If you have lower-back pain, you are not alone. According to the National Health Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 80 percent of adults experience lower-back pain at some point. Men and women are equally affected, but sedentary people are more likely to experience back pain than those who exercise daily.
Regardless of whether your aching back results from a skeletal or muscular problem, stretching helps loosen and lengthen tight areas and improves blood flow, which promotes healing. Yogi Becca Looney demonstrates five standing yoga poses that can provide lower-back pain relief.
Standing Side Bend
Create space in your torso with a standing side bend. With your feet together and pressing firmly into the floor, raise your arms over your head; frame your head with your biceps. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, lean to one side, keeping your shoulders and hips square to the front. Feel the stretch in the side of your body. Inhale back to center and repeat on the other side. To intensify the stretch, grasp the top wrist with the bottom fingers and gently pull as you lean a little bit farther to the side.
Standing Forward Bend
Tight hamstrings often contribute to lower-back pain. When you reduce tension in the hamstrings, you reduce the stress in the lower back. Lengthen hamstrings with a standing forward bend. With feet about 3 feet apart and toes pointed slightly inward, hinge at the hips and let your upper body fall forward as you exhale. Try to keep your spine straight; don’t round forward. Let your head hang heavy as you take some deep, slow breaths. Keep a slight bend in your knees and notice your hamstrings. As shown here, you could combine the pose with a shoulder opener by clasping your hands together behind your back and allowing gravity to pull them forward over your head.
From a wide-legged stance, turn the toes of one foot out to one side. Turn the toes of the other foot inward at about a 45-degree angle. Stretch your arms out long in to a T shape and inhale. Keeping your torso to the front, exhale and reach long over the leg with the toes turned out. Tip your body down over that leg and reach your arms in opposite directions. Don’t lean forward; keep your back flat as if pressed into glass behind you. Press your top hip away from you and feel the side of your body open. Take a few long, slow breaths and repeat on the other side.
This is a great pose for continuing to lengthen hamstrings. Take a shorter stance than with standing forward bend and turn the toes of one foot to one side. Square your body toward that foot. Keep your back toes at about a 45-degree angle. Inhale as you stand up tall. As you exhale, hinge at the hips and lean over your front leg. Keep your back flat; do not round over your leg. Sending your arms long behind you will challenge your balance, but if you prefer to focus solely on the hamstring stretch (you will also feel a nice stretch in the calf of your back leg), drop your hands to your shins or yoga blocks placed on either side of your front foot. Repeat on the other side.
From extended triangle, bend your front knee slightly and reach your bottom arm in front of your foot about 18 inches as you lift your back leg and restraigthen your standing leg. Keep your hips and torso square to the side. Flex your raised foot and imagine pressing your heel into a wall. Use your strong core to balance for a few deep breaths. Placing a yoga block under your bottom hand might help you hold the pose longer for a better side-body stretch.
Yoga selfies by Becca Looney. Get inspired by her practice when you follow her at @theyogadarling.
When you want to start your day off right, try an energizing morning yoga sequence.