The lumbar spine, or low back, is a remarkably well-engineered structure of interconnecting bones, joints, nerves, ligaments, and muscles all working together to provide support, strength, and flexibility. However, this complex structure also leaves the low back susceptible to injury and pain.
-John Peloza, MD
Low back pain is a physical discomfort most of us have experienced. Sensations range from tightness or soreness to dull, acute, or severe pain. Common causes of back pain include improper movement in the spinal joints, disc damage, or nerve compression.
There are several ways to support, strengthen, and lengthen our low back which we can incorporate into our every day routine. We can begin by becoming mindful of our posture when seated or standing, keeping a neutral pelvis, and engaging the abdominal muscles. This will support the low back and guard it from overuse and strain. On the yoga mat, following a short daily practice will allow for more mobility and less inflammation, while strengthening/ lengthening the supporting ligaments and muscles. Although not all low back pain can be addressed with the following practice, maintenance is key to keeping pain at bay.
Practice, Breathe, Rest, Repeat
Low Back Love
Child’s Pose – Balasansa
- Begin with arms extended, sinking deeply into the hips and breathing into the belly.
- Stretch one hand 4-6 inches further than the other, breathing into the side body. Repeat on opposite side.
Cat/ Cow – Marjaiasana/ Bitilasana
- Cat: Roll the shoulders away from the ears, lift sit bones to the sky, drop the belly toward the floor.
- Cow Variation: Tuck the toes, press into the hands, rounding through the shoulders. Press the hips back toward the sit bones as you round down, stretching the low back. Bring the chest forward into Cat Pose.
- Repeat four to six times.
Cobra – Bhujangasana
- Bring the forehead to the mat, palms under shoulders, and elbows hugging into the ribs. Lift the hands, elbows, then chest. Keep the chin slightly tucked in toward the chest, allowing the back of the neck to stay long.
- Reverse the sequence, dropping the forehead, elbows, then palms of the hands.
- Repeat four to six times. Rest.
Locust Pose – Salabhasana
- With the forehead on the ground, palms under shoulders, and elbows hugging into the ribs, extend and lift one leg at a time (first the left, then the right).
- Extend and lift both legs together. Lift the palms, elbows, and chest. Reach the toes backward and chest forward.
- Scissor Extensions: Extend and lift both legs together. Separate the legs (right leg to the right, left leg to the left) and bring them together using the inner thigh and strength in the back muscles. Repeat four to six times. Rest.
Low Lunge – Anjaneyasana
- Begin with one foot forward and the opposite knee on the mat. The front knee and ankle in line with one another. Back knee, hips, shoulders, and earlobes in line. Sink into the hips. Bring the arms up. Hold here four to eight breath cycles. Repeat on opposite side.
- Place the soles of the feet on the mat behind the sit bones. Bring one knee into the chest at a time, leaving the opposite foot rooting into the mat. Alternate knees to chest, extending the low back against the mat. Repeat five to 10 times.
- Bring the knees perpendicular to the hips, knees and ankles in line (as though you are sitting in a chair). Place palms on top of knees. Press the palms firmly into the knees, knees pressing firmly into the palms, lengthening the low back on the mat, and engaging the abdominal muscles. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Rest. Repeat two to three times.
- Place the soles of the feet on the mat behind the sit bones. Extend one leg away from the body at a 45° angle. Do the following three exercises.
- 10 lifts (bouncing the leg up and down)
- 10 circles left
- 10 circles right
- Then, allow the sole of the foot to come back to the mat. Rest. Repeat on the opposite side.
Final Relaxation Pose – Savasana
- Allow the body to release into the earth, feeling supported and at ease.
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