More and more people become victim of poor posture when passing the age of 30 and so do I encounter more and more people that give Yoga a try to relief lower back pain, build strength and improve posture to fight the pain that come with suffering from Sciatica or a split or herniated spinal disc in the lower spine.Regular treatments through general practitioners, within the subsidized healthcare system, don’t always seem to work. Full confident I dare to say that Yoga does work. When approached right.
Let’s get one thing straight. Sciatica and a split discs are results or repetitive poor posture and take a long time to implement and escalate. And so does recovery. In many cases the physical aspect of these symptoms are even incurable. But the pain can go away, for ever. General treatment is not always working and I believe that this has somewhat to do with the patient not being sufficient connected to his/her own body to understand and explain what is going on and in which moment the pain is highest or lowest. When it comes to overall connection of the regular person to its own body, I see that people are usually quite clueless in what they can do to make their symptoms disappear or ease. So the main goal to cure is to work on overall body connection and conscious movement through Yoga. Then the strength building around the spine can be implemented.
I would like to suggest a series of Yoga poses with a few major focus points that a patient can do daily at home. Please note that this post focuses on lower back issues. So if you have a split or herniated disc in the thoracic- or cervical spine, you can better obtain information regarding that specific area. Discussing/practicing this class with a professional teacher before doing it alone is strongly recommended. Practicing alone can be executed in an approaching ‘pain – free’ phase of the ailment. DO NOT WORK WITH PAIN EVER. Unless you feel your thighs firing up and your quads working, you stop when feeling pain!
When practicing the right breathing exercises we can generate consciousness to the breath and the work of the breath on the body.
Sevasana variation – When lying on your back, inner and outer rotate the legs a few times until you can drop them open the the sides. Feet fall to either side of the body and there is no pressure on hips or lower back. If you have lower back pain here, please pull your feet up and place them parallel to the outer edges or your mat, then drop your knees together until there is no pressure on hips or lower back. Start breathing deep in and out through the nose. Full long deep breaths that you are going to direct through imagination or visualization. The power of visualization on the brain is huge, not to be underestimated. Breath into your root chakra, the soft part between your genitals and anus. Breath up to the diaphragm area, when you allow the breath to travel to the back side of the body and exhale it down the lower back to meet the root chakra for your next inhale and so on. You are creating an imaginary oval shape where you breath along. Do this consciously for about 3-15 minutes while keeping the eyes closed and the facial muscles and all the other muscles in the body at ease. If you are unsure of how to relax the muscles in face and body then tense them up really strong and let go. When you let go, you probably have the muscles relaxed.
ALWAYS WARM UP! My advice is to start with rotating all your joints: circle the wrists, elbows, shoulders, neck, hips, knees, ankles and follow this video for your yoga warm up for the spine. Please do this little flow with a straight spine, no hanging in the lower back! Perhaps the hips even a little higher than the video shows, if you feel back pain. Please refer to the right alignment beneath to make sure you are not hanging in shoulders or back. Repeat this simple flow for at least 5 times, slowly consciously and with deep breathing.
Please do add some simple stretches to prepare you for the poses given below.
THE RIGHT ALIGNMENT
Most likely you can find the right alignment for the lower back by following the next focus points in all the below given postures.
- STAND FIRM, STABLE AND YET BUOYANT – We want to spread out body weight equal over both feet and the whole foot, with a tiny tendency back to the heels, so the toes can technically lift. Root the big toes down, relax the little toes and lift the inner arches of the feet to initiate an inner thigh contraction. Knees may be micro bend and do not exceed the ankles, the stagger above or back, depending on the pose. Hips are in line with the ankles and shoulders right above the hips**. Yet, when someone would come and push you over you would respond like a strong feather, buoyant, like a ship on water.
- LONG LOWER BACK – What is the position of your pelvis when standing? Is it tilted forward? Is it tilted backwards? In either case, we want to lengthen the lower back by shortening the short part between the pubis and the navel. This generates a slight contraction of the abdominal wall.
- LONG OVERALL SPINE – Our spine is most elongated when we try to visualize creating more space between each vertebra; lift the chest slightly, tuck the chin in gently and push off the feet while getting the crown of the head to lengthen in the infinite space above us.
- PUSH TO LIFT – Then we are on our feet we want to always to push in the feet to lift the body up into the sky. We move upwards by pressing off the feet. If you ever tried to stand on your hands, it is a similar sensation. You press to lift.
**Focus on all the above given tips while standing in mountain pose.
Weight is on the heels, you could technicaliy lift your toes but you don’t. Buttocks move back as if you sit in the chair. PLEASE PERFORM THIS POSE WITH ARMS STRAIGHT FORWARD AT SHOULDER HEIGHT and create a sensation that feels like having a small ball pushed in your bladder so the lower back flattens or even rounds with tailbone under. The chest lifts to create a lights arch in upper back.
To transit from chair pose into plank you could place your hands on the floor with deeply bend knees and step back leg after leg or come on all fours (see warm up) and press into plank gradually and consciously, one limb at the time.
Hands have a claw like shape on the mat where the palm is flat, the index finger and thumb press down but the fingers grab like claws. Shoulders stagger above wrists and the upper back is rounded. Like a bulldogs rounded back, pressing the hand in the floor to rise. KEEP BUTTOCKS SLIGHTLY ABOVE SHOULDER HEIGHT – HIGHER THAN THE PICTURE INDICATES.
To transit from plank pose into warrior 2 you can lower down to all fours and slowly and consciously get back on your feet to move into warrior pose from mountain pose, If this has been part of your practice before, could move through a downward facing dog and step your feet through slowly and consciously, one limb at the time.
In this pose you place the heel of your front leg in line with the arch of your back leg. Bend in the front knee until the thigh is parallel to the floor and the knee right above the ankle. Follow the instructions above regarding the right body alignment and spread the hands, palm facing down, to either side of the body at shoulder height. The bend knee points to front of mat, body faces the side of mat and gaze is over front hand or you shake your head ‘no’ a few times to release neck and jaw.
By rooting to rise you can straighten your front leg, slide your back leg in slightly when needed, keeping your alignment tips alive while transiting from Warrior 2 to Triangle pose.
Legs are straight, maybe micro-bend knees. Bend, moving from the hips, very mechanically, with a straight spine, turning your upper body in this shape. Use a block to support lower hand or let it float in front of the leg. Make sure your two arms are straight hands are vertical in line with each other. Bend the front knee as much as needed. Upper body facing side line of mat and side of body is horizontal to mat.
If you practice these 5 poses after the breath-work and warm up 3-7 times a week for anything between 10-50 minutes (take 3-7 minutes per posture if you can to repeat or settle in), over a period of 1-4 months, you should build sufficient strength to create a pain free back and take your practice a little further under guidance of an experienced teacher. YAY!
FEEL BETTER AND GOOD LUCK!
NB: Herniated disc – It is very important to know if your disc split to the front or the back of the spine. This determines if you should be focusing more on forward bends or backward bends. If your disc is slipped towards the front line of the body, you might be wanting to bent forward a little more to set it slightly back in place and vice versa