By Rebecca Louzan
Back pain is one of the most common physical ailments that students bring when they first start their practice here at Namaste Lyons. This is a guide compiled from various, reputable resources, to prepare you for a Yoga practice that supports the health of your back. When practiced consistently, Yoga is an excellent way to strengthen your back and keep the surrounding muscles limber, flexible . The key to a healthy back is a balanced practice that focuses on both strength and flexibility. *1
There are a couple of key items to remember during your practice that will both protect and enhance your back’s health:
Creating Flexibility in the Back
Supine Spinal Twist
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart and 4 to 6 inches away from your sit bones. Open the arms out to the sides, even with your shoulders, palms facing up. Then lift your hips and shift them over 4 inches to the left, setting yourself off center.
Next, inhale, draw your knees into your chest, and as you exhale, lower your knees to the right, keeping them at hip level. Now look to the left. Hold for six to eight breaths before returning knees and hips to center and repeating on the opposite side.
"Figure 4" Hip Stretch
Lying on your back, with your legs bent to a 90-degree angle over your hips, place your right ankle on your left thigh just below the knee. Reach your right arm through the space between your legs and your left arm around the outside wrapping your hands around the back of your left thigh. Gently pull your left thigh toward your chest, while pressing your right thigh away from your chest. Hold for six to eight breaths before releasing and repeating on the opposite side.
Cat - Cow Pose
"Cow" Begin on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Inhale and curl your toes under. Tilt your pelvis toward the ceiling, turning your sit bones up, draw the shoulder blades down the back, open through the chest and look a little forward keeping the neck curve long.
"Cat" Exhale and point your toes. Round through your lower back, pressing your palms into the floor and tilt the top of your head down, releasing the tension from the upper back and neck. Repeat for six full breaths.
Strengthening the Back
Lie on your back with your feet flat on floor, palms facing down. Lift your hips and torso off the floor, pressing into your palms and feet. Then interlace your hands under your hips and press your shoulders and upper arms into the floor, lifting your hips higher toward the ceiling. As your breastbone rises toward your chin, move your chin back a little away from your chest. Hold for six to eight breaths. Then lower yourself slowly rolling down from the top of your spine to your tailbone. Rest for four breaths before repeating.
Extended Side Angle
Stand with your feet about 4 feet apart and raise your arms out to your sides, shoulder height, with your palms facing down. Turn your left foot and leg out 90 degrees to the left and your right foot in about 15 to 30 degrees. Inhale, and as you exhale bend your left knee up to 90 degrees, keeping your knee stacked over your heel. Place the top of your left forearm on your left thigh and roll your chest open toward the ceiling. Raise your right hand straight up and turn your head to look at it. Hold for five breaths. Then carefully come out of the pose and repeat on the opposite side.
Stand with your feet about 4 feet apart and raise your arms out to the sides at shoulder height, palms facing down. Then turn your left foot and leg 90 degrees out to the left and your right foot in about 15 to 30 degrees. Inhale, and as you exhale bend your left knee up to 90 degrees, keeping your knee stacked over your heel. To further protect your knee, center it over the middle of your foot, so it’s pointing over your second and third toes. Then turn your face to the left and gaze out over your left hand. Hold for five breaths before straightening up and repeating on the opposite side.
From down dog, lower your hips so your body is in a high pushup position with your hips connecting the straight line between your shoulders and ankles (i.e., not drooping toward the floor). Engage your abdominals and hold for five breaths. Then lift the hips back into down dog and hold for five breaths. Next move inhale into plank and exhale back to down dog, repeating five times to warm up your shoulders.
Support for your Back at Namaste Lyons
Currently, we offer a Yoga for Low Back + Hips on Friday mornings from 8:00 - 9:00 am with Rebecca. Or, contact Rebecca Louzan to schedule a personalized, one-on-one yoga session to create a home practice and to enhance your class practice in a way that supports your individual back health.
*1 This guide, advice from Namaste Lyons instructors and practitioners, and the practice of Yoga is not meant to act as a replacement for your own healthcare professional. It is your responsibility to seek out medical advice and the appropriateness of Yoga from your personal physician.
Materials compiled in this Namaste Lyons take-home edition are from the following resources: