Low back pain affects as many as 80% of us (at least at some time in our life), and as many as 31 million Americans at any given time. I have to admit, it’s what brought me to yoga nearly 15 years ago.
The spine moves in six directions, and any healthy spine regularly moves in all of them—forward and back, side to side, and twists from left to right. Surely, sitting at a desk in front of a computer for hours at a time doesn’t help. Whether yours is a desk job, or your low back just happens to be the first part of your body that screams when you are tired or stressed, here are a few simple moves you can do that will save your back.
And as a nice little bonus (thanks to the now undisputed mind-body connection), when you relax your body, you simultaneously ease your mind. It’s virtually impossible to do one without the other. More on that another time. For now, let’s focus on what you can do for your physical backbone.
IN THE MORNING
First, before you even get out of bed in the morning, hug your knees into your chest and take several deep breaths. This will help to stretch out your spine and release any tension that built up during the night. Then, with your arms out wide, lower your legs to one side, letting your legs and feet rest, and roll your head in the opposite direction. Take several deep breaths, then repeat to the other side.
IN THE EVENING
Then, at the end of a long day, you can again be good to your spine with these 3 Simple Stretches.
FORWARD BENDS & BACKBENDS
Whether you’re new to yoga, or a seasoned practitioner, Cat and Cow Stretch are amazing ways of loosening up the spine and bringing comfort to a stiff spine.
Begin on all fours on the floor in table position (flatten your back like a tabletop). Allow your belly to soften toward the earth while you lift your tailbone, and your head and neck toward the sky. Slide your shoulders down your back, away from your ears. With your back arched, imagine your spine is a string of pearls, and keep space between each pearl as you stretch the front of your body. Do this as you inhale.
As you exhale, lift and round your back into Cat Stretch. Tuck your tailbone, tuck your chin, and imagine you’re trying to touch the middle of your back to the ceiling. Draw your navel in toward your spine, and enjoy a stretch along the back of your body.
Repeat, inhaling into Cow Stretch, and exhaling into Cat Stretch. Do this at least 8 times.
Sitting in easy pose on the floor, lower your right elbow toward the floor, relax your shoulder down away from your ear, and lift your left arm up and over with your palm facing up toward the sky. Enjoy a long, deep stretch from your left hip all the way up the left side of your body. To deepen the stretch, press your ribcage to the left. Take 8 deep breaths here.
Repeat to the other side.
Spinal twists feel amazing if they’re done right, and they are an amazing way to balance the central nervous system.
Sit tall, remembering to see your spine like a long string of pearls. As you inhale, elongate your spine. As you exhale, twist to your right. Engaging your core, and let the twist come from that place. Take several deep breaths here. And then repeat on the other side.
These movements are simple enough virtually anyone can do them. Use them not only to ease low back pain but to keep your spine loose and flexible. And if you should happen to ease your mind in the process . . . well, so be it.
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