How does Yoga Help Lower Back Pain?
Multiple studies have shown that participating in activities that involve stretching, strengthening and increasing flexibility in the back can alleviate chronic long-term back pain. The physical practice of yoga is built around providing those three basic principles to the body.
According to the “Archives of Internal Medicine” “People who take yoga or stretching classes are twice as likely to cut back on pain medications for their back aches as people who managed symptoms on their own”
Many people, including those that suffer from Lower Back Pain, mistakenly believe that yoga is an activity geared towards people that are naturally flexible, and therefore do not participate in yoga, an activity that could have long term health benefits.
What causes Lower Back Pain:
As mentioned in a previous article,
- weak core muscles,
- tight muscles in the hips due to a lack of mobility that creates poor posture,
- and tension in the back, ultimately leading to back pathology, most commonly in the lumbar spine (lower back), or sacro-iliac joint.
A couple of yoga sessions per week can go a long way towards reversing this process and in turn alleviating chronic back pain.
Yoga Sequence to alleviate lower back pain:
Here is a Yoga sequence you can use personally, or that you can teach your pupils, that should help relieve their lower back pain. If you are reading this article as a newbie to yoga, I suggest taking the name of the postures mentioned below, and searching for step by step instructions on how to perform them safely, with correct alignment. Also, please note that if you suffer from chronic back pain, that you should consult your Doctor or Physiotherapist before performing this sequence…
To start with, take a seated position, place your hands firmly on your hips, close your eyes, and breathe into the belly for a couple of minutes. This will help you connect to your core muscles
These gentle spinal movements will awaken the muscles in the back, signaling them that it is time to move
Quadriped stretch/ core extensions
5 on each side of the body, focusing on slow movements, and keeping the spine long, avoid the tendency to dip in the lower back when raising a leg up. This pose will start to develop core strength and control, and will also warm up the body for the deeper stretches to follow
Hip Flexor (Low and High Crescent Lunge) stretch sequence
From Downward Facing Dog, step 1 leg to the front of the mat, and drop the opposite knee to the mat, lunge forward and raise the hands. Do this a few times on both sides, moving slowly and mindfully. You can challenge yourself by lifting the back knee off the mat if that feels good. This posture sequence will bring length to the hip flexor muscles on the front of the hips that spend so much time in a shortened (seated) position.
Pigeon pose & variations (Eka Pada Kapotasana)
This posture will bring length to the muscles on the outside of the buttocks and thighs, releasing pressure on the sciatic nerve. When these muscles are tight, they can impinge the sciatic nerve that extends out of the sacrum, and runs through the gluteus muscles and down the back of the leg, commonly causing lower back pain and sensation.
Seated twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
This yoga pose has a similar effect to the previous pose in that it stretches out the back and sides of the hips, however it also includes a twist in the spine that helps bring mobility and flexibility to the back, lossening up the muscles and correcting poor posture over time
A gentle relaxation to calm the body after the stretching, and to take an opportunity to completely relax, something so few of us have a chance to do in this busy world, with our crazy schedules. Place a pillow or bolster underneath your thighs to relieve tension in the lower back.
If you practice this sequence with care, and a little patience, and perseverance, you should see a marked decrease in your lower back pain, or in that of your students. Remember, even though you will feel some immediate benefits from practicing this Yoga for Lower Back Pain sequence, yoga is a long term solution, and the best results will be achieved through regular practice.
If you missed Part 1 or Part 2 of our blog series on Lower Back Pain, click the links to find out more information on yoga and its benefits to Lower Back Pain.