7 Exercises To Heal Back Pain That Actually Work, According To A Yoga Teacher
I don't know about you, but especially when I'm sitting all day for work, my back really feels it. Hunching over a computer with my shoulders all tense and knotted up, my spine starts to resemble a turtle shell, and my lower back can, at its worst, start to spasm. It's painful and, you know, not that cute, to say the least. But knowing exercises to heal back pain helps me stay strong and limber, even on the days when I know I'm going to be trapped in the ol' desk chair for what seems like eternity.
If you feel me on this, we are not the only ones, amigas. More than 54 percent of people who experience back pain sit all day for work. Moreover, it's one of the leading causes of disability in the whole freaking world.
Moral of the story? We have to keep our backs strong and stretched. Lucky for you, Elite Daily spoke with yoga teacher Vanessa Dunleavy, who shares some great stretches that'll not help with your aching back, but will keep you centered mentally, as well.
Dunleavy suggests that if you're suffering from back pain, concentrate on gentle, simple poses that you can take at your own pace. These seven poses will work to relieve tension, as well as strengthen the muscles in your back.
1. Child's Pose
"Child's pose is going to stretch out the length of the entire back in a fully supported way," Dunleavy tells Elite Daily.
Sitting down on your knees, you can keep your knees together beneath you, or bring your knees apart and stretch them to about the width of your yoga mat.
Bringing your arms out long in front of you and "walking" them over to each side while keeping your hips steady will give you an extra stretch along each side of your back, as well as your shoulders and armpits.
2. Spinal Twists
Any movement that focuses on the mobility of the spine is great for your back. Spinal twists do just that by not only increasing your mobility, but also by bringing blood and lubrication to the spine, Dunleavy tells Elite Daily. Keep in mind, though, if you've severely pulled something in your back, you'll really want the pain to be your guide as to your limits and what you need.
Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Lower your left leg to the floor, but squeeze your right knee into your chest. Stretch your right arm out to the side, with your palm facing down.
Now, "hooking" your right foot behind your left leg — or as close as you can get it — guide that right knee across your body, as far as it can go toward the floor. Guide your gaze to the right, and attempt to keep both of your shoulders on the floor. Breathe deeply for up to 10 counts, then switch sides and repeat.
Concentrate on keeping your shoulders on the floor so you're feeling the stretch through your spine and lower back. Be sure to keep your core engaged, as this will help support your lower back.
3. Downward Dog
"Yes, these are some of the basics," says Dunleavy, "but getting comfortable in elementary poses means learning how to follow your own movement to pay attention to what parts of your body really need the extra attention."
Part of treating and preventing aches in your back is getting to know your body, Dunleavy adds.
In downward dog, you're stretching through the length of your shoulders and arms, all the way back to your tailbone. The length of the entire spine is getting a stretch and release.
If you haven't done downward dog before, begin on your hands and knees, and bring your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Spreading your fingers out wide (think mini jazz hands), press firmly through your palms and fingers.
Next, tuck your toes under and lift your knees off the floor, reaching your pelvis up toward the ceiling, and drawing your sit bones toward the back wall. Gently begin to straighten your legs. Your body should be in the shape of a mountain, or the letter "A."
4. Cobra Pose
Prone poses, which are poses done on your belly, are all going to help strengthen your back. Cobra is a great one because it's supported and offers a stretch along your stomach, while also engaging your back muscles and offering flexibility to the spine.
Lie face-down on the floor with your legs extended. Place your hands under your shoulders with your fingers pointing forward. Keep your elbows close into the sides of your body, and press down through the tops of your feet and your pubic bone. Inhale and lift your head and chest off the floor. Be sure to breathe as you enjoy this nice, juicy stretch.
5. Spinal Flexion
This one is about finding movement and flexibility up and down through the whole spine. The more range of motion you have through your spine, the healthier it's going to be.
Lie down and bring your butt about six to 10 inches from the wall. Place your feet on the wall; get comfortable and make sure your back feels supported in the position you're in. Bring your arms to your sides, keeping your palms down, so you can use them as support.
Pressing your feet firmly into the wall, begin by lifting your sacrum, starting with your tailbone, then roll back down. Don't worry about the height of your lift; it's more about "rolling" and "unrolling" your spine here.
Slowly work up the vertebrae of your back until you get to your mid-back and shoulders, eventually rolling through the entire spine. Rise and hold if you can.
6. Cat-Cow Pose
Cat-cow is "another one that can be self-guided very much by where your back needs the most stretch," Dunleavy tells Elite Daily.
Starting on all fours, spread your fingers wide and keep your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Roll your shoulders away from the ears and lengthen your neck. Think about pressing up and out of your foundational pose while still maintaining table-top.
From here, create a "C" curve with your spine, "dropping" your belly toward the floor and bringing your heart forward, then curving your spine up toward the ceiling, dropping your tailbone and the crown of your head to the floor. Create a rhythm that feels good for you, and move between both "C" curves.
In this pose, you'll be stretching along the length of the back, activating mobility of the spine, releasing tension and building strength in all the major muscle groups of the back.
7. Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose
Dunleavy tells Elite Daily this is her favorite pose of all: "It's relaxing, but again, offers a stretch along the entire spine."
For this one, you'll want to lie down with your butt about six inches from the wall, then scoot closer as you bring your legs up straight (but not locked) up. Spread your arms out so they're perpendicular to your legs for a nice stretch along both your arms and along your shoulders. Relax, and breathe.
Legs-up-the-wall pose is especially great if you get funky and crunched up in the lower back specifically, but again, the movement offers a stretch along the entire length of the spine.