As a teacher of yoga and a part of the Advanced Myotherapy team, I hear many unique bodily complaints. All are valid and deserve correct care and attention. Lower back pain is a common issue that often stems from multiple factors, which are individual and may be a sign of more serious issues. It is best to seek professional support so that you can fully understand the cause of your pain and eliminate the issue completely. Here I offer you some general tools that can be used in the recovery or avoidance of lower back pain.
You will need
-a comfortable quiet space
-a heated wheat bag
-a large sleeping pillow
To begin I recommend thermal therapy in the form of a large heated wheat bag. Place the wheat bag along the ground and arrange your lower back to lie onto the heat. Lay down on your back, with the head in line with the spine, arms a little away from the body, the knees bent and the feet wider than hip distance apart. The knees can fall into one another here to flatten the lower back and align the spine.The heat will allow the lower back to relax and prepare muscles for lengthening. Close the eyes, breathe deeply into the abdomen and focus on the movement and sensation of your breathing and your body.
Now that you are centred and the muscles relaxed we can safely work on some stretching and strengthening exercises.
The mula bandha, or root lock, plays an important role in the stabilisation and posture of the entire spine. Activating it takes the pressure off the lumbar spine. Here’s how to locate this specific muscle area. Men contract the area between the anus and the testes while women, contract the muscles at the bottom of the pelvic floor, behind the cervix. To begin with contract the whole network of muscles in this region. With practice, guidance and awareness you can get more specific. For now stay in your lying down position, remove your wheat bag, check that you are comfortable and explore the contracting your mula bandha. Work on activating, holding for 5 seconds with steady breath, then releasing for 10 seconds with steady breath. Do this 5 times, or any other amount that is comfortable for you.
Pavanamuktasana – wind relieving pose
Keep the spine and back of the head on the ground and draw the knees into the chest, bringing the hands to the knees to squeeze them into the trunk of the body. You can spend some time circling the knees around to massage the lower back on the ground. This pose will help to gently lengthen the spine, relieving tension in the lower back, hips and thighs that can lead to pain and poor alignment.
Supta matsyendrasana – reclined spinal twist
Now make sure your pillow is close by, place the feet on the ground as close to the buttocks as possible, and let the knees fall over to the right side of your body. The knees are stacked on top of one another and can be supported by a pillow if they don’t comfortably meet the ground. Reach the arms out wide in opposite directions and in line with the shoulders, keeping both of your shoulders in contact with the floor. Then turn the head to gaze over the left, creating a complete gentle spinal twist. When moving into the stretch be mindful of sensation and practice full embodiment – being present in your body.
(3 minutes per side)
Bidalasana – cat cow posture
Consciously move from a supine position into a comfortable table top position. Check the alignment of the joints – wrists (or fists for those with wrist pain) directly below shoulders, knees below hips (maybe a blanket under the knees for knee discomfort) and the feet in line with the legs. Elongate through the crown of the head and the tailbone in opposite directions. Inhale to drop the belly and draw the tailbone and gaze upwards (cow pose), pause to breathe into the stretch then exhale and arch the back, draw the navel and mula bandha in, reaching the crown of the head towards the tailbone (cat pose). When you are comfortable with the two poses you can move comfortably with your breath deep and slow breath between the two. Inhale to cow, exhale to cat. Maybe close the eyes to focus inwards here. This allows for the expansion of self awareness and prevents injuries by helping you explore and honour your own boundaries.
Open the knees wide, sit the hips back onto the feet and begin to walk the hands and upper body forward until the forehead can rest on the floor (or stacked fists). Arms can be supporting the forehead, stretched forwards in front of the head or down beside the body. Take the support of a cushion under the pelvis and belly if you need. This is one of Yoga’s most restorative postures and will help relieve the stress and tension that often comes with pain as well as the physical tightness in the lower back.
Savasana – corpse pose
Finally lay down on your back, take a cushion under the knees, and cover your body with a blanket. Now extend the legs down hip distance apart and let the feet flop to the sides. Bring the arms a little away from the body with the palms facing upwards and the head in line with the spine. Finally tuck the chin slightly into the chest to lengthen the back of the neck and close your eyes. This is the best way to finish your practice and offers the opportunity to relax on all levels. Focus inwards on your breathing and allow the body to be still, tension free and open to receiving all the benefits of your Yoga practice.
(5 -10 minutes)
A few tips..
– Try to practice these postures daily
– If pain or discomfort is experienced through this sequence discontinue and see myself or one of the therapists at Advanced Myotherapy
– Your sleeping position is important to get right when it comes to lower back pain. Try adjusting your sleep posture to savasana with a cushion under the knees or a side sleeping position with the spine in a straight line and a cushion between the legs.
– Avoid all unconscious lifting and bending. Always move with a straight spine and when squatting activate the mula bandha and core to project your spine.
– Learn how you sit, stand, and move in a way that keeps your spine in proper alignment and alleviates strain on your back.
Most importantly, make space in your life for your pain. It is present and means that something needs attention. Don’t numb the pain or try to push through it, honour the pain, adjust your lifestyle and try to allow it for what it is. A chance for healing, an opportunity to build on your self-understanding and self-compassion. The more you look after and love your body, the incredible vessel for your being, the richer your life experience will be.
By Hannah Beggs
Hannah teaches Myo-Balance classes in the Advanced Myotherapy Rehab room and is a Yoga Alliance registered Hatha Yoga instructor. She came to Yoga when she was traveling through Nepal with her family at the age of 16. She has been expanding her understanding of the ancient Indian natural sciences since this time.
After using Yoga and meditation to heal her own physical, mental and spiritual imbalances Hannah decided to study in India to become a teacher and share the practice with those who understand the value of health and wellbeing through alignment.
At the heart of her teaching journey is the love for guiding people back to alignment with their best version of their perfectly unique glorious selves.