How to Keep Your Lower Back Safe When Practicing Yoga
Once you have the green light from your trusted healthcare provider to attempt the following, try out each of these to see how they feel for you. I used these to help ease some remnant pain from a lumbar spine hernia. But that was only after I had completed the core-strengthening exercises from my doctor AND only after he had approved of these poses.
It is important that you discern, with your doctor, if these are right for you, as back pain comes in many forms and has many causes that may not benefit from these poses.
For each of these poses, Minnis (2020) gives a comprehensive set of instructions. Click on each one to see a visual and proper alignment cues (and ways to modify and contraindications to be aware of ) from www.tummee.com.
Each one can be done in isolation, but I have listed them in order of intensity according to how I experience them in my own practice.
One: 5 Best Yoga Poses to Strengthen Your Lower Back
The following five poses all help to develop a strong lower back. This in turn, over time and with regular practice, will help to ease lower back pain.
Cat-Cow (Marjaryasana- Bitilasana)
Cat-cow is often a precursor to downward facing dog(adho mukha svanasana) or plank pose. It stabilizes the shoulders and gently strengthens a weak core while warming up the lower back muscles around the spine.
Take it slow and listen to your body. Keep your core engaged at all times. Your yoga teacher might cue this as “pull the navel towards the spine” or “suck the belly in gently”.
2. Sphinx (Salamba Bhujanasana)
In Sphinx pose, keep the tailbone gently pulling towards the backs of the knees, and the belly tucked in. Using the resistance of the floor or your yoga mat, pull your hands gently towards the chest and relax the shoulders down away from the spine.
Keep the back of the neck long, so the crown of your head is reaching gently up to the ceiling.
These same principles apply to Cobra pose and Locust pose, pictured below.
5. Bridge (Setubhanda Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose is one precursor to wheel pose. However, if you don’t lay the foundations in bridge pose and instead try to jump ahead to Wheel, you may risk increasing your potential for injury to your lower back.
In bridge pose, focus on the following:
1. Keep your feet parallel to each other, not splaying out to the sides, as this will negatively impact the lower back.
2. As you lift up, push into the feet and use the leg muscles to lift the hips.
3. Once your hips are up, gently pull the tailbone toward the backs of the knees to engage the core and protect the lower spine.
4. Keep the chest lifted and your shoulders reaching down away from the ears.
5. Breath into the chest slowly and mindfully, and as you breathe out, re-engage the core and lift the hips up again if they dipped.
6. After a few breaths, lower down lowly as you exhale, and let the knees drop in toward each other for a quick rest.