There are enough studies that reported Yoga may be one of the most effective ways to overcome back pain. Yoga may be an effective way to reduce the pain of back problems, however knowing exactly what poses to choose and how systematically and correctly to use are the factors that should be considered first before using it as a therapeutic relief for back pain. I heard many people say “… if I have to go through all that stuff, then I would better take some painkillers and call it a day.” If that is the case, I’m not scaring you away from Yoga for back pain, rather encourage you to use yoga as an alternative to drugs for your problems.
However, to get a winning edge with its use, proper awareness of the yoga for back pain methods and a consultation with a qualified instructor is all that is required for a lasting use of this drug-free alternative.
If you are self practicing, please do research thoroughly to understand each asana before starting doing them. I’m listing here some effective minimal asanas which are proven by yogis over the ages that can curb back pain complaints in the long run. I’ll try my best to provide you with clear instructions as simple as possible on each pose mentioned here. If needed search for videos from experts for the listed asanas and learn each one at a given period of intervals until you master it.
Once you learn and become confident about every pose, put it in a systematic order and practice regularly according to your conscience and knowledge. There is always ample space for innovation and creativity in yoga without deviating from the core rules.
Make sure to choose a comfortable ambiance and accessories using comfortable attire. Using related brainwave music could be an added advantage in supplementing the relief process.
The asanas specially mentioned here for handling the back pain issues are:
(2) Setu Bandhasana,
(10) Ardha Matsendrasana, and
# Please note some dual images here may show you variations of the same asanas. You can choose which one is comfortable for you.
Sarvangasana means asana for the entire body. Don't do it straight away in the beginning. Initially, you can start with any variant of half posture of the same asana (Ardha-Sarvangasana) as shown in the picture (anyone out of the four variants) for at least a couple of weeks. Timing and procedures are the same as the original asana, which is explained here as you read down. Once you are comfortable with this, then move on to full, Sarvangasana.
Lay down straight on your back on a comfortable soft surface (eg. rubber-mat).
➤ Place your hands on either side, aligned with your legs, with palms touching the ground.
➤ Without bending the legs, lift your legs while exhaling and move your body beyond the head, till your chin touches your chest, within 4 seconds.
➤ Stay in this position for a minimum of 30 seconds to a maximum of 3 minutes. Put it another way, starting with, stay for 5 to 10 breathing cycles initially and then to a maximum of 60 breathing cycles. Breathe normally, if possible slowly, and focusing on it.
➤ Whale coming down to starting position, inhale, bend the knees and lower your hips still supported by hands and then release hands all in 4 seconds.
You can do either of the variants shown in the picture below. If you feel overwhelmed by the varieties of yoga asanas and procedures, this one asana can fill all those gaps if you do this consistently without skipping, just like a ‘one pill for all cure’.
Benefits - Warnings:
Other than spinal health and back pain relief, Sarvangasana helps in reducing excess weight. Strengthens legs, knees, waist, neck, and shoulders. Improves blood circulation and cures skin diseases. Removes bad odor from the body cures acidity, digestive problems, diabetes. Eyesight problems, insomnia, Piles, spondylitis, and tonsillitis.
Persons with Hypertension, heart ailments, respiratory problems, pregnancy, high myopia, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. Don’t do this asana immediately after any high workouts or gymnastics as the pumping of more blood to the brain will do more harm than any good. There must be a follow-up pose after Sarvangasana, after lying in savasana for 1 to 2 minutes, such as Setu Bandhasana (Bridge pose) and Matsyasana (Fish Pose), in which Matsyasana is more important.
2 Setu Bandhasana
To begin with, lie on your back, and fold your knees.
➤ Keep your feet hip-width apart on the floor, one foot away from the hip, with knees and ankles in a straight line perpendicular to the ground, and arms straight beside your body, palms facing down.
➤ As you inhale, slowly lift your lower back, middle back, and upper back off the floor and gently drag in your shoulders until your chin touches the chest without bringing the chin down, supporting your body weight with your shoulders, arms, and feet.
➤ If you find it difficult, you could support your back with your palms.
➤ Or you could interlace your fingers and push the hands on the floor to lift the torso a little more up, or you could hold angles as a variant pose. Breath normally at ease.
➤ Hold for two minutes and exhale as you slowly release the pose.
Benefits - Warnings:
Along with strengthening the back muscles, it also relieves the tiredness in the back instantaneously. Setubandhasana gives you good relaxation to the chest, neck, and spine. This can reduce anxiety, stress, and depression and calm your brain as well. This asana helps in reducing many other ailments such as lung disorders, thyroid problems, indigestion, the symptoms of menopause and menstrual pain, asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and sinusitis.
Don’t do this pose if you are suffering from neck or back injuries.
➤ Sit on the padmasana, slowly move your trunk backward until the hand rests on the ground.
➤ Keeping the hands on either side of your body. Lift your trunk to arc the spine so that the entire body is balanced on the head and hips.
➤ Hold it right toe with your left hand and left toe with the right hand. Stay in this position for a comfortable duration.
➤ Inhale normally and exhale a little forcefully like blowing. This should be done for at least one-third of the time you took for Sarvangasana. Eg., if you took 60 breath cycles for staying in Sarvangasana, then stay for 20 cycles in Matsyasana.
➤ This is a must follow up the pose you must do after doing Sarvangasana followed by the rest (savasana). It is customary that at the end of every asana, taking rest in savasana is followed.
Benefits - Warnings:
Matsyasana, not only helps reduce back pain, but also nourishes the eyes, reduces eye strain, and improves vision. The spinal cord becomes flexible. It expands the chest and lungs, which helps in curing lungs related problems.
It improves the skin glow and enhances beauty. Cures bronchitis, digestive problems, depression, diabetes, skin diseases, and tonsillitis.
Precautions: People suffering from sciatica pain, Hernia, pain over the lower part of the spinal column should not practice this until their disturbing symptoms are subsidized either through medication or through practicing other asanas.
Wind Relieving/ Horse Face Pose:
Hand gestures are like Garudasana and below hip half Padmasana, Now take a deep breath and hold it. Fold your right leg at your knee and press it against your abdomen. Make sure to keep the alternate leg straight while doing this, as shown in the picture. Now, switch legs, and to conclude, if possible, use both legs at the same time. Duration around 15 seconds. Normal breathing.
Lay down on your back keeping your hands, palms down, near the thighs. Slowly raise your hip and the lumbar part of the back, as you inhale, like shown in the above picture (Ardha Sarvangasana), and raise your legs straight to almost full Sarvangasana, then bring down the legs till your toes touch the floor or go as far as you can while exhaling.
Our goal here is to get as deep a stretch for the lower back as possible. Stay for a while breathing normally, say 10 - 30 breathing cycles.
While reversing the order, inhale until your leg reaches 90 degrees with the ground then exhale while lowering down from there to the original flat position. Relax in Savasana pose for a minute or so.
First, sit on your mat with your legs straight in front of your body as in the Dandasana pose. Bring your arms straight out reaching towards the ceiling from the sides over your head. Inhale deeply to draw your spine to expand.
While coming down forward, exhale. Bring down your head as much as to touch your knees while reaching your hands to hold each toe by corresponding hands. If you can’t reach up to hold your toes, use some strap to hold around your feet and bend as much as possible as you are comfortable without much strain.
Stay there for a few breathing cycles. As you inhale, start releasing back in reverse order till hands reach up. Then exhale while bringing down your hands to the original Dandasana position.
To start with, Just like in Dandasana, sit with the legs stretched forward, placing your palms on the ground by the side of your body. Move your hands about 30 cm behind the buttocks, keeping your elbows straight, pointing fingers towards the buttocks with the body slightly reclined. As you inhale, lift your body in the upward direction and raise as high as you can without any strain on the body. Hang your head loose in the backward direction.
Once you reach your maximum level, stay there for a few minutes breathing normally, balancing your whole body on the soles of your feet and arms. In this position, keep your arms perpendicular to the ground. To come back to the starting position, as you exhale, lower the body slowly raising your head along till your buttocks touch the ground. Take a long deep breath and relax. You can repeat this 2 -5 times. This is a preparatory pose for enabling us to do Chakrasana easily.
Lay flat on your belly keeping hands alongside your body with palms facing up. Bend your legs backward up, bringing your heels as near as you can to your buttocks while you exhale. From your back, reach your hands to take hold of your ankles (hold your left ankle with the left hand and right ankle with the right hand). Keep your knees apart but not wider than the width of your hips.
Applying a little more force to lift your heels away from your buttocks simultaneously while lifting thighs also above the ground. Breath continuously as usual while staying there for around 30 seconds or so. While releasing back to a flat position, exhale and stay calm for a few breaths, and then, if your stamina permits, do the whole process one or two more times.
Lie down on your back in the supine position. Shrink the arms and legs as preparatory steps. Start with first exhaling and then raise your body while inhaling and rest the entire body weight on the hands and feet. Keep your head tucked firmly in between your shoulders in that raised position. Stay there for 10 - 15 seconds with normal breathing. When easing down, start with inhaling first and then come to the original position while exhaling.
Benefits - Warnings:
This is a highly beneficial and powerful asana that helps not only to cope with back pain issues but also in multiple ways. You are not advised to do this pose if you are suffering from any serious ailments related to the spinal column. Don't force your body to stretch when your body is not so flexible.
10 Ardha Matsyentrasana
Sit straight with your legs stretched and placed together keeping your spine erect. Bend your left leg so that the heel of the left foot lies next to the right hip. Place your right leg next to the left knee taking over it. Twist your whole upper parts towards the right including head, neck, and shoulders, keeping your eyes on your right shoulder in an erect position. To simply put, place your right hand behind you, and the left hand on the right knee while doing this pose. Stay for about 30 to 60 seconds as you breathe normally but slowly and deeply.
Release your right hand as you exhale and then the waist, chest, and finally, the neck is released. Relax for a few seconds in a sitting straight position. Repeat the same steps on the other side also (replacing left with right and vice versa) and exhale when coming back to the front. Do this within your comfort level and twist as far as your body allows you to do, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions.
This is a relaxation pose. After every stretching pose, if needed, savasana can be performed for an approximated duration of 2 minutes each. The recommended ratio is 1:6, ie., 1 minute of savasana for every 6 minutes of other active asanas. It is nothing but just laying on your back motionless with the arms and legs slightly extended and relaxed. Breathe normally without focusing on it.
Roll to your right side when finished and get up. You must evolve later by experience to a stage where you can perform this without any conscious thoughts where you don't feel even your own breathing. That is a motionless and thoughtless stage.
All the asanas here we discussed, have multiple healing and curative properties. Notably, most of these poses serve as "yoga for stress relief" as well. But few are only suitable as 'yoga for beginners' as to be considered.
As you gently stretch the spinal muscles in safe extension postures, there may be some mild tractions. Over a period of time, these help build strength in the paraspinal muscles, abdominal organs, and buttocks, and also stimulates the pressure points all along the spine. Feeling mild pain while practicing each asana is a good sign that it is working.
Few Common Guidelines:
➤ Sleep regularly on a firm bed (doesn’t mean hard). Use a flat pillow for your head and a somewhat thicker one for legs, below your knees. It can help the spine to reposition and adjust itself.
➤ Never wear high heels as this may trigger lumbar lordosis and throw the spine out of balance.
➤ Don’t go any rigorous dancing or aerobics without qualified supervision.
➤ While experiencing lower back pain, sitting is most painful. Sit on firm seats on your buttock bones, not on squashy cushions.
➤ Sitting as often in the Diamond Posture (Vajrasana) is beneficial for the sciatic nerve and helps cure a lateral curvature or convex spine.
➤ Follow a healthy diet regime for a speedy recovery and to stay fit.
➤ Don’t do any of these postures, when you are in severe pain such that you can’t either sit or stand comfortably, rest in bed, take some anti-inflammatory or analgesic medications as your physician prescribed, and wait until the pain eases and is milder.
➤ Be careful while doing these poses.
➤ If you have ankle, knee, or hip injuries, as well as shoulder injuries, please consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regime.