Yoga has several benefits for the overall body and specifically the spine. Regular practice can decrease stress, high blood pressure and improve flexibility. People can also customize their routine to include positions that specifically target the spine. The positions that focus on the back can help with pain caused by a pinched nerve. The condition happens when either hard or soft tissue in the spine presses on a nerve.
Just a few minutes a day with poses that help build a healthy spine can make all the difference.
Here are some poses that will help improve and maintain healthy movement, flexibility and strength of the spine.
The Chair Pose is great for building a stronger back, and its low-intensity level makes the pose an ideal option for beginners. Start the pose in the standing position. Then raise the arms, so they are perpendicular to the floor. Next, bend the knees and lean forward to the chest is over the knees. Hold the pose for 30 seconds to a minute. Complete the pose by standing up straight while inhaling and lower the arms at the exhale. Enough practice of this pose can help people keep proper posture throughout the day.
Done together, the cat and cow pose can help extend the spine and increase flexibility. Both poses begin on the hands and knees. The knees and hips should be in line, as well as the shoulders and wrists. To do the cat pose, exhale the breath and bend the spine upward with the head still facing downward. It should look like a cat stretching as the name describes. The inhale of breath should be used as a transition into the cow pose. Unlike the cat, this involves letting the stomach go toward the floor while the hips and chest head toward the ceiling. Lift the head and look straight ahead.
The Sphinx Pose is usually used as an introduction to backbends, but it also helps open the chest and lungs. The pose is very gently for those who suffer from wrist pain as it focuses on the forearms. Start by lying facedown on the yoga mat with the arms resting on each side. Bring the arms forward and keep the forearms on the floor while resting the elbows under the shoulders. Take a deep breath, and lift the head and chest off the ground. Pull the shoulders blades back while pressing the hips into the floor. This helps lengthen the lower back. Take a few deep breaths in this position before returning to the floor and repeating.
Try the Child’s Pose to help realign the spine. This is often used in between stretches that are more difficult or at the end of a yoga session. The pose starts in the sitting position with the person resting on their heels as the tops of their feet are on the floor. The knees should be about hip-width apart. On an exhale of breath, lean forward until the chest is resting between the thighs. The forehead should be touching the floor. Each arm can either rest on either side of the legs, or they can be extended, so the hands are reaching toward the edge of the mat. Those who have difficulty with the pose can use a pillow on top of the heels in the beginning or place the pillow in between where the head reaches the mat.
The Triangle Pose is helpful for stretching the legs and easing lower back pain. This pose also increases a person’s balance and stability. It begins in the standing position with the feet about hip length apart. Next, take a step to extend the distance between the feet. Make sure one foot is bent, so the toes are facing the longer side of the mat. The other foot should face outward with the toes at the shorter side of the mat. On an inhale of breath, raise both arms, so they are parallel to the floor with the palms facing down. During the exhale, lean toward the leg facing the short side of the mat and place the hand next to that foot. The other arm should be straight in the air, and the eyes should head to the ceiling. This pose can be held for up to one minute before repeating on the other side.
Use the Seated Twist to help with the spine’s rotation. This pose begins on the floor in a familiar, cross-legged sitting position. Begin by straightening the spine as much as possible, then taking a deep breath and rotating to the right. One hand can be placed behind the back with the other on the knee for balance. Continue to inhale and exhale while going deeper into the twist. Hold this position for a few seconds before repeating on the other side.
Downward Facing Dog
One of the yoga’s most recognizable poses, the downward facing dog is good for building strength and stabilizing the back. The pose starts on the hands and knees and ends so the body is making an A shape. First, make sure the wrists are under the shoulders. The knees should also be under the hips. Stretch out the elbows, and then lift the knees off the mat. The hips should extend toward the ceiling, but the knees should not be locked. Press the hands and feet into the floor and take multiple deep breaths. This pose allows the back to decompress as the chest leans toward the legs.
Going into a Bridge Pose helps stretch the spine, chest, and neck. It starts by lying on the floor, with the knees bent and the feet flat. Add a folded blanket under the neck for extra support if needed. Next, exhale and lift the hips off the ground. Both the feet and the hands stay flat. Hold this pose for several seconds while taking a few deep breaths. For an added challenge, place a block in between the legs and hold it using the thighs. This works both the back and the abdominal muscles.
The Boat Pose focuses on balancing on the tailbone while strengthening both the abs and the spine. Begin on the mat with the legs a few inches apart. Then, using the hands to balance, slowly lift the legs above the mat. Keep the legs at about a 45-degree angle while balancing on the tailbone. Lift the arms off the ground when feeling stable, and hold them parallel to the floor. Keep this pose for several breaths, and then relax back into the mat.
If not already done, just start with yoga today – do it the yoga way! Practice these basic yoga poses to help you get and maintain a strong and healthy spine.