How a consistent yoga practice promotes back strength and prevents injury.
Everything in our bodies is connected—especially our muscles. It’s something we take for granted until it inhibits our abilities to complete daily tasks. That’s what I realized when I threw out my lower back in the spring of 2016, my first full year after leaving college. The cause was repeated hours of unsafe bending and lifting at my job as a full-time barista.
I lifted heavy objects repeatedly using mostly my back, and I spent hours on my feet wearing shoes that had no sole support whatsoever. These are simply things you don’t think about till your muscular functions are taken away from you, and as a young 20-something fresh out of college, back problems were something I never thought I’d have till much later in life.
Upon finishing a month of light physical therapy, the inability to stand for longer than an hour at a time seriously affected my work and active lifestyles for close to three years afterwards. However, the one lifestyle change that allowed me to get back into my normal routines was yoga. Thats when I realized yoga for back pain can be a life saver.
Prior to practicing yoga, I had usually dismissed the idea of it, only wanting cardio heart-raising activities that would burn thousands of calories. However, once I began incorporating it into my life, it became an ongoing physical therapy; yoga showed me how integral it was to maintain strength and balance in order to continue both my physical work life and active life. Regardless of whether you’ve had an injury or not, back health is so important and connected to everything else you do in life. Here are some ways that, when practiced with safety and proper form, yoga can contribute to a strong and pain-free spine.
Yoga builds back strength.
Holding yoga poses for a long time allows you to build strength in specific muscle groups, and several of these poses focus mostly on the back. Gentle yet effective, the strength spent on holding these poses while incorporating other movements requires focus and effort. Yoga emphasizes core strength, which also involves your abdomen. When both your back and your abdomen are worked, they then subconsciously work together to keep you strong while exercising and when standing for longer periods of time. Plus your flowy yoga tank top will show of those beautiful back muscles.
Yoga relieves back pain.
Your back is also a very stretchable muscle; certain yoga poses relieve specific groups of muscles within your back that tend to get tense and stressed, like your lower back and shoulders. Holding poses for 15-60 seconds gives these very tight muscles the chance they need to truly stretch out, relieve, and increase flexibility. Promoting flexibility in these areas also increases blood flow, which helps nutrients circulate throughout your body better.
Yoga makes you aware.
Through repeated corrections and focus on posture during your practice, you will be more conscious of both your limits and your bad back habits. In yoga, you’re constantly told to drag your shoulders down your back or to align your spine when practicing specific postures. This helps enforce the natural healthy curvature of your back, which in turn helps you avoid injury. It also makes you aware of what movements outside of yoga will cause pain to your back, as well as ways to make lifting and other activities safer for it.
Whether you are a beginner or deep into your practice, these four moves are consistently used no matter what stage you’re at. They stretch, strengthen, and help you feel lighter afterwards. *Disclaimer* Always try to watch videos of these poses, or attend classes when you first begin so you learn the safe way to do them.
Yoga Poses for Back Pain
Here are four of my favorite yoga for back pain and prevention. These help strengthen your core and upper and lower back muscle groups. Dont push too hard, if anything hurts just simplified versions of these can really pay off in the long run. Once you are an expert at these checkout our other post about “Yoga for Sleep“
1) Cat-Cow Pose
Checkout our step-by-step tutorial for cat cow pose.
Start on your hands and knees.
On an inhale, round your back towards the ceiling while looking down at the floor.
Revert to a neutral position as you lift your sitting bones and chest towards the ceiling, allowing your belly to sink to the floor while looking up.
Exhale while doing this. Alternate and repeat until you feel warmed up and relaxed.
2) Chair Pose
Raise your arms parallel to the ceiling.
Bend your knees at the same time, making sure your thighs and legs are equally parallel and that your torso is slightly over them.
Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds. This will strengthen your legs and lower back.
3) Plank Pose
Checkout our step-by-step guide on how to do plank pose like a pro.
At a beginner level you can get into a push-up position, with your palms touching the floor.
You can also come to this push-up position with your legs crossed and knees bent behind you instead for a more elementary approach.
At a higher level you can do this on your elbows.
Hold straight for 30-60 seconds. This strengthens your core.
4) Locust Pose
Locust begins to prepare you for deeper back bends in yoga, working the upper back, torso, and arms.
Lie face down on your belly with your arms alongside either side of your torso, palms turned up.
Your legs should also be straight as you’re lying down. Lift your head, torso, arms, and legs away from the floor.
You should be looking forward, not up, to keep your neck safe. Hold this pose for 30-60 seconds.
Tell us what your experience with back pain has been and if yoga helped it. Write a comment below and let us know!