Dear Escapes: Which Yoga Poses Help Low Back Pain?

Read on for 3 yoga poses that help lower back pain!

When it comes to wellness and travel, there are many questions to be answered. To help in the cause we’ve launched Dear Escapes: an advice column to answer all of your needs. Each post, we’ll pick a different question posed by the Free People community, and we’ll assign one of our FP Escapes guides to craft an answer. Here today to offer some guidance is yoga instructor, Ashleigh Sergeant, who will be leading our FP Escapes retreat to Peru along with Yogascapes this July.

Katie Asked: I’ve been dealing with horrible back pain for the past year or so. What are some yoga poses that I can do to help?

Ashleigh Answered…

Yoga, as a contemplative movement practice, has the capacity to heal on mental, emotional and physical levels. The key to the magic of yoga is breath and inquiry. To get the full healing power of these movements be sure to follow your breath, let your breath be the force that guides you in, out and through each posture and each sensation. Second, cultivate an attitude of inquiry and curiosity instead of judgement. Explore each posture with an open mind and it will give you more than you can imagine. Enjoy!

1. Windshield Wipers

This pose helps to broaden and lengthen the connective tissue in the low back, helping to alleviate tension that may be caused by excessive sitting, poor posture and stress. Enjoy this pose before you get out of bed, as the first pose of your practice or any time you need a break from your day.

Lay down on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor as wide as your yoga mat. Be mindful that your toes are pointing straight ahead. Find a neutral position with your pelvis. There should be a slight space between your lumbar spine (behind your belly button) and the floor. Take a few deep breaths into your belly. On every exhale, as the breath naturally empties out, imagine your groins and upper inner thighs softening towards the floor.

Now, maintain the position of your feet as wide as the mat and on an exhale allow both knees to drop over to the left. Take a few deep breaths here. Imagine your breath is like a paintbrush and with each stroke of the breath it is as if you brush away the tension. Have the sensation that your breath is smoothing out the tightness. After a 3-5 breaths, inhale and lift your legs back to center. Rest in center for a few breaths as you feel the body recalibrate. After 3-5 breaths, exhale and take your knees to the right. Repeat the same process as the first side.


2. Low Lunge with Hands Behind Head

Many times the low back is overworked because the muscles of the legs are not properly activating. The low back kicks into overdrive to help pick up the slack and soon muscles feel fatigued and achy.  In addition, it is common for the front part of the hip to be short and tight causing excessive pull on the pelvis muscles in the back of the body. This is a great pose to balance both of these common strains on the body.

Start on hands and knees. Swing your right leg out to the side and step it forward. You can use your right hand to help pull it forward if necessary. Place the foot so the toes point straight ahead. Keep your back knee down and the back toes tucked under. This will give you more strength in the back leg. Bend your front knee to 90 degrees. Be mindful that your knee does not bend past your toes. Take your hands to your hips. Enjoy a few long deep breaths here allowing the hips to open as the legs strengthen.

Next, interlace your hands behind the back of your head. This action will bring awareness to the full length of your spine. Very gently, press your head back into your hands until you feel the muscles of your back engage gently. For the last few breaths imagine the bottom of your spine lengthening towards the floor and the crown of your head lifting towards the sky.

3. Twisted Thigh Stretch

This is a great post to build off of the previous pose. This position stretches the quadriceps, the big muscles in the front of your thighs. When these muscles are tight they can cause the low back to round under, weaken the glutes and cause excessive low back flexibility or tightness. As you begin to open the front of the body you will feel more freedom and space in the low back.

Begin in a low lunge (previous pose) with the right leg forward. Walk your front foot to the right slightly and turn your knee and toe out, just a bit. Be sure your knee and toes point in the same direction. Place your left hand down on the ground, slightly to the left of your mat. As you inhale feel your spine lengthen and as you exhale twist your chest towards the right. Pause here and enjoy the twist for a few rounds of breath.

Next, take your awareness to the back leg. Gently press the back knee into the ground and as you inhale, press the top of your thigh back towards the back of your mat. Bend the back foot up off the ground. If you feel pressure in your back knee, you can pad it with a towel or blanket. As you exhale, reach back with your right hand, keep twisting your spine and lean back to take a hold of the back foot.

Stay with the sensation of the position as you continue to watch your breath flow in and out of your body. Feel each breath opening and smoothing out the sensations. Wherever you feel the opening is perfect.

Enjoy the many layers of relief and connection these breath-based movements give you. Explore them throughout your day and continue to unpack their nuggets of nourishment.

With Love,

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