Back pain is a staggeringly common health issue. Despite the fact that wellness is a rapidly growing industry, many of us still take our spinal health for granted. Hours spent sitting at desks, hunched over computers, and slumped in front of Netflix are likely contributors to the problem. But back pain can also be caused by unexpected injuries and heavy lifting.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Luckily, it’s not all bad news. Yoga therapy and regular yoga can help strengthen and stretch the back and abdominal muscles. For anyone experiencing mild to moderate back pain, practicing yoga can be a great way to reduce pain, improve posture, and enhance flexibility.
Why Spinal Health Is So Important
Spinal health is crucial to our overall wellbeing. The spine supports the entire body, allowing us to sleep, walk upright, and move in various ways. Every movement stems from the spine. So when spinal issues arise, even the simplest activities can become difficult. You might find yourself struggling to pick things up, turn your head, or even walk.
Anatomy of the Spine
In order to understand the importance of spinal health, developing a basic knowledge of its anatomy can be helpful. The spine is made up of 33 bones, known as vertebrae. These bones are divided into four major sections, known as the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacrum. Each of these regions has its own function, allowing us to walk and move with ease.
Taking Care of Your Spine
Whether you’re already suffering from an achy back or want to prevent it, it’s time to give yoga a try. Research shows that the ancient practice of yoga can reduce the need for pain medication, and in some instances, be more effective. The American College of Physicians released clinical guidelines for the noninvasive treatment of lower back pain. The guidelines suggest that instead of prescribing medication for chronic lower back pain, doctors should first recommend gentle exercises like yoga, tai chi, and motor control exercise.
Yoga Poses for Bad Backs
It’s important to note that many yoga classes will not be suitable for people experiencing severe back pain. Consult your doctor or physiotherapist to establish the safest treatment options. But if you’re looking to cure occasional pain and prevent future aches, the following five poses are particularly effective in achieving good spinal health.
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1. Cat-Cow (Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Begin in tabletop position, maintaining 90-degree angles at the knees, hips, and shoulders. Inhale and drop your belly towards the floor, while looking up. Next, exhale while rounding your spine and pushing into the floor with your hands and the tops of your feet. Although it looks easy, Cat-Cow helps to massage and stretch the spine.
2. Child’s Pose (Balasana)
One of the most relaxing yoga postures, Child’s Pose is a wonderful way to stretch your back, thighs, and ankles. Start in tabletop position, before spreading your knees wide apart with your big toes still touching. Shift your hips back until your butt is resting on your heels. Or if you have tight hips, you can keep your knees and thighs together. Keep your arms extended, palms facing down. For deeper relaxation, bring your arms back alongside you, palms facing up.
3. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
Building core strength is essential for spinal health and Locust Pose is an effective way to strengthen both the back and abdominal muscles. Start by lying on your stomach with your arms by your sides, palms facing up, and forehead resting on the floor. Next, slowly raise your head, torso, arms, and legs away from the floor. Make sure to keep your big toes together. Focus on lengthening your body, while keeping your gaze fixed ahead of you.
4. Downward Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward Dog is one of the most frequently practiced yoga poses. A full-body stretch, it’s well worth practicing regularly for spinal health. Start on your hands and knees. Next, tuck your toes under and raise your hips. Your fingers should be spread, index fingers and thumbs pressing into the floor. Keep your knees bent at first, before gradually pushing the tops of your thighs back and stretching your heels down towards the floor. Keep your head in line with your upper arms and hold for 5-7 breaths.
5. Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
Warrior III is a challenging pose with lots of benefits, including improved balance, alignment, and core strength. Start in a lunge position with your right foot forward. Raise your arms over your head, fingers pointing to the sky. As you exhale, shift your weight onto your right foot before floating your back leg up. Keep your knee bent to start and check that your left leg does not rise above hip height. Fix your gaze on a point on the floor and lengthen your arms alongside your head, making a straight line through your left toes, head, and fingers. Both of your frontal hip bones should face down. Repeat on the other side.
Taking care of your back is crucial if you want to maintain overall health. And regular yoga practice is one of the most effective ways to do so. Strength-building, stress-reduction, and improved posture are just a few of the benefits you’re likely to experience along the way.
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About the author:
Casey Siemasko is a content marketing consultant, travel blogger, and wandering yogi. An entrepreneur at heart, she is the co-founder of the award-winning travel blog A Cruising Couple. Besides yoga and travel, she enjoys wine tastings, being outdoors and taking on new hobbies. Follow Casey on LinkedIn and Google+.