Basic Yoga Sequence For Lower Back Pain
According to The Mayo Clinic most people will experience low back pain at some point in their life. Whether you’re an extremely active athlete or one who spends most of your time sedentary (due to a desk job, lots of time in the car, etc.) lower back pain is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. Many sports and exercise activities, along with extended periods of time sitting, can put a lot of weight and pressure on the low back leading to tension, discomfort, and pain. Low back pain over a longer period of time may also lead to discomfort through out the spine, or even sciatica.
The following sequence is made up of 5 accessible yoga postures and can even be practiced at home. This sequence is appropriate for yoga practitioners of all experience levels.
Supta Hasta Padangustasana (Supine Hand To Foot Posture)
Instructions: Lay on your back on a firm surface. Wrap a strap, tie, or towel around the ball of your right foot and extend your right leg towards the ceiling. Hold on to the strap or towel at a length that allows your shoulders to soften in to the ground. If you are feeling discomfort anywhere between your hip and your foot try bending your knee as deeply as you need. Try to take 5 – 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
1. Use your strap, tie, or towel around the ball of your foot
2. Wrap your peace fingers and your thumb around your big toe
Benefits: This yoga posture stretches your hamstrings, low back, and hips. It is an accessible way to create space in your lower back and flexibility in your hamstrings.
Cautions: If you feel any strain or sensitivity in your low back or knee consider keeping your knee bent while doing this yoga posture. Another option would be to use a longer strap.
Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Knee Down Twist)
Instructions: Lay on your back on a firm surface. Draw your left knee into your chest as you extend your arms out away from your shoulders, in a ’T’ position, with your palms resting on the ground. When you feel ready, start to cross your left knee over your body, twisting through your spine. If possible try to keep both of your shoulders on the ground. Let your knee rest on the ground, or if that is too much, place some kind of support (pillow, blanket, yoga block, etc.) under your twisted leg. Take 5 – 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
1. Rest your knee on top of a support system (i.e. pillow, blanket, or yoga block)
2. Rest your knee on the ground
Benefits: Supine knee down twists stretch your lower back, chest, and shoulders. It helps lengthen your spine and detox your body by twisting out your entire spine. It can also help with digestion.
Cautions: Be aware of any discomfort that may arise in your hips, spine, or shoulders. If you experience sensitivity anywhere either back off, or if it is appropriate skip this posture
Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
Instructions: Lay on your back on a firm surface. Step both of your feet in towards your hips so that your knees stack over your ankles. Bring your arms down by your sides, with your palms facing down. Use your shoulders and the strength of your legs to lift your hips off of the ground. If possible, try to engage your hamstrings and quadriceps, and relax the space around your lower back. Be aware of how much weight and pressure your allowing in your neck. If you feel any discomfort in your knees or neck back off a bit by lowering your hips. Take 5 – 10 deep breaths and then after you have lowered back down give your self a few moments with the knees moving in towards your belly for rest.
1. Take a restorative variation by placing a yoga block underneath your hips
2. Squeeze a yoga block between your inner thighs to build strength
3. Interlace your hands underneath your body, keep your upper arms pressing down
Benefits: Bridge pose strengthens the supporting muscles of the lower back while stretching the shoulders, chest, & neck, strengthening the legs, and extending the spine.
Cautions: If you have neck injury consider the restorative option 1, or if necessary skip this posture. Also, once you have lifted the hips and spine off the ground if you experience any pain in the knees, hip, or neck lower your hips a bit closer to the ground.
Supta Kapotasana (Supine Pigeon, “Thread The Needle”)
Instructions: Start by laying on your back with both of your knees drawn in to your chest. Place the sole of your left foot on the ground and cross your right ankle over top of your left knee. Keep your right foot flexed the whole time to protect your knee. If you would like, keep your left foot on the ground, or try lifting it off. If it feels okay for your left foot to leave the ground interlace your fingers behind your left thigh to pull your right shin bone in closer to your body. Take 5 – 10 breaths. Repeat on the opposite side.
1. Keep your bottom foot on the ground
2. Lift your bottom foot off the ground, flex both feet, and hold behind your thigh
Benefits: “Thread the needle” pose stretches the outer hip area, which can help relieve low back tension and sciatica.
Cautions: Please work slowly in to this posture being aware of any discomfort or pressure around your knee joint. If you have any recent knee injuries consider skipping this posture.
Viparita Karani (Legs Up The Wall)
Instructions: Start by sitting with either side of your body next to a wall. Try to allow yourself a few inches between your hips and the wall so that your hamstrings will be able to relax once you have lifted your legs. However, if you know that you have a lot of natural flexibility in your hamstrings then try sitting closer to the wall. From your sitting position, start to slowly roll back and down on to your spin while swinging your legs up to rest on the wall. You may receive the most benefit from having your spine perpendicular to the wall, and your hips at a distant from the wall where your legs can rest up straight or with a slightly bended knee. Rest your arms out in a ’T’ position with your palms facing up, down by your sides, or any other position that is comfortable for you. Relax your shoulders and your neck and if it’s comfortable let your head drop back heavy and relax in to the ground. If it’s comfortable allow your breath to slow down and soften. Try to stay here for a minimum of 1 minute, or if you would like stay longer. This pose is safe for multiple minutes at a time.
1. Let your hips rest on the floor
2. Lift your hips on to a folded blanket, yoga block, or bolster
Benefits: Legs up the wall pose helps to passively stretch the backs of your legs, and is a wonderful way to relieve anxiety and help you relax. This posture can also help relieve minor back aches and leg & foot cramps.
Cautions: Please avoid practicing this pose if you have glaucoma, serious neck or back injuries, or if you start feeling any discomfort in your lower body.
To see a demo of Legs Up The Wall Pose and to learn more about the benefits, click here.