As a yoga teacher, I hear many people complain about lower back pain. I would say one of the most common causes of this pain is all that sitting many of us do throughout our daily lives. I know from experience it can be difficult to find the time for some self-care. If you can find a few minutes each day to get in some gentle stretching, it can go a long way. Here are some yoga postures and gentle movement that can help relieve pain in the lower back and not take away too much time from your busy day.
1. Cat Cow
From all fours, make sure your wrists are underneath your shoulders, and knees are underneath your hips so you are in a tabletop position. Ground down evenly through your hands and spread your fingers. Start to lift your tailbone and hug your shoulder blades around your spine so you back is curved, then round your spine by tucking your tailbone, hug your naval up, and feel like you are spreading your shoulder blades away from the spine or centre of your body. Repeat these two at least 6-8 times and create some mobility in the spine.
2. Hip Circles
While lying on your back hug in your right knee and squeeze it in to your chest and then out to the side towards your shoulder. From there, hold on to your right knee with your right hand, place your left hand on your left hip to keep it grounded, and begin to circle around your right knee. You can keep the circles small or start to gradually make them bigger if that’s feels ok for you. Make about 5-6 circles in each direction. Then switch legs and repeat.
3. Supine Pigeon Variation
Whilst lying on your back, place your feet flat on the floor or yoga mat, cross your left ankle over right thigh (just above the knee). You might stop here if you feel like this is enough of a stretch, but if you want to carry on, you can begin by pressing the left knee away with your left hand.
Again, you can stay here and hold for about 10 deep breaths, or you can move on a bit further and hug your right thigh in towards your chest and clasp your hands behind the thigh. The more you draw your thigh in and press the left knee away, the deeper the stretch. Then switch legs and repeat.
If you feel any pain through your knees in this one, start of with the first variation, if you feel pain at all, you can skip this stretch. Be sure to keep the lifted foot flexed to keep the knee in a safe position.
4. Twisted Roots
From a supine position (lying down on your back), place both feet flat on the mat. Cross your left leg over right leg as if you were sitting crossed legged, and then drop your knees over to the right. You can rest your knees on a pillow for a more gentle approach to the stretch. You might feel a stretch around your outer left hip and possibly your low back. This is something you can do while you are lying in bed – a nice ‘lazy’ stretch as I like to call it :) Of course, repeat with the right crossed over left.
5. Seated Twist
In a seated position on the floor (you can sit on a blanket for some support for your hips/spine) stretch your legs long in front of you. Hug your right knee in towards your chest and then place right foot (sole down) on the outer edge of your left thigh (keep left leg long and foot flexed whilst in the posture).
Once again, hug your right knee in towards your chest to help lengthen through the crown of your head, and then twist your torso towards the right. Hold for 5-10 deep breaths and then counter twist to the other side for a breath or two. It can feel challenging to breath deeply whilst in a deep twist, so continue to practice the deep belly breathes whilst in the posture.
From a prone position (lying on your belly), rest your legs long and you forehead on your hands. Then, slide your left knee out to the side, so it’s in line with your hip (there should be ninety degree angles at your hip, knee, and ankle). Then slide your head and shoulders towards the bent left knee and look down toward the knee whilst your head still rests on your hands.
This is usually quite a comfortable posture for most of us (a lot of people can sleep like this!), so you might not feel any intense sensations/stretching, which is ok :) Hold for about 10 deep breaths, or longer if you’d like, and then repeat on the other side.
Remember to breath deeply through the nose during these stretches, it will help your body and mind relax in the postures/movement. Try not to rush in or out of the postures so you can be sure that you don’t over-stretch – just go as far as it feels good for you. If you are ever feeling any pain (especially in the joints/spine) ease out of the posture slowly.
Even if you don’t have tension in your low back, all of these postures can feel good. Hopefully you enjoy them, and feel free to comment if you have any questions or would like to let us know how you use yoga to relieve low back pain.