Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Taking care of our Back

Many people often are complaining of lower back pain or twinges or a nagging sensation in the lower back, this could be caused by many different factors and can also cause disturbance for the mind.  In fact to determine what is causing the pain is very difficult with back problems, and often it is not anything physical that is root cause.  However excessive straining whilst bending forward can be closely related to the pain, or a sudden pain can come whilst just picking up something from the floor or doing something that you regularly do like gardening etc etc, and it can be related to weak muscles and ligaments due to sitting in chairs and sofas for too long with bad posture and not taking the time to strengthen the supporting muscles and ligaments. 
In our yoga practice we can start by being very mindful with our forward bends making sure we are keeping the spine straight, it is easy in such a pose as Pachimotanasana (seated forward bend) to round the spine trying to bring the forehead to the knees, but it is imperative that the spine be kept straight avoiding any compromise on the lower back and protecting the vertebrae and disks.  Here the focal point should be the toes keeping the crown of the head lifted the nose pointing forward to keep the spine straight. 
As a result of over straining it is possible that a disk could tear and cause it to protrude outward which may push on a nerve ending causing a great amount of pain, so being mindful over those forward bends, bending the knees when we want to pick something up and asanas to strengthen and preserve flexibility to the back muscles and ligaments are very important.  Here are four postures to help-

1 sphinx pose – lie on your abdomen, legs a little bit apart the toes pointing backward, then raise the upper body up and rest on your forearms, fingers pointing forward.  Take time in this pose to just feel the gentle bend to the lower back and breathe.  Feel all the sensations within the body, the tummy gently connecting with the mat as you inhale, the expansion around the chest area and the front of the thighs connecting to the earth.  This tones the spine and pops anything back in that may be out of line, gives a compression and stimulation of the lumbar region, the lower back.
2 Half locust pose – lie on your abdomen the arms underneath your body, backs of the hands flat to the mat, stretch out your chin in front of you.  As you inhale raise the right leg up keeping the leg straight, hold for a few moments and exhale down, then repeat with the left leg, for about 8 rounds.  This can release tensions in the pelvic region and strengthens the lower back.
3. Snake pose, this is a variation of Cobra pose – lie flat on the abdomen the legs straight out behind you and the feet together, interlock the fingers behind you keeping the arms straight, using the lower back muscles raise the chest up as far as you can as you inhale, squeeze the shoulder blades together and look forward, breathe there whilst you are holding and exhale as you come down.  This has a profound effect on strengthening the back muscles and helps to correct posture particularly rounded shoulders.  It keeps the whole spine healthy and supple.
4. Easy bow pose – lie flat on the abdomen the legs apart, bend the knees and bring the heels up grasping the ankles with the hands. (Be careful not to hold the tops of your feet, keep hold of the ankles.) Roll your shoulders back dropping the forehead to the mat, then as you inhale raise just the upper body up, tensing the thigh muscles and pushing them down into the mat to help bring you up.  Hold for as long as is comfortable and exhale as you are coming down.  Note this is easy bow pose not full bow, so the legs remain on the mat and are not lifting.  Here the spinal column is realigned and the ligaments, muscles and nerves are activated removing stiffness, helps to prevent hunching of the back and is very useful for lower back pain due to slipped disk.

One of the best things though for taking care of our back is to come down from the sofa and simply sit on the floor, this in itself will begin to strengthen up those back muscles.  You could start with a short amount of time like 10 minutes and gradually build yourself up until you don’t need that sofa at all!

For now have beautiful days and let us take care of our backs, looking forward to seeing you on the mat,
Om shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky

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