Back Stretches that Ease Stiffness & Increase Flexibility
10 Simple Yoga Poses That Soothe Back Pain
Why it helps:Child’s Pose is grounding and lengthens the sides of your body. “It provides gentle traction on the spine, and brings awareness to the midline of the body,” says Casella.
How to do it:Come onto your hands and knees. Place two flat blocks shoulder-distance apart at the front of your mat. Bring your palms onto the blocks, and press your hips back and down toward your heels. Press your palms into the blocks, straighten your arms, and lengthen through the sides of your torso.
Why it helps:This move strengthens your core stabilizers, hips, shoulders, and back muscles, says Casella.
How to do it:Move the blocks to the side. Come forward onto your hands and knees. Draw your abdomen in toward your lower spine to support the center of your torso. Adjust your weight so you can reach one arm forward and the opposite leg back. Reach your inner thigh up toward the ceiling. Turn your palm to face the center line, and lift the thumb side of your hand toward the ceiling as you maintain the lift in your abdomen. Repeat several times on each side.
Why it helps:If you think your back pain stems from poor posture, this pose can help stretch out your spine, and strengthen it in the process.
How to do it:Lie face-down, forehead resting on floor. Place hands on either side, at middle of ribcage. Draw legs together, pressing tops of feet into floor. Reach back through toes, lengthening legs, and press evenly through hands as you draw elbows close to ribcage. Using strength of back (not arms), lift head and chest, sliding shoulder blades down back. Take 5 to 10 deep breaths before gently releasing to floor, turning head to one side.
Why it helps:This open twist strengthens the core stabilizers and warms up the spinal joints and legs.
How to do it:From your hands and knees, step your right foot forward and place atall blockunder your left hand. Press into the ball of your left foot to straighten your left knee. Place your right hand on your hip and twist to the right (toward your bent knee). Imagine a line from your tailbone to the crown of your head, and rotate along that axis.
To transition out of the pose, bring both hands to the floor. Come back to your hands and knees. Repeat on the other side. This transition is much easier on the back than stepping forward from downward-facing dog.
Why it helps:You’ll “lengthen and strengthen the side body, arms, and legs,” with this move, says Casella.
How to do it:Next to a wall, step your feet wide apart so they are parallel. Turn your right toes 90 degrees toward the wall, and angle your left foot in slightly in the same direction. Bring your right hand to the wall and crawl it up to lengthen your side body. Stretch your left arm alongside your ear, root down through the sole of your left foot, and lengthen up through the left fingertips. Work to evenly lengthen the front, back, and both sides of your torso.
Why it helps:This pose provides gentle traction on the spine, and brings awareness to the midline of the body. “It’s a refreshing pose after sitting for long periods of time,” Casella notes.
How to do it:Bring your hands to the wall at chest height, shoulder-distance apart. Walk your feet away from the wall until your arms are straight. Bring your feet hip-distance apart. Place a slight bend in your knees. Press your hands into the wall, and pull your hips away to lengthen your torso. Put your head and neck in a position that follows the line of your spine.
Note: If you don’t have access to a clear wall, you can also place your hands on a chair, bench, or table.
Why it helps:This supportive posture lengthens the front of the spine, and makes space for breath in the chest region.
How to do it:Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Bring your feet parallel and hip-distance apart, with your heels directly under your knees. Press your feet down and lift your hips. Place 2 blocks on the middle height running head to tail under your hips. Bring the blocks as far to your outer hips as they can go without you falling through the blocks, so they lift and support your pelvis. Bring your arms to rest down by your sides, or place them in cactus shape. Let your belly rise and fall as you breathe. Soften your abdomen.
To transition out of the pose, lift your hips up to move your blocks off to the side. Lower your hips to the floor
Why it helps:“Back pain is often caused by tight hips,” says Tiffany Cruikshank, international yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Medicine. This pose will help release tension.
How to do it:Lie on your back and bring your right knee toward you the right side of your chest by grabbing the outside of your foot. Allow your lower back to relax. For a deeper stretch, grab the sole of your right foot with your right hand and draw your foot down so right knee comes toward the ground by your right side, keeping right ankle over right knee. Stay 1 minute. Repeat on opposite side.
Why it helps:Like the supine twist, this move will ease tension in your lower back by opening up the hips.
How to do it:Lie on your back. Pull your knees to your chest and turn both of your legs to the left. Your right knee should lie on top of your left, as if they are stacked, resting on the ground. Do not force your knees down to the ground if you feel pain. Instead, tuck a pillow or block under your left knee for support. Stay in this position for 1 to 2 minutes, and then repeat on the other side.
Why it helps:This move “pacifies the muscles around the hips, abdomen, and low back,” says Casella.
How to do it:With bent knees, walk your feet wider than hip-width. If it’s comfortable, let the knees fall together. Let the weight of the legs hold each other up so you can relax the muscles around your thighs, hips, and abdomen.
Additional reporting by Jenna Bergen Southerland
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