Fifteen years ago, I was not acting my age. Since I would recoil from any form of exercise, as well as any green foods, I was overweight, inflexible … and debilitated by back pain. The 40 extra pounds on my frame — plus tight, shortened back muscles and weak abs — left me moving like an 80-year-old version of myself.
I started reading up and realized a shocking number of people suffer with back pain, partly from hours of sitting in a way that flattens the low back curve. (BTW, a Balance Ball Chair System, the very one I’m sitting on as I write this, is a great tool to help build core strength and re-align your spine.)
Then, I found yoga. Over time, using some of the same poses I’m showing you here, I built a lean and pain-free body.
With just a few moves, you can bring your legs, hips and spine into proper alignment, release tension and gain supportive strength. These poses provide traction for your spinal muscles as you root through the hips and let a gentle pull or gravity make space between the spinal bones. You’ll walk taller and enjoy a body that’s no longer stopping you, but rather serving you to live, move and play to the fullest. (Download the info-graphic to keep the 6 poses as a ready reference – Thanks to Mehndi Rao for creating the neat graphic!)
Important tips for back pain sufferers
Don’t overemphasize your ab work. A common misconception about healing back pain is that the back is weak and you should just work the core more. Actually, when you only work the core muscles — as in, a hundred crunches a day — you may just be shortening your front body to match the back one. This can further pull on the spine and cause more disc compression and too little (or too much) curvature. The six-pack might look good in magazines but those bunchy, contracted muscles are actually not so hot for your back.
Optimally, you want to work into greater core strength in your abdominals, side waist, low and mid back, while keeping the abdominal muscles long and lean. To do this, your back muscles will have to release, and both your back and core will have to stretch as well as flex. We’ll do both simultaneously in each of these poses.
Breathe slowly and deeply through the nose for the duration of the practice. On your inhales, flare the ribs wide, and as you exhale, contract around your navel, still maintaining a long, natural spine.
Note: Consult your doctor or physical therapist before starting, especially if you’re experiencing severe back or leg pain now or during the practice, or if you have known disc problems, like hernias or degeneration.
Fists Forward Bend
Stand with feet hip-distance apart. Bend your knees and release your torso over your legs until your belly touches your thighs (or as close as you can get). Make two fists and place them in the opposite elbow creases. Relax your back, neck and head, and squeeze fists actively.
Fists and bent elbows together are a central nervous system trigger that causes your back muscles to open. You’ll feel it after just a few breaths!
Take 10-20 breaths here, releasing more tension from the back with every exhale.
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