4 yoga poses for a healthy back
According to the National Institutes of Health, eight out of 10 people experience back pain at some point in their lives. Nurses have an increased risk of lower back pain due to overuse of the lumbar muscles from the physical demands of bedside care.
Take a few minutes each day to do these gentle yoga poses to quiet the mind while preventing future flare-ups and easing tension in the spine.
Happy Baby Pose
Benefits: Stretches the back spine, especially the lower back
Pose: Lie in a supine position (on your back). With an exhale, bend your knees into your chest. Inhale, grip the outsides of your feet with your hands and open your knees slightly wider than your torso, then bring them toward your armpits. Position ankles directly over the knees, so your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Flex your feet. Gently push your feet up into your hands as you pull your hands down to create resistance. Hold the pose for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat.
Benefits: Strengthens the muscles of the spine, improves posture
Pose: Lie in prone position (on your stomach) with your arms along the sides of your torso, palms up, forehead resting on the floor. Exhale and gently lift your head, upper torso, arms and legs away from the floor. You will be resting on your abdomen and lower ribs. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and stretch through your fingertips. Squeeze shoulder blades together. Look forward or slightly upward, being careful not to stick your chin forward and crunch the back of your neck. Keep the back of the neck long. Hold for 30 seconds, then release with an exhalation. Repeat two more times.
Benefits: Relieves back pain, stretches lower back, stretches the hips and front of thighs
Pose: Kneel on the floor. Separate your knees about as wide as your hips while touching your big toes together and sit on your heels. Exhale, place your forehead on the floor and lay your torso down between your thighs. Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms facing up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor, releasing the upper back. Stay there from 30 seconds to a few minutes.
Benefits: Stretches the spine and front of thighs and hip flexors
Pose: Lie supine (on your back) on the floor. Bend your knees and set your feet on the floor, heels as close to your buttocks as possible. Exhale, and while pressing your feet and arms into the floor, raise your hips and buttocks off the floor. Lift your buttocks until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Keep your knees directly over your heels. Interlace your fingers behind your back and straighten your arms, pressing them down into the mat. Roll one shoulder under and then the other. Draw the chest toward the chin, but do not move the chin toward the chest. Stay in the pose anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds. Release with an exhalation. Release the hands and bring the upper, middle and then lower back down, rolling the spine slowly down onto the floor.
Note: Tight hip flexors and front of thighs (quads) can cause lower back pain. Make sure to stretch them.
Aileene Palm, ACSM, CSCS, CYT, is a Certified Yoga Teacher. With 10 years of experience as an Exercise Physiologist in a hospital-based weight management program, she has extensive knowledge and practice in the field of weight loss and obesity, as well as other diseases and conditions. She was featured in the September 2010 issue of Shape magazine for her signature workout program, KettleYoga.
By Aileene Palm