Trying Yoga for Back Pain? Then pick the RIGHT poses
tudies have shown that Yoga may be one of the most effective exercises for back pain relief. In fact Health-First reporter Leslie LoBue says twisting your body into those sometimes awkward positions may actually be just the thing for lower back pain.
However, as effective as Yoga may be to reduce the pain of back problems, knowing exactly what poses to use, for how long, what to offset the poses with and in what sequence to execute them, are other factors that should be taken into consideration before using it as a therapeutic relief from back pain.
I can see a reader go “Wait a minute…if I have to go through all that, then maybe I should just take some painkillers and call it a day.”
If that applies, it is hardly my intention to scare you away from Yoga for back pain, in fact I’d rather you embraced its use as an alternative to drugs-prescribed or otherwise-for your problems, however, for your success with its use, a little bit of awareness of the correct poses to use for back pain is required and will come in handy for a lasting use of this drug-free alternative.
I will go over the common, simple yet very effective poses for back pain and also give you instructions on the proper poses to offset the spinal motions when applicable. Moreover, I will discuss the factors of the duration of time needed when executing these poses as well.
Though some of these poses may best be learned under the supervision of a certified Yoga Instructor or avid expert, with the descriptions given below-and if need be, the use of image searches on related Yoga sites and search engines-
I believe you should be able to get a good concept to at least be able to practice these poses at home.
Here are some of the best poses for back ache and since the aim here is more so back pain relief versus exercising, it is not mandatory that you hold them more than 5-15 seconds, depending on your level of comfort. Moreover, a use of a yoga mat or any other soft surface is highly recommended in the execution of these asanas.
The Shoulder-stand (Savangasana)
This, folks, is a noted panacea for near any human ailment.
Don’t panic, it is extremely easy to execute, however, depending on the severity of your case, use discretion in its use.
-Spread a thick blanket on the floor and place your yoga mat on it. Lie on the back.
-Slowly raise the legs. Lift the trunk, hips and legs to a vertical position.
-Rest the elbows firmly on the floor and support the back with both hands.
-Raise the legs till they become vertical. Press the chin against the chest..
-While performing this pose, the back of the neck, the posterior part of the head and the shoulders should touch the floor. (I can assure you that you will say “Hey, I’ve done this before as a kid…this is yoga?”)
-Breathe in counts of 5-5-5 (inhalation, retention and exhalation).
-Don’t allow the body to shake.
Now for the counter poses to the Shoulder-Stand, try to incorporate the following:
Bridge Pose (Sethu Bhandasana):
From the Shoulder Stand position, stretch the legs and slowly touch the floor with the feet. It is done to bend the spine in the opposite direction.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana):
Lie on your back. Stretch the legs and keeps the hands palm down under the thighs. Raise the chest with the help of the elbows and, bending the neck as much as possible backwards, rest on the top of the head.
Try to use the ratio below to time the execution of these three poses.
6:1:2 (meaning the fish pose is held for a third of the time spent in the shoulder stand and the bridge pose held for half the time spent in the fish pose (or a sixth of the time spent in the shoulder-stand)
Or as an alternative, you could simply forego the bridge pose and apply a 2:1 ratio (shoulder-stand to fish pose) but this is only advised if you intend to do the parent pose (the shoulder-stand) for only a few seconds.
Obviously a lot of detail has gone into the description of these poses, however, that is because my intention is for you to be well informed, but for the sake of time and space. I will briefly go over the other poses you could do well to include AFTER you try the sequence above. This is if you decide to use it by the way.
I went over in detail the use of the shoulder stand sequence as ‘the’ Yoga exercise for back pain in part one of this article. Now let’s go over the rest of the applicable poses shall we.
Wind Relieving Pose: (Vatayanasan)
Lie down flat. Now take a deep breath and hold it. Now fold your right leg at the knee and press the folded leg against the abdomen. Make sure to keep the alternate leg straight while doing this. Now, switch legs and to conclude this use both legs at the same time.
Plough Pose (Halasana):
Lie flat on your back on your blanket. Keep the hands, palms down near the thighs. Without bending the knees, slowly raise the hips and the lumbar part of the back and bring down the legs till they touch the floor or go as far as you can. The key here is to get as deep a stretch for the lower back as possible.
Forward Bend (Paschimothanasana):
Lie flat on your back on the blanket, with arms overhead on the floor. Keep the legs and thighs firmly on the floor. Stiffen your body. Slowly raise the head and the chest and assume a sitting position. Now exhale till you are able to catch you toes, ankles or heels. You may even bury your face in between your knees.
Inclined Plane Pose (Purvottanasana):
Rest on your hands on heels, keeping the body straight.
Bow Pose: (Dhanurasana)
This pose is hailed as the best backward bending exercise. Lie Prone on the blanket. Relax the muscles. Now bend the legs over the thighs. Catch hold of the right ankle with the right hand and the left ankle with the left hand firmly. Raise the head, body and knees by tugging at the legs with the hands so the whole body rests on the abdomen.
Wheel Pose (Chakrasana)
Lie down. Bend the arms and legs. Raise the body and rest on the hands and feet. Tuck your head firmly in between your shoulders.
Spinal Twist: (Ardha Matsendrasana):
-Sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you.
-Bend your right knee, lift your right leg over your left, and place your right foot on the floor next to your left knee.
-Sitting with spine straight, place your left elbow on the right side of your right knee.
-Bend your left arm so that your left fingertips are touching your right hip, while at the same time, twisting to look over your right shoulder.
Since this actually involves a twisting of the back, make sure you go only as far as it is comfortable. As a matter of fact, it is advised that depending on the severity of your case, you only go as far as the poses allow you to at any time.
Corpse Pose (Savasana):
This is the relaxation pose. From experience, after the spinal twist above, if you immediately get into this pose, there is an indescribable feeling of relief from tightness in the back. You ought to try it out for yourself.
-Lay motionless on your back with the arms and legs slightly extended.
-Breathe deeply in counts of 5 that being in a ratio of 5:5:5
-Lay as such for as long as you desire and you could mentally send relaxation messages to your body parts such as “My ….. is hereby relaxed” (filling in the space with whatever body part. Remember to start from the toes working upwards.)
Other factors to keep in mind when I say try ‘yoga for back pain’ are that Yoga involves the consumption of a healthy diet. This brings to mind Hippocrates’ quote: “Let your foods be your medicine…”
That considered, do make sure your diet is primarily made up of the right stuff, raw and cooked fruits and veggies.
This will relieve constipation and this reminds me of a true experience with my father years back. He had suffered a severe back pain for weeks and an alternative health consultant told him to eat a meal of plain fruit on a given night and 2-3 hours afterwards, he was instructed to drink a laxative tea. After a really good bowel movement the next day, the pain magically subsided. That said you may want to try this tip as well.
It is my hope that all these pointers above will come in handy in your use of yoga for back pain relief-with the right poses. So go on and give it a shot today.