The simple way to help relieve lower back pain

Yoga is already a nice way to calm the mind and body, but it can also help solve your health troubles.

For those of us who suffer from chronic back pain, there have been some breakthroughs in the ways that yoga moves can help manage discomfort. 

Ann-Marie Johnston, founder of the new (and free) app, Yoga for Better Health, shares a few moves that can help anyone who suffers from lower-back pain. 

"The following sequence is one created during one of the most successful trials on yoga for back pain to date," she explains. "The trial, which goes on to recommend yoga as a first line of treatment for low back pain, used some of these poses below to address the pain*." 

What is yoga therapy?

Since everyone's individual needs are different, Ann-Marie recommends working with a yoga therapist - a highly qualified yoga professional who has been specifically trained to work with individuals to address health concerns (everything from low back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions, to cancer, arthritis, depression and diabetes).

"Yoga therapists assess and address your individual health and life challenges, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. They look at you a whole complex person – not just the symptoms that you present with."

Yoga poses to aid lower-back pain

Knees to chest
• Begin lying on your back
• As you inhale, draw your knees to your chest
• Place your hands around your shins (or behind your thighs), then relax into the mat
• Tuck your chin slightly to elongate your neck
• Hold for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as comfortable, exhale and release your legs back to the floor

Supine twist
• Start in knees to chest, as above
• Lower your knees to the floor on your right side and take 2 to 3 breaths in this position
• Bring your knees back to your chest
• Lower your knees to the floor on your left side and take 2 to 3 breaths in this position

Pelvic tilt
• Lying on back, bend knees bringing feet in toward lower pelvis, thighs parallel to each other.
• Extend the arms down toward the feet, palms downward on the mat and relax the shoulders.
• Inhale, relax maintaining the natural curve of the lower back.
• Exhale, gently press the lower back into the floor flatting the natural curve and slightly lifting the lower pelvis up toward the ceiling.
• Inhale, relax and return to the natural curve of the back.
• Repeat, several times keeping the shoulders and head relaxed. There will be a gentle rocking motion of the pelvis.

Mountain
• Begin standing with the inner edge of your big toes touching
• Align your feet to be parallel to one another, heels slights apart
• Focus on evenly spreading your balance between the balls, toes, and outer/inner edges of your feet
• Allow your thigh muscles to be active without locking the knees
• Feel a lift through your core up through the crown of your head
• Keep your chin parallel to the mat, creating length through the neck
• Gaze forward as your chest opens and shoulder blades release and draw back slightly
• Allow your arms to drape beside your body naturally and keep eyes, tongue and facial muscles soft and relaxed as you breathe slowly and evenly
• Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as comfortable
Shoulder opener
• From Mountain Pose, clasp hands behind back and slowly raise arms backwards to a comfortable stretch, making sure not to collapse chest
• Continue to breathe and draw shoulder blades back toward each other
• Slowly lower arms down and release hands

Crescent
• From Mountain Pose, inhale and extend arms up straight up over head. Hold the left wrist with the right hand. Exhale, bend slowly to the right, extending the left arm up and over to the right. Press down through the left foot to lengthen through the entire left side of the body.
• Inhale, come back up to Mountain. Hold the right wrist with the left hand and exhale, bend to the left.
• Modifications: 1. While bending to the right, take left arm up and over head toward the right with the palm facing the floor, keeping the right hand on the waist. Same on the left side. 2. Keep both hands on the waist while bending sideways. 3. Chair: Sit upright in a chair with back straight, inhale and extend arms straight up over head. Hold the left wrist with the right hand. Exhale, bend slowly to the right extending the left arm up and over to the right. Inhale come back up. Hold the right wrist with the left hand, exhale, bend to the left.

Chair
• Begin in Mountain pose, feet hip width apart, weight back toward the heels
• Inhale and raise your arms overhead, palms facing each other
• As you exhale, bend your knees and lower your hips, as if you were about to sit down
• Bring your torso forward while keeping a neutral spine as you move deeper into the squat
• Relax your shoulders and engage your core, lengthening through the top of your head
• Keep your neck neutral
• Hold for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as comfortable
• To release the pose, inhale and straighten your legs and exhale as you lower your arms and return to Mountain Pose
• Modification: Place your hands on your hips

Chair spinal twist
• Come to sit sideways on the chair, facing to the left. Make sure the feet are hip distance apart and parallel
• Inhale sit as tall as you can
• Exhale to twist to the left. Bring your hands to either the back of the chair or side of the chair
• Lengthen your spine on each inhale and twist on each exhale for five breaths
• Inhale to come back to seated in centre
• Move your legs around to the right side of the chair and repeat the twist to the right side
• Modification: Stand facing the chair and place your right foot on the chair.  Twist towards the right.  Repeat on the other side.

Child's pose
• Begin in Table Top and as you exhale, lower your hips down to your heels, forehead to the mat
• Rest your arms alongside your body palms up
• If you prefer and it is comfortable, you may turn your head to one side
• Remain in this pose as long as comfortable
• To release the pose, place your hands under your shoulders, inhale and gently press into a kneeling position or return to table top
• Modification in chair: Sitting in a chair place feet firmly on floor. Separate legs, aligning feet with knees. With hands on thighs, palms down, slowly bend forward between legs. Hands can stay on thighs or move to the floor or blocks.

Downward facing dog
• From child's pose, place your hands on the mat in front of you, finger spread wide
• As you exhale, tuck your toes and press evenly into your hands and feet as you lift your hips towards the ceiling
• Maintaining a long spine, extend your heels towards the floor
• Check to ensure your hands and feet are hip width apart with even distribution of your weight
• Relax your neck and let your head hang freely as you gaze between your feet
• Hold for 30-60 seconds or as long as comfortable
• To release the pose, exhale and lower your knees to the mat returning to child’s pose
• Modification: Stand in front of a wall and bend forward at the waist. Stretch your arms out in front of you so that they touch the wall. Keep the top half of your body parallel to the floor

Locust
• Begin lying on your stomach, legs straight, arms underneath your body forehead resting on the ground, and your palms up
• Turn your big toes inward so that your thighs are rotated and keep your buttocks firm
• Breathe out as you raise your head, legs, arms, and upper torso away from the ground. Your arms should be parallel to the ground and actively stretching backwards, shoulder blades pressed into your back
• Look forward slightly, keeping the neck long
• Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as comfortable then release the pose on an exhale
• Modification: Lift just one leg up at a time rather than both

Half cobra / sphinx
• Begin lying face down on your mat with toes pointed
• With your chin on the mat, place your hands palm down under your shoulders
• Spread your fingers wide and roll your shoulder blades down, hugging your elbows to your side
• Keeping your chin level and your forearms on the mat, inhale as you lift the head and chest from the floor
• Lift your chest to a comfortable height where your hips and knees remain on the mat. Relax your buttocks and allow your shoulders to release away from your ears.
• Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as comfortable
• To release the pose, exhale and gently lower your chest to the mat, resting your arms by your side

Bridge
• Begin lying on your back with bent knees
• Place your feet hip width apart with knees over ankles, feet parallel
• Flatten your shoulders and place your hands palm down
• Lengthen your neck and as you inhale, press firmly into both of your feet, lifting your pelvis towards the ceiling
• Clasp your hands underneath your buttocks, drawing your shoulder blades together
• Engage your legs and buttocks to lift your hips higher, keeping your chin tucked into your throat with your head on the floor
• Hold for 30 to 60 seconds or as long as comfortable
• To release the pose, on an exhale, release your hands and gently roll your spine back down to the mat
• Modification: Place a yoga block under your tailbone

Corpse
• Begin by lying on your back, head and spine in a straight line
• Close your eyes and take a deep breath as you relax your whole body. Feel the ground come up to support your body and allow your yourself to soften into the mat
• Mentally scan your body, breathing into and relaxing any tightness you feel in your body
• Become aware of your breath and allow it to ease into a natural pace
• Remain as long as comfortable. When ready, return your attention to your physical body and your surroundings. To release the pose, use your hands to gently push yourself back up to a seated position

*In the trial, participants began with this introductory flow once a week, gradually learning more challenging poses over the twelve weeks of the study. It should be noted that participants also received pain education and were taught yogic philosophy.

Pictures and descriptions courtesy of YogaMate.org

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