Back to Basics for a Healthy Back

Many of us suffer from back pain and limited range of motion of the spine. This is partly due to the spines lack of flexibility and own rigidness. The spine requires movements of all directions such as: forward bends, back bends, lateral bends and rotations in order to remain strong and flexible. Can you think of any movements throughout the day that allows us to do this? Not really if you sit in front of a computer for eight hours, or drive across town all day like I do.

These basic asanas will increase the range of motion of the spine helping you build a stronger, more flexible and healthier back. They are suitable for all levels but most importantly for beginners.

Let’s start in Downward facing dog. First start with the knees and hands to the floor as in table top position. Make sure hands are shoulder width apart and knees are hip width apart. Then lift the hips towards the ceiling for downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). *If you do not feel comfortable going up to this inverted position please remain in all four and make transition from there.

Hold asana for 8-10 breaths (Ujjai Breath)

DSC00799

Then, step the right foot forward in between the hands and transition to Low Lunge (Anjaneyasna) with the opposite knee bent to the mat. Make a slight shift of the left hip forward as if reaching to rest it towards the floor. As you inhale, reach the arms up over your head and lift the heart upward. Don’t forget to smile 🙂

Hold each asana for 8-10 breaths (Ujjai Breath: deep inhalation and long exhalation exaggerating the breath to sound like the ocean or wind breeze).

From Anjaneyasana, lower the hands back down to the floor then, rest the left hip to the left foot and stretch the right leg for a hamstring stretch. I like to call this the “Runner’s Stretch“. If this feels uncomfortable to do please use yoga blocks to support your forward bent. It is important to keep your back straight during this pose.

Hold asana for 8-10 breaths (Ujjai Breath)

DSC00806

From runners stretch, we will sit down on the floor and bend the left leg to press the foot to the right thigh. Square the shoulders towards the right foot, lengthen the spine, lift the chest, take a deep breath and as you exhale, slowly begin to bend forward to reach for your right foot. If this seems impossible to do for now, use a yoga strap and hook it on to the foot. Use this strategy until you increase range of motion. Still do your best to keep your back straight. Only go as far as you feel your lower back and hamstrings stretching.

*Hold this asana for 8-10 breaths (Ujjai Breathing)

Once you’ve relaxed in this forward bend, sit up and bend your left knee to the chest. Lengthen your spine, lift the chest and as you exhale, twist the spine towards the left and hug your left knee with your right arm. I like to rest my left thumb just behind my tailbone as to create a second spine to help keep the back up straight.

With each inhale you will do your best to lengthen the spine and with each exhale you will turn a little deeper into the twist.

Once you’ve held this asana for about 8-10 breaths, release the twist and counter pose to the opposite side to relieve any tension of the lower back.

My favorite pose for this sequence comes next. Bridge Pose or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana.

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor hip width apart. See that your arms lie beside you and your finger tips can touch the heels of your feet. As you inhale lift the buttocks up as you engage your hips and tighten your tummy.  Clasp your hands behind you and lift the shoulders to tuck them underneath the shoulder blades. This creates more space at the shoulders and allows for an increased range of motion at the hips.  Now you know why this would be my favorite pose. It also feels so good so enjoy it!

Once you’ve enjoyed this asana for for 8-10 Ujjai breaths, release the hands and lower the hips gently back to the ground. Then, hug both knees to the chest to release any remaining tension off the lower back and enjoy being here for a few more breaths. Sometimes I like to rock side to side to give my back a little massage. You can too.

Now, wrap up the sequence by rotating the hips to each side and resting for 8-10 breaths on each side.

With the legs bent up in the air and core fully engaged, lower hips to one side and feel that your lower back is alleviating and releasing any pain or discomfort.  If you need to modify this pose, keep the feet to the ground (mat width) and then lower the knees to the floor. If this still seems uncomfortable use modified method and rest a pillow underneath the thighs.

DSC00812

Now, repeat this entire sequence on the left side. Ready? 1 -2- 3 Go!

Now that you have concluded both sides, you are just one step to a healthier back. Always finish in Savasana (final resting pose) for 8-10 minutes at the very minimum. The longer you rest, the more beneficial any yoga sequence will work in your favor. This is by far most of my student’s favorite pose. I think it’s cute and funny to see them excited to rest.

Rest is very important for the recovery and rejuvenation of the muscles. When you do, make sure to also rest the mind from thoughts and wandering. Resting means resting the central nervous system, and by thinking of the past, future or any memories we allow the nervous system to stay alarmed. We want the nervous system to rest so that the brain, heart and organs also get to rest. Now happy Savasana and a healthier back to you.

DSC00814

The divine light in me bows to the divine light in you. Namaste.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: