Back pain is one of the most common medical problems and while an Advil may help temporarily alleviate the issue, it’s far from a permanent solution. Targeted daily moves however can be a fantastic tool to mitigate, or even beat the pain, so we reached out to Lyons Den Power Yoga instructor Camille Heller and asked her to show us five yoga-inspired moves that target all the muscles that work to keep the spine in order.
1. Downward facing dog
Starting from a forward fold position, step both feet back to a high plank/high push-up position. Draw your belly in, press your hips up and back, creating an inverted V shape. Press your heels toward the floor (they don’t have to touch!) while rooting the big toe and baby toe mound down. Pull your quadriceps up to activate your legs and knit your lower ribs toward each other. Allow your head to hang long and set your eyes to one physical point. Spread your hands as wide as your mat and spread all 10 fingers wide, pressing firmly the triads of both hands (meaty part between your thumb and first finger) into the floor.
- Stretches and lengthens the entire back
- Invites length from the crown of the head to the tailbone
- Targets the hamstrings, which are usually tight in people with lower back pain
2. Triangle pose
From downward facing dog, step your right foot forward and spin your left heel down, pressing the outer edge of your left foot into the mat. Point your left toes to about 10 o’clock and raise your arms high. Open this up to Warrior II, pressing your arms down in line with your shoulders and opening your hips to the left. Straighten your right leg, cut your hips to the back of the room, surf your upper body forward and reach your right arm forward, then down. Rest your right hand on the floor outside of your right foot. If your hand doesn’t reach the floor, use a yoga block (or book!) to bring the floor to you. Extend your left arm up toward the sky and turn your gaze up toward your left hand. Pull your belly button up and in to support your back and lengthen the sides of your waist to invite opening in the mid back.
- Lengthens muscles along the torso
- Stretches hips, hamstrings, groin, shoulders
- Opens up the chest and shoulders
From downward facing dog, raise your right leg, come forward into a plank pose and bring your right knee toward your right wrist. Parallel your right shin to the front of your mat and bring your right foot toward your left hand. Inhale your spine long, with your hands on either side of your hips, then fold your chest to the floor. Place a block underneath your forehead to bring the floor to you. You can also place a block or rolled up towel underneath your right hip, if your hip is raised high off the floor. Focus on breathing into any tightness you feel in the right hip, inviting release of the hip joint. To deepen the stretch, place your head on the floor and walk your hands out longer in front of you.
- Stretches hip rotators and flexors; tight hips can contribute to back pain
- Extends the groin and psoas
- Helps to release built up stress and anxiety
4. Child’s pose
From downward facing dog, drop both knees to the floor. Spread them as wide as your mat and walk your arms out long in front of you. Drop your hips to your heels and bring your big toes to touch. Fold your chest down to the floor and gently rest your forehead on the mat.
- Elongates the entire back- helps to relieve tension in the back, chest and shoulders
- Gently stretches the hips and thighs
- Reverses the splaying of the lower back that can happen when seated for long periods of time
5. Legs up the wall
Can be done two ways:
At the wall, sit sideways with your right hip touching the wall. Roll to your right and bring both legs over your hips. Lie down on the floor and rest both legs up the wall. (Your butt should be touching the wall as well!) Relax your arms at your sides, palms facing up. If your legs splay out to the sides, you can use a strap to create a loop to hold them together, just above or below the knees.
Off the wall, place a yoga block lengthwise (or book, folded towel or small firm pillow) underneath your sacrum (the flat bony part of your lower back). Make sure that your lower back is supported well. Raise both legs to the sky. Relax your arms at your sides, palms facing up. Close your eyes and breathe.
- Relaxes lower back muscles
- Drains stagnant fluid from the legs and ankles
- Great to do at the end of a workout, workday, or especially after being seated in a car, train, or plane for extended periods of time