Sitting at a desk all day? Driving a long commute, or maybe simply rolled out of bed a little funny? Backache afflicts 90 percent of all U.S. adults at some point in their lives, and 50 percent report having back pain at least once a year. For the regular, non-chronic type of back pain that can result from a tweak bending forward or from sitting too long, a simple yoga routine can bring relief at home or work.
Adho Mukha Svanasana on a chair (Downward Facing Dog Pose)
This pose is great for a gentle stretch of your spine, and you can do it anywhere. By keeping your hands elevated, it is easier to receive the traction on your back. Place your hands on a desk, counter, or other support that will not move. Step back until your arms are fully extended and your spine is long. Keep your hands in place and press the tops of your thighs back away from your hands. Soften the muscles along your spinal column. Hold for one-minute breathing evenly, then step in and stand up.
Pavanmuktasana (Wind Pose)
This pose “releases the wind” and stretches the lower back. Begin lying down with your legs straight. Bend your right knee and use your hands around the shin to draw your knee toward your chest. Relax your lower back and allow your navel to sink to the floor. Hold for 15 seconds, then release. Repeat on the left side. Finally, draw both knees to your chest, hold for 15 seconds or more, then release with an exhalation.
Jathara Parivartanasana (Reclined Twist) with knees bent
This is a lovely gentle twist to relieve tension in your back. Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Extend your arms 90 degrees out to the side, palms facing up. On an exhalation, slowly release your knees down to the right, drawing them closer to your right shoulder as you come down. As you lower your knees, resist your left shoulder from coming off the floor. Remain in the twist for 15 seconds. Inhale and slowly raise your knees back to the center. Repeat to the left.
Bharadvajasana (Seated Twist)
This pose deepens the rotation of the spine begun in the previous pose. Sit sideways in a chair with your feet firmly on the floor, hip distance apart. Inhale and sit up tall through the crown of your head. On an exhalation, turn slowly towards the back of the chair and place your hands on the sides of the backrest. Keep your knees in line and only rotate your head as far as your chest turns. Lift up on each inhalation, and twist to the right a little more on each exhalation. After 30 seconds, exhale and release. Repeat to the left.
Seated Forward Bend
Sit on the front edge of a chair, with feet placed exactly under knees. Inhale and sit tall, then exhale and come forward between your knees and place your palms on the floor. Soften your lower back and release your navel up in the direction of your lower back and the ceiling. Breathe evenly for one minute. On an inhalation, place your hands on your knees and slowly sit up. You can repeat this simple sequence during the day as needed. Feel free to do two or more repetitions to each side, but alternate right and left. This sequence is meant to relieve tightness in the lower back. If the poses are painful, stop and consult a doctor, as your backache may be more serious.
Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new exercise regime.
– Rebecca Taggart is a San Francisco yoga instructor.
Photos courtesy of Rebecca Taggart