What a pain in the… back … and how to manage it!

In a world where we spend so much of our time sitting at a desk, in the car or on the couch, it’s no wonder most of us experience some kind of non-specific musculoskeletal pain at some point.  As Yoga teacher, I hear a lot of complaints of pain and in particular, chronic low back pain. Just a little note: I have over 30 years of experience in managing my own back problem.

Why do I get back pain?

Common causes of back pain are postural (poor sitting, lifting or standing poses).  When we’re sitting down, the muscles at the front of our body are in a shortened position, whilst the muscles on the back of our body are in a lengthened position. Our bodies are really smart organisms that want to adapt to make our life easier.  So, if we sit for 8-9 hours a day, our bodies will eventually adapt to this shape. It’ll add adhesion to the muscles around our hips and chest, and ‘tune-out’ from the muscles on our back body (since we don’t activate these much.

Backbends open the front of the body, mainly the chest, lengthen the muscles in the front of the hips and they make the spine more flexible.  Very importantly they extend and strengthen the low back and aim to relieve pain.

Additional benefits of backbends are: they are rejuvenating, increase energy, courage and such help to combat depression.

If you are in acute pain please do not try these poses.  This blog is general in nature, it does not replace consultation with an experienced physiotherapist or exercise physiologist.

Sphinx pose

Photo above.  Lying face down, turn your head to one direction.  Keep your arms beside your body.  Stay in the is position for a few minutes, take a few deep cycles of breath and relax.  This is a ‘first aid’ exercise.

When you are ready bring the arms in front of you and bend the elbows.  As you inhale raise the chest off the ground.  Aim to keep the elbows below your shoulder.  Keep your abdominal area and hips on the ground.  Please do not squeeze your buttocks.  Hold the pose for a few cycles of the breath.  Slowly come out of it.

Bridge pose (Setu-bandha)

Lye down on your back and bend the knees so your shins are vertical;

Keep the knees hip width apart;

Lengthen the back of the neck and slightly tuck the chin in;

As you inhale take the tailbone towards your heels, raise your hips and peel the back body off the ground.  Come down on exhalation;

I would go in and out of the pose two or three times as warm up and then hold it for up to 10 cycles of your breath;

Come out of the pose under control.  To release the low back bring your knees towards your shoulders, allowing for the tailbone to lift. Another way is to bring your knees together and draw small circles to one direction and to the other.


Bow pose (Dhamurasana)

This is a more advanced pose; it demonstrates all the benefits of the backbends and strengthens the arms and the legs.  My student Anne demonstrates it.

Lye down on your abdominal;

Bend both legs;

Reach back with your arms and catch your feet or ankles;

Start raising to work the legs and allow the legs to pull up your torso;

Stay in the pose for a few cycles of your breath and under control come out of the pose;

Roll over to your back and release low back by bringing your knees towards your shoulders and allow for the tailbone to lift. Another way is to bring your knees together and draw small circles to one direction and to the other.

*** Learn to look of after your back and enjoy a mostly pain-free life! ***


Published by yogateachermary

Yoga teacher - specializing in teaching over 50's, seniors and the not so supple. Qualified 'Relax and Renew' teacher, mediation facilitator and experienced in teaching chair yoga in class or in retirement villages.

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