Reduce Your Chronic Lower Back Pain with Yoga; Part 2 Strengthen

Welcome to Part 2 of my series on reducing chronic lower back pain. If you haven’t read part 1 yet make sure to become familiar with the fundamental postures for reducing lower back pain in part 1 before beginning part 2. Part 2 focuses on strengthening the core and lower back to build stability and reduce pain.

If you’ve read and practiced the first part of this series you’re probably ready to add in a couple more strengthening poses. Strengthening the muscles of the lower back and abdomen help give stability to the lumbar spine and pelvis and can reduce chronic lower back pain. It is important to remember to start small and add in only one or two more postures to your low pack pain program at a time. Remember to consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning a new exercise program.

Lets get started.

Begin by warming up the lower back with 5-10 rounds of Cakravakasana. Not sure what Cakravakasana is? Here is a link to the previous article that describes how to perform Cakravakasana. Start by adding one or two of these postures at a time to your routine for lower back pain. Continue to add postures as you begin to build strength. Remember to take your time. It’s not a competition.

It is important to take rest between exercises and give your lower back a gentle stretch. Excellent postures to release tension in your lower back between rounds are Apanasana (Supine Knees to Chest), Cat-Cow, Cakravakasana, standing while moving the hips in circles, and Childs Pose.

1. Table Top with Core Work

Yoga-core-work

Exhale into this pose as you draw your navel to spine, round your back and connect knee to elbow.

Table-Top-Core-Work-yoga

Inhale, engage your core and extend your leg back behind you. Take a breath and then extend your opposite arm out in front with your next inhale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits: Strengthens and tones the core and lower back, improves balance, creates stability in the pelvis and improves coordination.

Instructions: Make your way into Table Top pose (hands and knees) with hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Spread your fingers wide. If your knees are sensitive then place a folded blanket under your knees. To begin, extend your right leg straight behind you with your leg parallel to the floor and foot flexed. Make sure your right hip isn’t lifting up higher than your left hip; hips are “square” to the floor. And make sure that you aren’t collapsing into your left hip (we don’t want the hip jutting out to the side). You may choose to hold here for three to five breaths and then switch sides. If this exercise feels stable extend your opposite arm straight forward with your thumb pointing up toward the ceiling. You may choose to hold here and create a long, diagonal line of energy for 3-5 breaths. If you want more of a challenge you create a “crunching motion” by drawing the knee of your extended leg and the elbow of your opposite extended arm toward one another underneath your torso, while rounding your back. Hold for a moment or two and then extend long. Repeat 5 times on each side.

2. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

Bridge_pose_setu_bandhasana

Inhale as you rotate your pelvis to lift hips, belly and heart.

Bridge_Pose_set_up

Bridge Pose set up. Exhale as you return to this pose.

 

 

 

 

 

Benefits: Bridge Pose stretches and strengthens the back and can alleviate low back pain, opens chest and hip flexors, strengthens core muscles and improves the flexibility of the spine and hips.

Instructions: Lie on your back, bend your knees and walk your feet in as close to your hips as is comfortable for your body, knees are hips width distance and feet are parallel to one another. Stretch your arms down by your hips, palms face down. On an inhale breath begin to curl your tailbone up toward the sky, lifting your pelvis up and gently peel your spine away from the floor to lift the belly and chest. Keep your gaze straight up at the ceiling to protect your neck. As you exhale, gently begin to roll down beginning at your upper back and ending when your tailbone reaches the ground. Repeat 5-10 times. As you begin to build strength begin to increase the length of time you spend in the posture, eventually holding for 15+ seconds each round.

3. Plank Pose and Forearm Plank

plank_pose

Plank Pose strengthens the entire core, shoulders and legs.

Benefits: Plank pose is a beneficial strength builder for the entire body, in particular the muscles of our abdomen, lower back, legs, hips and shoulders.

Instructions: To come into Plank Pose begin in a Table Top Pose with shoulders stacked right over your wrists and then step back with one foot and then the other, so both legs are extended long and you have one long line from crown of your head to your heels. If you find Full Plank Pose too challenging for you today bring your knees down to your mat and create a long line from knees out through the crown of your head. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and fingers are spread wide. Imagine pressing your hands strongly into the earth beneath you and forward without actually moving them. Draw your navel back toward your spine and make sure you’re not collapsing in your lower back or sticking your booty up in the air. Press back through your heels to activate your legs fully. Begin by holding for 20 seconds and progressively work your way up to 1, 3 or even 5 minutes. Keep a slow and steady breath and know that you may exit the posture at any time.

4. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

yoga-locust-pose

Inhale lift your chest, legs and hands. Hold in the lifted position for a couple of breaths and use an exhale to lower down.

Benefits: Locust pose strengthens and tones the muscles of the entire back, glutes and hamstrings and massages the abdominal organs.

Instructions: To find Locust Pose begin by lying on your belly with your left ear down, hands back by your hips with palms facing up and toes touching and heels falling out to the side. Allow your body to rest here and take a few deep centering breaths. When you’re ready guide your forehead or chin to center (whichever feels best on your neck), flip your palms down and take your feet hips width distance. On an inhale begin to lift your chest and head up off of the ground. To move deeper lift your legs off the ground. If you’d like a bit more of a challenge lift your hands off the ground as well. Make sure to find a long line of energy from the crown of your head out through your pointed toes. Begin by holding for 15 seconds and then return to the rest pose that we began in with your opposite ear down. Repeat 4-8 times. Once this exercise becomes easier you can increase the length of time held in the posture to 30 seconds each set.

5. Supine Hip Lifts

supine hip lifts to strengthen core and reduce lower back pain

Supine hip lifts. Only lift hips 1/2 an inch using the strength of your core and no momentum.

Benefits: Supine Hip Lifts strengthen your lower abdominals to improve core stability.

Instructions: Lie on your back. Stretch your hands down toward your hips with palms facing down. Gently rock your hips a little side to side to slide the edges of your forearms underneath the outer edges of your hips. This will help you press your lower back into the mat. Extend your legs straight up to the ceiling. Keep your legs straight as you lift your hips off of the ground only a half inch, no more, and release back down. Repeat 10 times. Make sure you are using the strength of your core and not momentum. Think stable and controlled with no extra movement. Begin with performing 3 sets of 10 and gradually increase.

Bonus Posture: Triangle Pose with a Block or Chair (Utthita Trikonasana)

triangle-pose-with-block

As you come into this posture imagine that your legs, hips and shoulders are all against a wall.

Benefits: Triangle Pose strengthens the legs, stretches the hamstrings and lower back, improves mobility of the spine and pelvis, and helps build core strength.

Instructions: Stand in the middle of your mat facing the long edge, then step your feet wide apart. With your arms extended straight out to the side from your shoulders your wrists should be right above your ankles. Rotate your right foot 90 degrees, so it points straight forward to the short edge of your mat and rotate the toes of your left foot in slightly and draw the heel of your left foot slightly toward the back edge of your mat. Keep your legs straight throughout this exercise with quadriceps engaged and big toe of your front foot grounding down into the mat. Begin to slide your left hip back, tuck your right hip under the left as you stretch your torso horizontally toward the front of your mat. Once you’ve stretched forward as far as you can go, then rotate your arms, bringing your right hand to a chair, block, shin, or floor and extending your left arm up toward the ceiling. Your chest should be perpendicular to the floor (think of rotating your heart up toward the ceiling instead of down to the floor). Your gaze can be down at the floor, straight ahead or up at the ceiling. Hold the posture for 3-5 breaths and then exit the pose by grounding down through your feet and engaging your core. Repeat on the other side. You may choose to practice this posture 1-5 times per strength building session. Remember to slowly and gently challenge yourself.

I hope you’re feeling like you’re well on your way to reducing your lower back pain and gaining confidence in your practice. As always, feel free to contact me with questions.

Check back soon to try out Part 3: Restorative Yoga Postures for Lower Back Pain.

Love and Light,

Autumn

Please note that Autumn Adams is a 500+ hr yoga instructor and has studied extensively with her teachers, but she is not a doctor. She asks that you please consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise program.

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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
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Reduce Your Chronic Lower Back Pain with Yoga; 4 Part Series- Part 1: Fundamental Postures

Hello Yogis. I’ve created a four part series to help you and your students reduce lower back pain and I’m hoping you will find here the tools to end your lower back pain.

I myself have experienced chronic lower back pain. Here is my lower back pain story:

Many years ago and well before I was teaching yoga I made a living waiting tables and I wore terrible shoes, stood with poor posture for long shifts, and in general did not take care of my body. These years of neglect, while slinging drinks at the bar/resto, left me with incredibly tight hamstrings, lower back muscles, and hip flexors. I would come home late from work each night and my back would be a mess and I would be unbearably grumpy.

Eventually I found my way back to my yoga practice (so thankful) and my lower back pain slowly began to diminish. I’ve also found that as long as I continue to practice and continue to stretch my lower back my back pain doesn’t come back…. it’s honestly been years since I last experienced any lower back pain.

Unfortunately, lower back pain is one of the most common complaints I hear amongst new yoga students and even some long time yoga students. Common contributors to lower back pain are manual labor, sedentary lifestyle, weight gain, and poor lifting habits.

In recent years there have been a handful of research studies on the benefits of yoga and non-specific chronic lower back pain and across the board yoga and stretching are shown to reduce low back pain… something I’ve known for years based on my own personal experience and now there is scientific proof!

Part 1 includes my favorite poses to work out an achy lower back. The following 5 Yoga Poses for Low Back Pain can be sequenced into a short yoga routine for morning or night. Remember, as you begin practicing these yoga postures to go slowly and move mindfully: start with fewer repetitions, shorter holds, and take plenty of rest.

5 Yoga Poses for Low Back Pain

1. Cakravakasana

Cakravakasana-inhale

Inhale

Cakravakasana_exhale

Exhale

 

 

Benefits: Cakravakasana restores balance to the spine and relieves back tension

Instructions: Start on hands and knees in table top pose with hands slightly forward of shoulders and knees under hips. Inhale and draw your heart forward as shoulder blades draw in toward one another and core is engaged without arching the lower back. Cervical spine stays long with chin slightly tucked. Exhale, begin to round the lower back, drawing your navel toward your spine while maintaining length in the upper back. Begin to send your hips back toward your heels coming into a child’s pose variation and gently stretching into your lower back. Repeat with your next inhale. Repeat 5-10 times.

2. Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)

Bridge_Pose_set_up

Bridge Pose set up. Exhale as you return to this pose.

Bridge_pose_setu_bandhasana

Inhale as you rotate your pelvis to lift hips, belly and heart.

Benefits: Bridge Pose stretches and strengthens the back and can alleviate low back pain, opens chest and hip flexors, strengthens core muscles and improves the flexibility of the spine and hips.

Instructions: Lie on your back, bend your knees and walk your feet in as close to your hips as is comfortable for your body, knees are hips width distance and feet are parallel to one another. Stretch your arms down by your hips, palms face down. On an inhale breath begin to curl your tailbone up toward the sky, lifting your pelvis up and gently peel your spine away from the floor to lift the belly and chest. Keep your gaze straight up at the ceiling to protect your neck. As you exhale, gently begin to roll down beginning at the upper back and ending when the tailbone reaches the ground. Repeat 5-10 times. As you begin to build strength begin to increase the length of time you spend in the posture, eventually holding for up to 15 seconds each round.

3. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Bhujangasana_prep_pose

Lie on your belly with chin or forehead on the mat and fingers under shoulders. Return on exhale to this posture.

Bhujangasana_cobra_pose

Inhale to lift the heart. Keep cervical spine long by slightly tucking the chin and keep legs together and engaged.

Benefits: Cobra Pose strengthens the back extensors and stabilizes the lower back and sacrum.

Instructions: Lie on your belly, place hands under your shoulders with palms down (and slightly behind shoulders— finger tips should be behind collar bones) and elbows draw in toward your rib cage. Legs extend straight back behind you with feet and legs touching and tops of the toes pressing into the floor. Place your left ear on the ground. On inhale draw your head to center, use the strength of your back to lift your chest, shoulders and head off of the ground arching the back while legs press firmly into the ground. Exhale to lower your chest and head down to the mat, this time bring your right ear down to the mat. Repeat 5-7 times alternating the direction your head rests between rounds. When you begin to feel stronger hold the posture longer, eventually holding the posture for 30 seconds each time with slow steady breaths.

4. Figure 4 Stretch

Figure_4-Stretch

Figure 4 gently stretches into the external rotators of the hip, glutes and lower back.

Benefits: Figure 4 Stretch gently opens the hips, stretches the piriformis, glutes and lower back, and relieves tension in the muscles surrounding the sacrum.

Instructions: Lie on your back. Bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet to the floor. Feet and knees hips width distance from one another. To begin cross your right ankle (foot flexed) over your left thigh and allow your right knee to release out to the side (your legs creating a figure 4 shape), stay here, OR interlace your hands behind your left thigh and gently begin to draw your legs closer to your body. Try to keep your spine long, tail bone stretches down toward the floor, and shoulders relaxed. If your neck, shoulders and upper back are tight you may want a folded blanket underneath your head and neck. Hold for 30 sec to 1 minute and repeat on the other side. Gradually increase the length of time spent in the pose to two to three minutes on each side.

5. Deer Pose Twist (Supported Prone Twist)

deer_pose_twist

This prone supported twist is a nice way to slowly release muscles of the back.

Benefits: The Deer Pose Twist gently stretches lower back and hips. This gentle twist also stimulates the Parasympathetic Nervous System which regulates our Relaxation Response.

Instructions: To set up for the Deer Pose Twist you will want a bolster (a couple of firm pillows or a firmly folded blanket will also work perfectly) and you will place your bolster on the floor in front of you lengthwise. Starting on the right side, sit next to the short edge of the bolster with your right hip and right thigh snugged up to the short edge of the bolster and your leg bent a bit more than 90 degrees at the knee. Your top leg (left) will also have about a 90 degree angle at the knee. Snug your left knee into the sole of your right foot and allow your inner shin/calf to rest on the floor (legs look like a swastika). Turn your upper body to face your bolster and take one hand to either side of the bolster, framing the bolster and squaring your shoulders. Inhale lengthen your spine long and as you exhale gently lower your torso down onto the bolster. Left or right ear can come down to the bolster, whichever feels best on your neck. Hold the posture up to three minutes. To exit the pose use an inhale breath to lift your torso up gently and slowly and then switch sides and hold for an equal length of time.

Bonus Pose:

6. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

Balasana_Childs_pose

Child’s Pose gently opens and balances the lower back and hips.

Benefits: Child’s Pose gently opens the lower back, hips and shoulders. Child’s Pose also helps to calm and quiet the mind.

Instructions: Begin by coming into a table top position (hands underneath shoulders and knees underneath hips) and then draw your toes to touch as you move your knees slightly wider than hips width distance. On an exhale breath send your hips back toward your heels, while stretching your arms forward with palms down on the floor. Stay here for 1-3 minutes. If you’d like a deeper stretch for your lower back draw your knees to touch (big toes touch too) before sending your hips back toward your heels.

Variation: In the wide kneed version of child’s pose you can walk your hands over to the left to stretch into your right side body and then walk your hands over toward the right stretching into your left side body.

I hope you find these exercises helpful in relieving your lower back pain. Do you have a favorite exercise for your lower back that I didn’t mention here? I’d love to hear about it; I’d also love to hear if these poses are helping your lower back. Please feel free to write below in the comments or send me a private message.

Love and Light,

Autumn Adams, RYT

Please note that Autumn Adams is a 500+ hr yoga instructor and has studied extensively with her teachers, but she is not a doctor. She asks that you please consult your doctor or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise program.

Check back soon for Part 2: 5 Poses to Strengthen Your Core and Lower Back and Reduce Low Back Pain

Autumn Adams
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Autumn Adams

Owner, Founder, & Retreat Leader at Ambuja Yoga
Autumn founded Ambuja Yoga in 2014 to share her love of adventure, yoga, and travel with her fellow yogis. Ambuja Yoga has morphed into more than she could have ever dreamed and she is thrilled to have a "job" she loves. She is forever grateful for the opportunity to facilitate personal growth and self love through yoga while taking yogis to off-the-beaten-path destinations worldwide. Follow Autumn on Instagram @autumnadamsyoga.
Autumn Adams
Follow me