Yoga is one of the best exercises we can do to relieve back pain. In yoga there are a wide range of postures that move our spine through flexion (forward bending), side flexion (bending to the left or right), extension (backward bending), and rotation (twisting). The poses below can be used to gently stretch the muscles of the back and promote back stability. Use the yin yoga postures on the days when you need a more gentle, slower paced practice. Aim to practice the yin yoga poses anywhere from one minute to three minutes. Use the yang yoga postures on the days you want to focus on building muscle strength. You can practice the yang postures more than once in a session, staying anywhere from 3 to 10 breaths in each pose. These yin and yang yoga postures can also be combined in different ways for a longer practice. Check out the sequencing ideas at the end of the article.
YIN YOGA POSES
Start lying on your belly. Clasp your elbows with opposite hands, lift your chest and place your elbows beneath or slightly in front of your shoulders. You should feel a mild to moderate compression in your lower back. If the sensation is too intense, try moving your elbows further ahead of your shoulders. You may even lay head down, forehead resting on your hands if you experience sufficient compression in the lower back in that position. If you would like to intensify your sphinx, rest with your forearms on top of a bolster or blocks. Find stillness in the pose. Stay if you can, for up to 3 minutes in sphinx. To release slowly lower the chest to the floor. Practicing child’s pose for a few seconds may feel good after performing sphinx.
To come into the pose start lying on your right side with your knees bent. Inhale and twist the upper body over to the left. The left shoulder may or may not touch the floor. Alternatively, you can come into the pose starting with your back flat down on your mat. Exhale, draw your knees towards your chest, then release your knees down to the right. Experiment with the distance between your knees and right arm pit, noticing the difference in sensations in your back. Stay in the pose for at least a minute before practicing on the opposite side.
Knee To Chest Pose
Begin lying on the floor, feet flat on the floor. On your exhale draw your left knee towards your chest. You may keep the right foot flat on the floor or straighten your right leg, depending on the sensations you are experiencing in the position or if you want to intensify the stretch. Use your arms to help you move deeper into the pose, hugging your left thigh in towards your chest if it feels good. Your hands can be on the left shin or hamstring. Relax as much as you can your neck, shoulders and upper body. Find stillness for at least a minute. Repeat the pose on the opposite side.
YANG YOGA POSES
Downward Facing Dog
Come on to your hands and knees, start with your wrists under the shoulders and your knees under your hips. On an exhale curl your toes under and straighten the legs as much as you comfortably can. Press down through the hands and as you exhale reach the hips back in the direction of your heels. This should create a gentle traction through your spine. Focus on your lower back, as you inhale feel the muscles in the lower back expanding. As you exhale pull your belly in and continue to reach gently through your hips. Work with your knees bent if you need to. Sometimes working with the knees bent may also deepen the stretch in the lower back. Stay for as many breaths as feels good to you.
Twisting Horse Stance
Open your legs approximately 3 feet apart and bend your knees. Rest your hands on your mid thighs. Inhale and lift your chest away from the diaphragm, exhale and move your right shoulder towards your left knee, twisting your core. With both hands pressing firmly into your thighs, inhale and continue to lift the ribs moving the ribs towards the left knee, as you exhale pull your belly in gently tuck the tailbone down towards the floor. Breathe into your lower back for a few breaths then repeat on the other side.
Start lying down, your feet flat on the floor hips width apart. If you can, touch your heels with your fingertips, then relax your arms by your sides. Inhale and lift your ribs towards your chin. On your exhale lift your hips then your back away from the floor. Press your feet down onto the floor. Keep your neck relaxed. On your inhales lift your ribs towards your chin. Use your buttock muscles on your exhales to tuck your tailbone, feel for creating length in your lower back. Work only as deeply as you can into the pose without creating sensations of strain in your lower back. Stay in the pose 3 to 10 breaths. There should be no pain coming into, staying, or getting out of the pose.
YOGA SEQUENCING IDEAS
The yin yoga poses can be practiced on their own for a yin yoga class and the yang yoga poses can be practiced on their own as well. Below are some other ideas on how to combine these yin and yang yoga poses.
A Yoga Sequence for Lower Back Stiffness
1. Downward facing dog
2. Twisting Horse Stance
3. Knee To Chest Pose
4. Reclining Twist
A Yoga Sequence To Build Stability
3. Knee To Chest
A Yoga Sequence For Yin Yang Balance
2. Downward facing dog
3. Twisting Horse Stance
4. Reclining Twist
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