Yoga has made its way into the western world with a bang. This ancient set of practices offers much in the way of physical and mental benefits. What’s more, it can also be used to reduce back pain that’s become a plague on our society. If you’re one of the many Americans who’s missed work because of back pain or find that it interferes with daily life, consider practicing gentle yoga poses or asanas that stretch and strengthen your back. In part II of our yoga series, we show you five more poses that you can do.
The cobra pose is a terrific way to ease stiffness in the back that many of us face after spending hours sitting in one position. It helps maintain the curve of the lower back which tends to flatten when sitting. It extends the spine and works the back muscles.
Although the cobra pose is fairly easy to perform, you should do it with caution especially if it’s your first time. Don’t force your upper body high off the ground if your back starts to pain. Just do what you’re able to. Once your back starts to become less stiff, you’ll see an improvement in how much you can arch. You should also bend your elbows more and pull your belly in to take the weight off your lower back.
Locust pose is a backbend pose similar to the cobra pose. However, instead of keeping your legs on the ground, you lift them up along with your upper body. The pose targets the lower back and keeps it engaged as you need to move into it without your arms to assist. It’s a good way to strengthen the back muscles. It also works the abdomen, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
When doing the locust pose, don’t focus on lifting yourself too high or too quickly otherwise you may feel your lower back cramping up. If you can’t do the pose, you can try a half locust pose. Lie belly down with your arms on your sides. Lift your right leg up without bending the knee and hold for 10 seconds. Do the same with the left leg and right arm and alternate.
The bridge pose is an exercise that stretches the spine to keep it supple. Since the pose must be held for a few seconds, it also strengthens the muscles of the back along with the glutes and hamstrings. Like the cobra and locust pose, it opens the chest and improves posture by countering forward postures (like slouching) that we tend to make when sitting.
While the bridge pose is simple, it can be a little challenging for first-timers. If you can’t lift and hold your pelvis, place a block beneath your sacrum for support.
Unlike most of the poses we’ve mentioned, the triangle pose is a standing exercise. As you bend sideways to reach down, it stretches and strengthens the spine and lengthens the muscles. It also strengthens muscles on the outer hip and the sides of the torso.
The triangle pose should ideally see your body form a right angle with both arms and legs forming straight lines. If you have a neck injury, look straight ahead instead of at the top. You should avoid the pose if you have low blood pressure.
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Rounding up our list of yoga poses for backaches is the bow pose. It’s best for people who have mild back pain and not for those with severe back problems. Like many backbends, the bow pose strengthens the back muscles. It also works the core and keeps the spine flexible and strong. This makes it less susceptible to injury and pain.
Not everyone may be able to do the bow pose, and that’s okay. Yoga is about listening to your body and not pushing yourself beyond your limit. If you can’t do the bow pose, try a half bow by bending one leg and holding on to it with the opposite arm.
Yoga poses can be gentle or vigorous depending on how you want them to be. For people with backaches, gradually easing into form is important. Be mindful of how you do these poses as maintaining form can mean the difference between strength and flexibility and painful injury. Do combine them with exercises like walking and swimming, maintain a healthy weight, and use a good mattress when sleeping. You’ll soon be able to reduce back pain if not eliminate it altogether.