees to the left and turn your head right. On an inhale, bring the head and knees back to the center. On an exhale, uncross.
Seated Curl: Sit with your legs bent, feet apart on the floor, and your hands holding lightly to the back of your thighs. On an exhale, roll down about halfway to the floor—feel your middle back opening and your spine lengthening. On an inhale, extend the back and return to the start position.
Seated Single Leg Forward Fold: Sit tall with both legs extended in front of you. Bend one leg, let the knee drop out to the side and bring the foot near the opposite knee. On an inhale, raise both arms about shoulder level. On an exhale, start leaning forward until you feel a stretch in the back of the thigh of the extended leg. On the next exhale, melt and relax down. If uncomfortable, loop a towel or band behind the foot of the extended leg to assist the stretch.
Cat Stretches: Begin with hands and knees on the floor in tabletop position with your weight comfortably distributed. On an exhale, round your back up to the ceiling, tuck your chin towards the chest and tilt the pelvis towards your arms. On an inhale, relax the lower back towards the floor, tilt the tailbone up, lift the chin and extend the chest forward.
Circular Cat: Begin in tabletop position. Imagine that there is a large circle drawn on the floor around your body. Gently push the hips and shoulders to the right and follow the circle with your body in a clockwise direction. After a few circles, return to tabletop and follow the circle in a counter clockwise direction.
Twisting Tabletop: Begin with hands and knees on the floor in tabletop position. On an exhale, reach one arm under the chest stretching towards the opposite back shoulder. On an inhale, return to tabletop.
Sphinx: From tabletop position, move the hands forward about ten inches. Gently lower the forearms to the floor. Press the shoulders down away from the ears and lift the chin away from the chest.
Downward Dog: Start in tabletop position. On an exhale, lift the knees, extend the arms, and push the hips backwards to the wall behind you. Lift the tailbone to the ceiling while pulling the heels towards the floor. Extend the arms and legs while keeping the elbows and knees soft. Extend the spine. Inhale to tabletop.
Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend: Start in Downward Dog. On an exhale, walk the hands back to the feet letting the knees bend as much as you need for comfort. Walk the feet apart two to three feet. Passively relax the body into the fold and place the hands on the floor.
Standing Back Bend: Stand with the feet eight to ten inches apart. Place the hands on the lower back area. On an exhale, lean back slowly. Your choice of head positions—let it fall back, look at the ceiling, or tuck the chin forward towards the chest. On an inhale, engage the abdomen to help return the body to vertical.
Mountain: Stand with the feet eight to ten inches apart. Soften your knees and let the arms hang loosely by your side. Feel your weight evenly distributed on your feet—front to back and side to side. You should feel secure and grounded but not like you are sinking into the floor. Slowly walk your way up your body extending towards the ceiling. Pull the ankles up away from your feet and continue through the lower leg muscles. Keep the knees soft and engage the quadriceps to pull the kneecaps up. Pull the abdomen back towards your spine. Soften the lower back and maintain your natural lumbar curve. Think of adding a little more space between each vertebrae. Relax the shoulders away from the ears and pull the shoulder blades down and towards the center of your spine. Push the top of your head towards the ceiling.
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