Yoga to Relieve Back Pain

Props. One bolster. One yoga belt.  Two blankets. Two blocks. Four sandbags. A wall or version of a wall.

Pranayama. Inhale and exhale through the nostrils. Practice gentle, easy breaths. One cycle includes one inhalation and one exhalation. Pause for a moment after each inhalation and exhalation. 

3 Parts to Pose. Enter the pose mindfully. Be in the pose mindfully. Exit a pose mindfully. 

Intricacies in the Pose. There are many beautiful intricacies in each pose. These are included as an invitation so that you connect with your core muscles through your hands and fingers. Ultimately, the intricacies of the poses create strength, flexibility, and power in your body so that you experience deeper releases and more core energy flow. 

Caution. Listen to your body. Only practice poses that feel right to you. Only practice as long as what feels right for you. If your back hurts at all in any of these pose, slowly exit the pose the way you entered the pose. 

Individual Yoga Lessons. Feel free to contact me to set up an individual yoga lesson. 

Athletic Myth Buster. Being strong equals tight muscles. Actually, tight muscles are weak muscles. Cross-training with yoga creates deeper releases in the body, so the muscles learn to relax and eventually become flexible and supple.  

Yoga Tip. Place the yoga block between your upper inner thighs in any of these poses.  Squeeze the block in. The block is a teaching tool to help you stabilize your back.

Warm-up

  1. Wide Leg Seated FlexionPrasarita Padottanasna. Sit on your mat with your legs outstretched to the side. Place two sandbags on your upper thighs and two sandbags on your lower shins. Allow the sandbags on your thighs to draw your thighs down towards the mat. Make sure your thighs do not externally rotate. Resist the lower shins upward into the sandbags as you press down through the heels. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. 
  2. Seated Revolved Twist – Parsva Virasasana.  Kneel on a block and place the second block behind you. Come to a kneeling position and place the sandbag or rolled blanket on your upper calf muscles. If your ankles or feet hurt, roll a blanket, and place it under your ankles for support. Create a strong seat by taking the back of the hips downward.  Inhale and take both of your arms up. Exhale and gently twist to the left. Place your right hand on the outer left knee. Place your left hand on the block behind you. Breathe rhythmically for 5-10 breath cycles. Exhale and return to center. Repeat the twist to the right side. Repeat the pose on each side 3 times.
  3. Seated Pose – Dandasana. Sit on a blanket with your legs outstretched. Place two sandbags on your upper thighs and allow the weight of the sandbags to draw your thighs to the mat. Make sure your thighs are not externally rotating. Press down through the inner thighs to counteract external rotation. Press your inner and outer heels down into the mat. Place your hands next to your hips, fingers pointing forward or, alternatively, on your fingertips. Point your elbows backward, behind you. If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees. Keep your legs strong. Press the back of your hips down into the mat to engage your abdominal muscles. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. 

Yoga Sequence

  1. Standing Mountain – Tadasana. Stand in Mountain pose. Place a block between your inner thighs. Press down through your inner and outer heels. Press down your big toes, spread out your toes, and create an arch on the bottom of your feet. 
  2. Half Forward Fold – Half Uttanasa. Face a wall. Place a block between your inner thighs and squeeze the block. Place your hands on the wall and press into the wall. Connect with your thumbs and all your fingers. Stay strong in your legs so your abdominal muscles engage. Lengthen the sides of your torso while extending the hips away from the wall. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. 
  3.  Triangle Pose – Utthita Trikonasana. Take your feet wide. Turn your right foot parallel with the mat. Turn the back foot in. Outstretch your arms to the side, shoulder height. Externally rotate the upper arm. Internally rotate the forearm by turning the palms down. Imagine that you are squeezing the block between your inner thighs. Firm up your back and front legs. Press your big toes down, spread out your other toes, and create an arch on the bottom of your feet. Laterally flex (tip) the hips and torso sideways. Place your lower hand on your thigh, shin, or mat. Extend the other arm upward. Stay strong in your feet and legs. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Exhale out of the pose. Repeat the pose on the second side. 
  4.  Side Warrior Lunge – Utthita Parsvakonasana. Take your feet wide. Turn your right foot parallel with the mat. Turn the back foot in. Outstretch your arms to the side, shoulder height. Externally rotate the upper arm. Internally rotate the forearm by turning the palms down. Imagine that you are squeezing the block between your inner thighs. Firm up your back and front legs. Press your big toes down, spread out your other toes, and create an arch on the bottom of your feet. Bend your front knee to a 90 degree angle. Laterally flex (tip) the hips and torso sideways. Place your lower hand 0n the mat or a block. Extend the other arm over the head. Stay strong in your feet and legs. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Exhale out of the pose. Repeat the pose on the second side.
  5. Side Warrior – Vibradrasana 11. Take your feet wide. Turn your right foot parallel with the mat. Turn the back foot in. Outstretch your arms to the side, shoulder height. Externally rotate the upper arm. Internally rotate the forearm by turning the palms down. Imagine that you are squeezing the block between your inner thighs. Firm up your back and front legs. Press your big toes down, spread out your other toes, and create an arch on the bottom of your feet. Bend your front knee to a 90 degree angle. Extend through the arms and fingers. Stay strong in your feet and legs. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Exhale out of the pose. Repeat the pose on the second side.
  6. Front Warrior – Virabdrasana 1. Stand facing the front of your mat. Step your left foot back, in alignment with your front foot. Outstretch your arms to the side, shoulder height. Externally rotate the upper arm. Internally rotate the forearm by turning the palms down. Imagine that you are squeezing the block between your inner thighs. Firm up your back and front legs. Press your big toes down, spread out your other toes, and create an arch on the bottom of your feet. Turn your palms upward, take your arms over your head, and clasp your fingers together. Bend your front knee to a 90 degree angle. Stay strong in your feet and legs. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Exhale out of the pose. Repeat the pose on the second side. 
  7. One Leg Standing Pose – Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Stand facing a wall. Lift your right leg up and place it on the wall. Align your left foot underneath your hip. Outstretch your arms to the side, shoulder height. Externally rotate the upper arm. Internally rotate the forearm by turning the palms down. Imagine that you are squeezing the block between your inner thighs. Firm up both of your legs. Press your big toes down, spread out your other toes, and create an arch on the bottom of your feet. Turn your palms upward, take your arms over your head, and clasp your fingers together. Stay strong in your feet and legs. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Exhale out of the pose. Repeat the pose on the second side.
  8. Goddess Squat – Utkata Konasana. Place your back up against the wall and walk your feet out so your shins are at a 90 degree angle. Place your hands on the top of your thighs and press down. Resist your thighs up into your hands. Imagine squeezing a block between your inner, upper thighs. Externally rotate the upper arms. Internally rotate your forearms. Stay strong in your feet and legs. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Exhale out of the pose. Repeat the pose on the second side.
  9. Half Moon Pose – Ardha Chandrasana. Face away from the wall and step your back leg behind you.  Outstretch your arms to the side, shoulder height. Externally rotate the upper arm. Internally rotate the forearm by turning the palms down. Imagine that you are squeezing the block between your inner thighs. Firm up your back and front leg. Press your big toes down, spread out your other toes, and create an arch on the bottom of your feet. Bend your front knee, tip your torso sideways, and place your lower hand either on the mat or on a block. Lift your back leg up and place it on the wall. Press strongly in both feet. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Exhale out of the pose. Repeat the pose on the second side.
  10. Wide Leg Forward Flexion – Prasarita Padottanasna. Face towards the center of the room. Stand a few inches away from the wall. Take your feet wide and fold forward. Place your hands on either the floor, the blocks, or a bolster. Position the back of your heels at the wall. Imagine squeezing the block between the inner thighs to engage your abdominal muscles. Press the back of your heels, upper calves, mid-thighs, and hips into the wall. Externally rotate the upper arm. Internally rotate the forearms by connecting with your hands. Pull the belly and mid-back up towards the spine. Relax the muscles between your shoulder blades. Stay strong in your feet and legs. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Move your feet from the wall. Exhale with strong legs as you exit the pose. 
  11. Locust – Salambhasana (belly pose). Place the sandbag lengthwise near the top of the mat. Lay down on your belly in Locust pose and position the sandbag at your diaphragm (lower rib cage). Place the block between your inner upper thighs to help you engage your abdominal muscles. Outstretch your arms out to the side, shoulder height. Externally rotate the upper arms. Rotate the palms facing downward to create internal rotation at the forearm. Extend through your fingers. Extend through both legs. Dome upwards by lifting the belly, diaphragm, upper spine, neck, and head. Hold the pose for 5-10 breath cycles. Relax between each pose. Repeat the pose 3 times.
  12. Boat Series – Ardha Navasana. Sit in the middle of your mat. Place a block between your upper inner thighs and press in. Bend your knees and lift your feet off the ground. Place your hands next to your knees. If possible, outstretch both of your legs. Keep the front of your spine long and draw your shoulder blades towards the spine. Hold the pose for 5-10 breath cycles. Relax between each pose. Repeat the pose 3 times.
  13. Cobblers Pose – Baddha Konasana. Sit in the middle of your mat. Draw your feet together by bending your knees. If your knees are not touching the earth, place blocks underneath them for support. Place one sandbag on each upper thigh. Squeeze your calf muscles towards your thighs to protect your knees. Place your hand on the front of your shins and resist your shins into your hands. Externally rotate your upper arms. Internally rotate your forearms. Press down firmly through your hips. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Relax between each pose. Repeat the pose 3 times.
  14. Seated Forward Fold – Dandasana. Sit on your mat, facing the wall. Place both feet on the wall. If your hamstrings are tight, sit on one or two blankets. Place two sandbags on your lower shins and two sandbags on your upper thighs. Press your feet firmly into the wall. Resist your shins upward. Allow the weight of the sandbags on the thighs to activate the top of your thighs (quadricep muscles). Keep your thighs from externally rotating by pressing down the inner thighs towards the mat. Place your hands next to your hips, fingers pointing forward. Externally rotate the upper arms. Internally rotate the forearms. Extend through your fingers. Extend both legs into the wall. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Relax between each pose. Repeat the pose 3 times.
  15.  Seated Twist – Marichyasana 1.  Sit on your mat, facing the wall. Place both feet on the wall. If your hamstrings are tight, sit on one or two blankets. Bend your left knee and place your foot as close to your hips as possible, about a hands width away from your other leg. Place one sandbag on your lower shin and one sandbag on your upper thigh. Press your extended leg and foot firmly into the wall. Resist your shin into the sandbag. Allow the weight of the sandbag on the thigh to activate the top of your thigh (quadricep muscles). Keep your thigh from externally rotating by pressing down the inner thigh towards the mat. Inhale and take your arms upward. Exhale and twist towards the left. Place your right hand around your left knee. Place your left hand behind you. Externally rotate the upper arms. Internally rotate the forearms. Press down firmly through your hips. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Relax between each pose. Repeat the pose 3 times on each side.  
  16. One Leg Up – Supta Padandgusthasana. Sit in the center of the mat, facing the wall, and extend both legs so that the feet touch the wall. Place one sandbag on your lower left shin and place the second sandbag on your upper left thigh. Lay on your back. Reposition your body so that you can press both feet firmly into the wall. Outstretch your arms to the side, shoulder height. Externally rotate the upper arms. Internally rotate the forearms and place your palms face down. Lift your right leg upward. Slowly take the right leg out to the side and extend. Press the lower left leg firmly into the wall to engage the abdominal muscles. If possible, grab the big right toe with the right hand. Hold the pose for 10 breath cycles. Relax between each pose. Repeat 3 times on each side. Repeat the pose on the second side. 
  17. Corpse Pose – Savasana. Lay on your back. Draw your shoulder blades towards your spine. Relax your legs and arms. Breathe mindfully and rhythmically for 12 minutes. 

Restorative Poses

Props Needed
1 bolster. 1 blanket. 1 belt. 2 blocks. 1 blanket. 

  • Reclined Bound Angle Pose – Supta Baddhakonasana.  12 minutes
    • Set up the bolster on the mat and place the blanket at the top of the bolster, if needed. Have two blocks available to support each knee. Lay back on the bolster and place the edge of the bolster near your lower rib cage. Find a place on the bolster that feels like your belly is descending towards the earth rather than overarching. Bring your feet together creating a butterfly and drop your knees to the side. Place the two blocks at your knees for support. Adjust the blanket to support your head and neck. Take your arms out to the side and turn your palms up. Gently connect your shoulder blades towards your spine. Breathe mindfully and rhythmically
  • Supported Bridge Pose –  Setubandha Sarvangasana Variation. 5 minutes
    • Lay on your back and draw your feet towards your hips. Lift your hips and place a block under your hips at a height that works best for you. Lift your hips slightly and lengthen your hips away from your lower back. Press down through your feet to draw in the earth’s energy. Keep you thighs slightly active to keep energy flowing up towards your lower back. Energy flowing soothes and protects your lower back. Breathe mindfully and rhythmically.  
  •  Legs Up the Wall Pose – Viparita Karani. 5 – 10 minutes
    • Lay on your back at a wall or at a couch. Lift your hips and place a bolster underneath the hips. If your back or hamstrings are tight, try moving farther away from the wall  or choose to use a couch to rest your lower legs on. If your legs are up the wall, place a belt at your mid-thighs to help your body let go of any tension. Relax your face and turn your palms upward to receive starlight and love from the moon and sun. Breathe mindfully and rhythmically. 
  •  Corpse Pose – Savasana.  12 minutes
    • Lay on your back. Draw your shoulder blades towards your spine. Relax your legs and arms. Breathe mindfully and rhythmically for 12 minutes. 

 

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