Chronic Back Pain Relief Through Yoga
There is nothing quite as debilitating as chronic back pain. While you should always seek professional help to diagnose and treat this sort of pain, this 10 step yoga workout is a safe and specifically designed routine that, through regular practice, can let you take control of your lower back problems and alleviate discomfort and pain.
The steps below have been carefully put together so even someone completely new to yoga can follow and achieve results.
A caution before attempting these chronic back pain exercises
At all times remember to listen to your body. If a step feels like something your back does not want to do, do not push it. Do a modified version of the pose or skip the step entirely. If you have severe low back pain or referred pain into your leg, please consult your physiotherapist before attempting these exercises. This routine is a supplement to chronic back pain control and should never be considered a replacement for professional help.
Step 1 – Prepare yourself for a calm and uninterrupted session
- If you are new to yoga it is worth checking out the basics you will need for a simple session. A cheap mat should suffice to begin with.
- Ensure you are wearing comfortable, light clothes. Nothing baggy that will catch on your hands or feet as you change positions or hang over your face when you are facing downwards.
- Yoga is as much about the state of mind you are in when you participate so find a place where you are unlikely to be disturbed for 20-30 mins.
- Lay down your yoga mat in a place with enough space on every side so that your surroundings won’t interfere with your movements.
- Play some calming music or any other soundscape that will contribute to a relaxed state of mind. Try to ensure it is continuous for a an unbroken experience during the session and experiment to find the best one for you. Some great examples can be found here.
Step 2 – Begin your session
- Lay on your back on your mat in a comfortable position.
- Place you feet flat on the ground hip width apart and roughly 6-8 inches (15-10 cm) from your sit bones (Your sit bones are the points of your pelvis that you balance on when seated on the ground with a straight back – if you are unfamiliar with their positioning it may help to sit straight on your mat before you begin and feel where the points of your bone connect with the ground)
- Begin the session with some focused breathing to center yourself. Controlling your breathing is essential to the practice of yoga – breathe deeply in through the nose using your diaphragm so it is your belly rising and falling not your chest.
- Try to maintain this consistent breathing throughout the workout.
Step 3 – Pose 1 – Cat-Cow sequence
Cat-cow Sequence 1 – Cow pose
- Begin on all fours
- Position your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips
- As you inhale, drop your belly towards the ground while lifting your chin and chest up, gazing at the ceiling.
- At the same time push your pelvis up as if someone is pulling you gently by the hips and turn your toes in so they are perched as if you are pushing off a diving board.
- You are now in cow pose. You should feel the stretch mainly in the neck and upper back
Cat-Cow Sequence 2 – Cat Pose
- Now exhale and round your lower back
- At the same time let the top of your head point down toward the ground and release your hips.
- Un-tuck your feet so that their tops lay flat on the ground, your toes pointing directly behind you.
- You are now in cat pose. You should feel this stage lengthen your spine, this will help to improve the circulation to the discs between the vertebrae.
- Repeat these actions, cow pose as you breath in and cat pose as you breath out, for six full breaths.
NOTE: The cat cow sequence is a good gentle warm up that bring some flexibility and alignment to your spine. It is a good introduction to this workout to listen to your body and determine how far to push your back through the remaining poses.
Step 4 – Pose 2 – Plank Pose
- Straighten your body so your hips, shoulders and ankles are in alignment. You will be positioning yourself as if you are at the highest position of a push-up with your arms straight.
- Engage your core abdominal muscles and focus on keeping a completely straight body for five full breaths. Relax back down onto your knees and rest for a minute or two before repeating the pose one more time.
- This pose will help to strengthen your core muscles, which will naturally improve your posture and take unnecessary pressure of your back muscles.
Step 5 – Pose 3 – Warrior II pose
- Step your right foot back about 4 feet (1.2 meters).
- Position your feet so your left foot is planted in the center of your mat pointed directly forward and your right foot nearly horizontal across the width of the mat with the heel slightly further back than the toes.
- Raise your arms out straight along the length of your mat. Keep your whole arm at shoulder height with your palms facing down.
- On a breath out move forward, bending your left leg at a 90 degree angle and straightening out your right leg. Focus on keeping your knee stacked directly above your heel and the outside of your back foot pressed into the ground with your back leg straight.
- Look out along the length of your left arm opening your chest and keeping a vertical spine.
- Hold for 6 to 8 breaths.
- Unbend your left knee and return to center and repeat pose for the other side of your body with your right foot facing forward.
- With proper alignment, warrior pose will help to engage all your major muscle groups. Like planking, this will help you build a stronger base for your back by strengthening your core and holding correct posture.
Step 6 – Pose 4 – Extended side angle pose
- Repeat the first four point of Warrior II pose
- As you are bending your left knee and pushing forward, bend your left arm and rest the forearm on the top of your left thigh.
- Raise your right arm straight up toward the ceiling. This will open up your chest.
- Look toward the ceiling and if you feel you can push the stretch further, extend your arm over the top of your head, you will feel the stretch across your chest and down your right side.
- Hold pose for 5 breaths
- Bring your left arm back over your head and return to a standing position. Repeat pose for the other side of your body with your right foot facing forward.
- Extending on the work done in Warrior pose, extended side angle pose will help lengthen the spine, stimulate the abdominal muscles and increase stamina.
Step 7 – Pose 5 – Thread the needle
- Return to your starting position, with knees bent and feet flat, hips width apart, arms by your side palms down.
- Raise your legs, bending them at a 90 degree angle with your knees positioned over your hips.
- Take your right ankle and place it resting on your left thigh just below the knee.
- Put your right arm through the gap created by the bend of your right leg and interlace your finger around the back of your left thigh or front of your left shin, whichever is more comfortable for you.
- Gently pull your left leg toward your chest, while pressing your right leg in the opposite direction. Again, ensure you listen to your body and only push it as far as it is comfortable to go. You will feel the stretch predominantly on the outside of your right thigh right down to your glutes.
- Hold the pose for 6 to 8 breaths then release.
- Repeat for the other side of your body with your left ankle over your right thigh.
- This pose helps to open the hips. This helps back pain as when the hips are tight the lower back tends to compensate movement. Open hips and hamstrings allow the body a fuller range of motion, which will lead to an easing of lower back pain.
NOTE: When pulling your leg toward your chest pay careful attention not to tense your neck, shoulders or jaw. Keep your hips square of the ground, shoulders flat and relaxed and the back of the head down.
Step 8 – Pose 6 – Bridge pose
- Return to your starting position, with knees bent and feet flat, hips width apart, arms by your side palms down.
- Lift your hips and torso off the ground pressing your weight into the palms of your hands and soles of your feet.
- Move your hands together and interlace your fingers so your palms are together and your thumbs are on top. If this is too difficult, keep your arms by your side with the palms facing downwards.
- Press your upper arms and shoulders into the ground and concentrate on raising your hips further towards your ceiling.
- As you do this your breast bone will move toward your chin, as this happens move your chin back away from your chest.
- Hold this pose for six to eight breaths.
- Unclasp your hands and roll your body down to lie flat on the ground. Concentrate on grounding each vertebrate in succession from the top of your spine to your tailbone.
- Rest on the ground for four breaths then repeat the above.
- When done correctly the bridge pose will help to target and strengthen your lower back, glutes and hamstring, again giving you a fuller range of movement and taking pressure off your lower back
NOTE: Keep your heels flat on the ground at all stages of this pose keeping the distribution of weight across all four corners of both feet.
Step 9 – Pose 7 – The Reclined Twist Pose
The Reclined Twist Pose Stage 1
- Lay on your back in the center of your mat with your head several palm lengths from the top of your mat.
- Put your feet flat on the floor, make sure they are hip width apart and roughly 6-8 inches (15-10 cm) from your sit bones.
- Stretch out both arms at right angles to the body with the palms facing down.
- Lift your hips into the air and shit them about four inches to the left. You should feel a lengthening in the right side of your lower back.
- Hold for three breaths
The Reclined Twist Pose Stage 2
- Move back to center and place your hips back on the ground
- On your next breath in bring your feet off the ground and draw your knees in towards your chest. If this is too difficult, keep your feet on the floor and gently roll the knees to one side.
- On the breath out fold your knees to the right of your body
NOTE: Ensure your knees stay level with your hips and your shoulders stay flat on the ground, you should feel the stretch down the full right side of your back
The Reclined Twist Pose: Stage 3
- Turn your head to the left, placing your left cheek on the ground looking down the length of your left arm.
- Hold this pose in place for 6 to 8 breaths, paying close attention to the right side of you back and how it feels as you are stretching the muscles.
- Return your knees to center in your starting position for the pose.
- The reclined twist pose is another great hip opener and is great for stetching and twisting the spine as little or as much as your pain will allow. This will give the ability to gradually make your back stronger and more supple.
The Reclined Twist Pose: Stage 4
- Repeat the first three steps of the reclined twist pose but for the left side of the back. Complete each of the above steps reversing the direction.
Step 10 – Pose 8 – Corpse Pose
- To end the sequence lay comfortably on your back.
- Angle your arms with your palms down at 45 degree angles from your body.
- Place your legs as wide as feel comfortable and natural and let your feet relax and roll open.
- Focus on your body and how it feels, let all the tension you are feeling drain out of your body.
- Stay in this position for about five minutes, allowing your body to relax completely.
- This is a very important step as it less you pay close attention to your body, in particular your back. The more intimately you are aware of exactly where you are feeling pain the better you will be at targeting and managing it.
NOTE: You may feel some pain in your lower back in this position. If this is the case put a cushion under your thighs and knees to relieve it.
Regularly perform these 10 steps and remember to master each step and maintain your form before you move away from this guide. If you treat your chronic back pain with attention and gentle respect and you will soon have greater freedom in your movements and a more comfortable quality of life.