Most of us will experience at some point or other what is called non-specific back pain. This type of back pain isn’t related to any specific issue with the spine. There is no direct physical cause that can explain the pain and discomfort. Instead, this type of back pain – very often found in the lower back – is the result of tension, repetitive actions and posture.
We sit at our computers, in our car or in a train, in front of the TV; we hold ourselves in a posture that feels comfortable for us but might be putting pressure on some part of the spine; we get tense or stressed and our muscles tense all around our back without us even being aware of it. All of these situations, and usually a mix of these, can come to cause lower back pain.
So what can be done about it?
I have listed here 4 yoga poses that are particularly beneficial to relieve lower back pain. For all of these, I suggest that you practice them in a way that feels really comfortable for you. Move with your breath and ease off from the movement if you feel any pain.
No surprise there, the Cat is THE back-care posture if ever there was one! As you move with your breath in this pose, it eases off little by little the tension and discomfort in the spine. With a little practice, the Cat pose helps with the general flexibility of the spine.
Kneeling on your mat, place your hands directly underneath the shoulders and the knees directly underneath the hips. Gently hold the tummy muscles in to support your lower back, not too much, just a little to feel the support. Move from the base of the spine and start by rounding the back as you breathe out with the head coming down last of all. When you next breathe in, start to stretch from the base of the spine with the head coming up last of all. Move slowly between the two position in time with your breath. Always try and move from the base of your spine.
Quite similar to the Cat pose, the Tiger is highly recommended if you spend a lot of time sitting down as it really helps to lengthen your lower back.
Start in the same position as you did for the Cat: on all four, with the hands underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips. Keep the tummy muscles gently engaged throughout.
As you breathe out, take one knee in towards the chest and, as you breathe in, stretch that leg behind you. Repeat a few times to one side before swapping leg.
When you stretch the leg behind, simply stretch it behind, don’t try and lift it up any higher than hip level.
Supported dog (or dog at the wall)
A variation on the Downward Dog, this approach removes the inversion from the pose but keeps the back stretch, making it as effective but also a lot more approachable and easy to do regularly. It is excellent to give your lower back a good stretch at the end of day.
Stand in front of a wall, far enough away that when you bend forward from the hips your hands can touch the wall with your arms slightly bent. Have your feet at shoulder width apart and soften the knees. Gently pull your tummy in, again to give your lower back some support. As you breathe out, start to bend forwards from the hips, trying to keep the back nice and flat, until your hands rest against the wall, at shoulder height. From here, breathing normally and keeping your legs slightly bent, start to push the hips away and you will feel your lower back stretch. You can play around with this a little by moving the hands up or down the wall to find the height that suits you best. You can also gently rock your hips from side to side if that feels comfortable.
I’ve kept the best one until the end! Savasana, the relaxation pose… From the moment we get up, our spine carries us throughout the day. Even with the best posture in the world and an active lifestyle that doesn’t involve much sitting, by the time you reach the evening, the spinal disks that sit between the vertebrae and act as little cushions to keep our spine moving comfortably have been squished down a little bit. We actually are all a little bit shorter in the evening because of that. One of the keys to a healthy spine is to keep these disks nice and plump and one easy way to do it is by lying down to free our back of the pull of gravity.
You might need some cushions and a blanket for this one. The aim is to be really comfortable.
Start by laying down on your back, with a cushion underneath your head if that feels more comfortable. Have your feet wide enough apart that when you roll them in, the big toes can just about touch and then allow your feet to roll back out.
If you find that your lower back feels a bit tight and uncomfortable, place a cushion or a rolled blanket underneath your knees. This should help your lower back relax down on the floor.
Once you have made yourself comfortable, allow yourself to stay there for a few minutes (or as long as you want if you are really comfy!). Focus on your breath and, every time you breathe out, consciously allow your body and your mind to relax.
When you want to come out, take your knees up towards your chest and gently roll from side to side to massage your back on the mat before rolling over to one side and pushing yourself up to sitting.
If you want a complete back care class, have a look on my Youtube page: https://youtu.be/LiopLZ5dWpI