Did you know that people in the UK take about 35 million working days off a year because of back pain? (Work Foundation, October 2013) Lower back issues in particular affect around a third of the UK adult population every year. They vary in intensity and seriousness, from mild discomfort to acute or chronic pains and may be due to simple strains, poor posture or more serious conditions such as degeneration of discs. It is thus important to consult a doctor if pain persists.
The great news is that yoga can help relieve stiffness and strengthen your lower back. So, if you feel any stiffness in your lumbar area, get on your mat!
Here are 5 amazing poses you can safely practise at home.
1. Makarasana (Crocodile).
This is a wonderful restorative pose that lengthens the spine, relaxes body and mind and releases compression in the lumbar area.
To enter the pose, lie down on your belly, with your elbows bent out to the sides, and place your hands on top of each other. Rest your forehead down on the backs of your hands. Both legs are stretched out and feet are hip width apart. Let your ankles gently roll out to the sides. Take a deep inhale and a deep exhale. Feel as if you are melting into the floor. Let go. Close your eyes and relax. Keep breathing deeply for up to 5 minutes, then push back on all four.
2. From all four to Balasana (Child’s pose).
Make sure that your hands are directly underneath your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale as you lift the chest away from the belly, exhale as you round the lower back, press on your hands and sit back on your heels. Inhale to come up. Repeat a few times, moving with your breath and feeling the gentle stretch along the spine.
3. Eye of the needle (or Dead Pigeon).
Start lying on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Inhale and lift the right leg off the ground. Exhale to bring the right ankle across to rest on the left knee. On the next inhale, lift the left foot off the ground as you take hold of the back of the left thigh with both hands. Exhale and draw the left knee towards the chest. Make sure that the shoulders and head are relaxed. Stay in the pose for 10 breaths, gently drawing the knee closer to the chest on each exhale. This great hip opener also helps release tightness in the hamstrings which are often the cause of low back problems. Release and change side.
4. Four Parts Pelvic Tilts.
Staying on your back with both knees bent and the ankles directly under the knees. Inhale and arch the lower back while bringing the arms overhead. Your shoulders and sacrum stay on the mat. Exhale as you press the lower back on the mat, tuck the tailbone and draw the navel towards the spine, bringing the arms back along your torso. On the next inhale, keep the tuck in the pelvis and press on your feet to lift the torso off the ground and bring the arms overhead. Exhale and bring the arms down to the sides, releasing the spine onto the mat, vertebra after vertebra. Repeat a few times. Notice how these Pelvic Tilts stretch the back of the legs and quadriceps and strengthen the abdominal muscles. They will protect your lower back by bringing stability.
5. Reclining Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana).
Begin lying down on your back, legs outstretched, arms along the body with the palms facing down. Bend your knees to place your feet on the ground. Inhale and lift your hips up and shift them an inch to the right. Exhale and draw the right knee to the chest while extending the left leg on the floor. Make sure than the left hip, leg and torso are in line. Drop the right knee over to the left side of your body. Open your right arm to the right and rest your left hand on your right knee, gently pressing if you wish to increase the twist. Look over to the right. Hold for 5 breaths. On the next inhale, bring the head back to centre. Exhale and draw your right knee back to the chest before changing side.
These 5 poses will help you relax any tension in your lower back and ensure that you have a strong healthy back!