Back pain is a common complaint yoga teachers hear from students – often, it's the reason they try yoga in the first place. These poses help ease soreness and support back muscles.
This releases tension in the back of the torso and stiffness in the hips, which both cause back pain.
Kneel on all fours. Open your knees slightly wider than the hips, and sit your buttocks down on your heels - or as close as you can without straining. Outstretch the arms, and fold your body forward - the head doesn't need to touch the ground. Lengthen the arms, fingers, and sternum forward, while pressing hips gently backwards, to maximise length and traction in the back. Breathe into the back body for 1-3 minutes, then rise back up to all fours.
This lunge lengthens the hip flexors, which helps to free up the lower back.
From the end of Balasana, step the right foot forward into a lunge (support your back knee with a blanket or low cushion). Drop your hips so they’re lower than the front knee. Stack your front knee over the ankle. Hands can stay on the ground or press onto the front thigh. If you’re feeling stable, extend the arms actively to the sky. Encourage the tailbone to press down and the pubic bone to lift. Hold for 10 breaths, then step the foot back and change sides.
This creates mobility in the shoulders and length through the torso, providing a sense of more freedom in your back.
Return to all fours and, with legs and feet together, sit onto your heels. If this is too strong, put a blanket or pillow underneath the buttocks to create space at the back of the knees. Stretch arms forward and interlock fingers and thumbs. Press palms away and inhale your arms overhead. Firm your upper arms and lengthen all four sides of the waist as you anchor your tailbone and sitting bones downward. After 5 breaths, release the arms forward, alternate the clasp (move each finger across one space) and repeat.
Twisting is a classic way to release habitual stiffness through the spine caused by poor posture.
Sitting on the buttocks, stretch legs forward. Use your hands to pick up your right knee, bending the leg and placing the right heel close to the sitting bone. Place the left hand behind you, without leaning back too much. Inhale your right arm to the sky, and exhale, bringing the elbow to the right inner knee as you rotate your spine to the left. Encourage the left shoulder blade to draw backwards, lift through the chest wall, and keep the straight leg actively engaged. Stay for 5 breaths. Release and repeat on the other side.
This is one of the safest hamstring stretches to do as it keeps the entire back stable and supported.
Lie on your back. Place a strap or belt around the ball of the right foot, and extend the leg to the sky. Keep the left leg straight and actively pressing - as if you were standing on it. Flex both feet, and reach through the inner heels. Think of not only lengthening but also widening the backs of the legs. Keep the tailbone long, and chin drawn toward chest. Hold for 10 breaths, then change sides.
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