7 Poses to Alleviate Back Pain
1. Downdog - You can use blocks under your hands for this pose. This may help to alleviate any stress to wrists when we are working on weight distribution. Start by placing the hands shoulder distance apart ensuring wrists are parallel to front of mat. Bend the knees and push into the hands like you are pushing the front of the mat away from you. Engage the biceps and roll the shoulders out away from the ears. Notice the shoulder blades will roll towards each other. Zip your lower ribs back in and push back into your hands rolling the shoulders away from ears and pressing the inner thigh bones back. Activate the inner thighs more and push the thighs back and up with the hips. As you exhale, pull belly button in. Stay here for 5 breaths keeping very dynamic throughout the body and the breath.
This pose will help alleviate back muscle strain and spasms.
2. Child's Pose - Come to hands and knees. This pose can be modified for sensitive knees by sitting in a chair or resting knees on a blanket and another blanket rolled behind seat and calves. Knees can be together or to the width of the mat. Toes touch. Arms may extend out in front of you, or down by your sides. Your elbows may bend and support your forehead. You may also consider using a block under your forehead. Rest here comfortably for 5 breaths.
This pose is also considered an inversion if the head goes below the heart. It is important to exit out of this pose slowly to prevent dizziness. Good for headaches and upset stomach.
3. Up-dog - From cobra, press your hands into the floor and lengthen your chest and spine upwards while engaging your thighs and glutes. Press into the top of your feet. (do not tuck your toes) Roll the shoulders down and back as you bring your shoulder blades towards each other. Allow the clavicle to open and drop shoulders away from the ears. (this can be a challenge). Just breath and keep the face and the jaw soft. If you have any lower back sensations, either widen the feet apart or bring them closer together and engage the legs dynamically along with the glutes and lift the knees off the floor. This pose will strengthen back muscles, legs, glutes, core, and arms. This engagement in the back to support this pose, works to strengthen those muscles that are weaker based on daily activities.
4. Pigeon - from plank pose, bend your right knee and curl in to bring knee to nose. Turn the right knee out and draw the shin towards parallel to the front of the mat. (It does not have to be anywhere near parallel towards the front of the mat but can be a goal over time). Place knee behind right wrist. Fold a blanket or use a block and place it under right hip to prevent from shifting weight. The intention is to keep hips squared and not dumping the weight into one hip. Left leg is long and foot is straight not turned in. Once lower body is stable, place hands by hips to lengthen and kindly take the right hip back left hip forward. Left chest and begin to walk yourself forward until you feel the stretch. If you need an additional block for your head or a blanket, you can place that there. Once you settle, hold pose (not breath) for 5 counts of breath. Then repeat other side. This pose is good for the ascending and descending colon, as well as opening up hip flexors, releasing facial tension, and emotional tension. Pigeon also stretches the lower back and obliques.
5. Triangle - You will need your blocks for this pose. Place a block at either end of your mat. Starting in warrior 2 (on the right side) straighten the front leg toes point towards top edge of mat. Back foot is turned slightly in or parallel to the back of the mat. Reach your right arm forward while sliding your right hip under your left shifting the stance of your hips. Ground deep through the legs and the big toe mounds to stabilize. Release the grip of the toes lift through the inner arches of your feet. Release the right arm down to a block and place block on the inside or outside of foot for support. Left arm reaches to 12 o'clock. Roll shoulder blades towards each other and lace floating ribs together. Engage left thigh and press towards back while reaching forward with the crown of your head.
6. Cat/Cow - For sensitive wrists, I encourage the use of a wedge, a rolled up mat, or blanket and place hands at a slight diagonal. For sensitive knees, an option is to double your mat and/or use a blanket at desired thickness under knees. We begin in table top position. Hands beneath the shoulders, knees hip distance and beneath the hips. As you inhale, drop your belly creating a smile with your spine, and open your chest by rolling shoulders back and down. Let your tailbone turn up as though you were going to sit on the sky. On an exhale round the spine like a Halloween cat by tucking your head, pushing into your hands, and tucking your tailbone under. Be sure to spread the shoulder blades apart. Continue this movement for 5 breaths. This pose helps to strengthen the spine and to invite flexion and extension for bulging discs as well as traction. This encourages strong core strength to support balance.
7. Forward Fold - Come to standing at the top of your mat. Feet hip distance apart and parallel towards sides of the mat. Inhale the arms up over head and take a gentle bend in your knees. Hinging from your hips, lean forward and fold over your slightly bent knees. Bring your stomach towards your thighs by bending your knees significantly more and pressing your inner thigh bones back and spreading your sit bones towards the sky, while drawing your belly button in as much as possible. Release your hands to blocks or the ground. Press to the outsides of your feet and press inner thighs back again on the exhale. You may wish to reach for opposite elbows and let gravity do the work. This pose is an inversion, be careful coming out of the pose. This pose alleviates low back pressure and tension. Opens up hamstrings and I.T bands and good for headaches.