Back pain is enough to make anyone miserable. Some people find relief through massages or ice packs, but you may want to give yoga a try before spending a fortune at the spa.
With yoga, the primary goal is not only to relax the body, but improve circulation, increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles. The combination of these three key things can help eliminate back pain and prevent it from returning in the future.
Can Yoga Really Help With Back Pain?
Many people are skeptical about yoga’s effectiveness on back pain, but stretching has already been proven to be an effective way to relieve any kind of discomfort. By performing a series of yoga asanas (poses), you can help speed up the healing process and also reduce inflammation.
Yoga can help you in four key ways:
- Alignment – One great thing about yoga is that it focuses quite a bit on body alignment. The basic idea is that one part of the body has an effect on the entire body. When the body is properly aligned and each pose is performed in good form, it relieves a lot of the tension and stress put on the body.
- Tension relief – Tension is a major contributor to back pain, and a large percentage of people carry tension in their hips and shoulders. Yoga stretches and loosens up your muscles to relieve tension and provide you with relief. Many poses stretch muscles that you don’t use very often. If your pain is directly related to poor posture or stress, these stretches may be all that you need to get rid of your pains for good.
- Breathing – Breathing may not seem like an important factor in eliminating your back pain, but it plays a key role in both your back and overall health. Yoga’s breathing techniques circulate oxygen all throughout the body and helps you achieve a deeper stretch. If you take the time to meditate as well, you will also experience the healing benefits that come along with relaxation and being in the present moment.
- Body awareness – As you continue to practice yoga, you become more aware of your body and its limitations. You begin to understand which movements benefit the body and which ones should be avoided. Between body alignment and body awareness, you will learn how to move your body properly to avoid future pain episodes.
Can yoga really help with back pain? Yes. Researchers at the West Virginia University conducted a study on 90 adults who were suffering from back pain. Their goal was to compare the results of iyengar yoga therapy with standard medical care.
Once the year-long study was complete, the lyengar yoga group reported a 42% reduction in pain and a surprising 46% reduction in depression symptoms. Consistency and choosing the right poses will help you find back pain relief with yoga.
The Best Yoga Stretches That Will Help You
While yoga works all areas of the body, some poses focus more on stretching and elongating the back. By strengthening and stretching your core, you can keep it at bay. Listed below are some of the best yoga stretches that will help.
Downward Facing Dog
Downward Facing Dog is a classic yoga pose that stretches the entire body, but really focuses on elongating the muscles that support your lower back and spine.
- Begin on all fours. Your hands should be just slightly in front of your shoulders.
- Press back to raise your knees off of the ground and lift your tailbone up towards the sky.
- Gently push your heels towards the floor. Be mindful of your hamstrings.
- Hold the pose for a count of five to ten breaths.
- For maximum benefit, repeat the pose five times.
Bridge pose will not only stretch your lower and upper back, but bridge pose will also help strengthen your buttocks.
- Begin by lying down flat on your back.
- Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the floor.
- Press your feet to bring your tailbone up towards your pelvis. Keep your butt firm, but not hard.
- Lift your buttocks off of the floor.
- Make sure that your inner feet and your thighs are parallel. If necessary, place a yoga block between your thighs to keep them parallel.
- Extend your arms underneath your back and clasp your hands. This helps you keep the weight on the tops of your shoulders.
- Stay in the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Roll the spine slowly down to the ground, one vertebrae at a time.
Cat pose is an excellent stretch for the back, and is so easy to perform. No matter whether you’re a beginner or an expert yogi, cat pose is so easy to get into and feels great on your back.
- Begin on all fours.
- Your knees should be just below your hips. Your wrists all the way up to your shoulders should be perpendicular to the ground.
- Your head should be in the neutral position, gazing at the ground.
- With an exhale, round your spine and lift it towards the ceiling. Keep your knees and shoulders in position.
- As you inhale, slowly roll back down into your starting “tabletop” position.
- Repeat five to ten times.
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Marichi’s pose will give your back a good twisting stretch that can help alleviate tension and relieve pain.
- Begin in Staff Pose sitting with your back straight and your legs straight out in front of you.
- Bend your right knee and keep your right foot flat on the ground. Bring your heel as close to your butt as possible. Make sure that your left leg remains straight.
- As you exhale, turn your torso to the right and use your left arm as a lever against your right thigh. Use this lever to twist your body to the right.
- Be sure to keep your foot and your leg grounded.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Repeat on the other side.