Yoga Poses to Relieve Back Pain

While essential workers continue to toil away, most of us are lucky enough to work from home. A year ago, this would have seemed like a sweet dream. However, we’re now learning that it isn’t so great for your back. Lower back pain was already a fairly common complaint among office workers who spend hours seated, but it seems to be even worse now that we’re all working from home. Unfortunately, remote work is here to stay and it’s going to be a while before most of us can get back to the office. Until then, it makes sense to look for holistic solutions to cope with the problem. No surprise, but Ayurveda offers us a wealth of information on the subject, recommending a variety of yoga asanas for back pain.

How WFH causes back pain 

Although being seated for hours at office desks has taken a toll on our backs, most office chairs and desks are ergonomically designed to reduce discomfort and the risk of back pain. This is obviously not the case in most of our homes and we often work in far from ideal conditions. Some of us work while reclining in couches or while sprawled out in bed itself. This means that most of the day is spent without proper back support and with poor posture.

In addition to postural problems, the pandemic and WFH has also put a dent in our fitness routines. Most of us have become increasingly sedentary, spending our days slouched in front of laptops working, only to switch to Netflix later in the day. Pre-pandemic, even those of us who didn’t exercise got some form of activity through our commute or when moving around the office. In addition to the resultant muscle loss, reducing support for the spine, most of us have also gained weight, further increasing pressure on the spine. 

Why yoga is effective in relieving back pain 

The use of yoga for back pain is a common practice in physiotherapy and rehabilitation programs across the world. Although the idea of practicing yoga may seem ludicrous when you are in pain, it is widely regarded as one of the most effective strategies for relieving lower back pain as well as upper back pain. Studies show that the regular practice of yoga poses for back pain can improve mobility, reduce pain, and improve quality of life (1)

The efficacy of yoga for back pain relief can be explained through different mechanisms. Physically, yoga can stretch and strengthen various muscle groups like paraspinal muscles and multifidus muscles that increase back support and reduce stress on the spine. Additionally, yoga is also effective because of its relaxation benefits, with research showing that it improves serotonin levels, reducing depression and anxiety, which can exacerbate back pain (2)

Yoga Poses for Back Pain Relief

Here are some of the best yoga poses for back pain, including yoga exercises for lower back pain, as well as yoga poses for upper back pain.

Marjariasana-Bitilasana (Cat Cow Poses)

  • Get on all fours with your palms supporting your upper body and resting directly beneath the shoulders.
  • Your knees should rest on the floor just beneath the hips. 
  • The back should be flat like a tabletop and in a neutral position.
  • Inhale and raise your head up, while dropping your belly, but keeping the tailbone raised to enter Bitilasana.
  • As you exhale, drop your head, tuck the tailbone in, and raise your back, arching it to enter Marjariasana. 

Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)

  • Lie flat on your tummy with your chin resting on the floor. Allow your hands to lie beside your body while the legs are stretched out.
  • With your inhalation, draw your hands toward the chest, rest the palms on the floor and use your hands to lift your upper body.
  • At the same time, your pelvis should remain grounded so that only the back bends backward so that your head also tilts back and you’re looking upwards.
  • Remain in the position for as long as possible and return to the floor as you exhale.

Salabhasana (Locust Pose)

  • Lie flat on your stomach with your arms by your sides and palms facing down.
  • Rest your forehead on the floor and extend your legs beneath you so that the tops of your feet are resting on the floor.
  • Inhale while raising your head, chest and shoulders up, but leaving your arms beside you.
  • Engage the thigh muscles to lift your legs off the floor too, so that your body is arched, with all of the weight coming to bear on your tummy, lower chest and pelvis. 
  • Draw your shoulders back, widening the chest as you hold the pose. 

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose)

  • Lie flat on your back, with the knees bent and your feet resting firmly on the floor beneath your knees. Your arms can rest beside your body on the floor.
  • With your feet firmly in place, use your abdominal and thigh muscles to lift your hips and pelvis upwards. 
  • While your tummy and lower torso will also be elevated, the shoulders, neck, and head should remain firmly rooted to the floor.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

  • Kneel down on your mat, with the feet touching each other and your buttocks resting on them.
  • The knees can be at about a hip width apart as you then exhale and lower your body forward, bring your head to rest on the floor, while your tummy presses against the thighs. 
  • At the same time, your hands should be stretched out over your head but resting firmly on the floor, with the palms facing down. 

Include these yoga exercises for back pain in your daily routine to deal with the problem effectively.

 

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