3 steps for a stronger back, plus 3 poses to alleviate lower back pain
Whether you’re a casual yogi or a fitness fanatic, a strong, flexible back will always be the basis of your comfort and health. When our hectic lifestyles force us to spend too much time in front of a computer screen or behind the wheel of the car, it’s easy to develop a bad back. With this step-by-step guide to back-strengthening yoga, you’ll soon be on your way to fighting back pain, discomfort and stress.
Step 1: Develop a workout and stick to it
The key to building up your back muscles is a regular yoga workout custom-built to target those problem areas. If you suffer from serious back pain, start with some simple, gentle stretches until you build up flexibility and confidence.
Choose a yoga workout or DVD that matches your schedule and is a realistic target. A great start is Rodney Yee’s comprehensive DVD Yoga for Back Care. Even if you don’t suffer from a bad back, this yoga DVD will lay the foundation for all kinds of flexibility and agility.
Step 2: Use your hips to build back support
Don’t forget that back pain or discomfort is often caused by weak hips and hamstrings. Here's an exercise to build hip and hamstring strength:
- Stand with your shoulders back and your neck straight in a Mountain Pose. You should feel comfortable and stable.
- Take several deep breaths.
- Step back with your left foot and turn it 90 degrees, opening out your body.
- With your legs straight, slowly bring your right hand toward the floor and raise your left arm above your head to enter a Triangle Pose.
- Feel the gentle pull in your hamstrings and hold for a few breaths.
Repeat for the opposite side.
Step 3: Flex your back with Cat-Cow Pose
Another quick and effective yoga pose for back pain is the Cat-Cow Pose, which can be done several times a day to help build up back flexibility:
- Get down on all fours on your yoga mat, looking at the ground to align your neck with your spine.
- Push down your abdomen, and bring your head up to look at the ceiling.
- Breathe out as you round your back and drop your head to gaze at your navel.
As with all back-strengthening yoga moves, ensure that you move slowly and deliberately — never force your muscles if you feel uncomfortable. Take it slow, be committed and you’ll soon feel your back loosening up as your flexibility improves and your discomfort fades.
Top 3 yoga poses for relieving lower back pain
If you suffer from lower back pain, everyday tasks like driving can be very uncomfortable. With simple yoga poses, you can build up your strength and flexibility as you work toward relaxation and blissful back-pain relief.
From Cat-Cow Pose, try moving into Child’s Pose, which will gently counter-stretch your lower back and help release any tension.
- With your back arched in Cat position, keep your hands placed flat on the floor in front of you as you move your body back to rest on your knees with your head down.
- Hold for a few breaths as you feel the stretch loosening up your lower back.
This pose, great for back pain relief, can be added to a yoga routine along with the two poses above.
- Kneeling in Child’s Pose with your arms stretched out in front, raise your head and move your body forward between your arms.
- Keep your elbows and your feet flat on the floor, and bring your hips down.
- Without pushing on your arms, raise your head and shoulders to look straight ahead, and hold for a few breaths.
Thread the Needle Pose
To really target the source of your back pain, you can’t beat Thread the Needle Pose.
- Lie on your back with your knees up, and your feet and shoulders touching the floor.
- Place your right foot over your left thigh, then reach your right hand through the triangular gap between your legs.
- Reach around your left thigh with your left hand to clasp your fingers together, and slowly pull back so your knees are brought toward your chest.
- Don’t strain or pull too hard.
- Take a few deep breaths; then relax your body and repeat with your other leg.