Study of Yoga – Back to the Basics II
Our introduction to back care basics in last month’s issue began with four poses to bring length and space into your spine when you are experiencing pain/tightness in your lower back. Now we continue with four more poses to bring some gentle movement and opening into those muscles. I hope these bring you relief.
Tractioning the Back
Lie on your back with both feet pressing into a wall. Bring your right knee into your body, keeping your hips even. Hold for three to five breaths, then switch legs. After that, go back to pressing your left foot into the wall and draw your right knee again into your body, with hips even. Hold onto your right knee with both hands, push your knee into your hands while you use your straight arms to draw the knee back into your body, creating a traction of the muscles on this side of your back. While you hold this, bring the left leg up and down to about eight inches off the floor. Do five to 10 times, then switch legs. Make sure to keep both sides of your body even.
Still on your back, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor slightly wider than your hips. Take your right foot about six inches farther to the right (or just off your yoga mat) and also six inches farther towards the end of your mat (away from your torso). Move your arms out to the side into a “T” position, palms facing up. Inhale and flex the toes of both feet. On your exhale, lower your legs to the left, sweeping your right arm overhead. Your right knee should be in line with your nose. Reach up through your right arm, down through your right knee. Stay for 10 breaths and switch sides.
Cat & Cow
Come onto your hands and knees, with hands under or just in front of your shoulders, and knees under your hips. On an exhale, draw your belly button up, arch your spine, and tuck your pelvis under while you lower your head (cat). On your inhale, lift your head and your sitting bones and draw your spine and belly button towards the ground (cow). Repeat this five to 10 more times using nice, slow, deep breaths. Become aware of where you may feel restrictions in your spine. Then try to breathe into that area, imagining you are bringing more breath there to help “open” whatever is tight.
Legs up the Wall
This is one of my favorite poses! It helps my lower back to relax when tight, and is also great for calming the nervous system, particularly if you are having trouble sleeping. Sit with one of your hips right against a wall, then allow your torso to gently lower to the floor as you swing your legs up the wall. If you have tight hamstrings, let your pelvis be a bit away from the wall. If you can, bring your pelvis fairly close to the wall. If it feels more comfortable, place a small blanket underneath your head. Allow your legs to relax down into the hip socket, and feel your low back release down. Stay for five to 10 minutes, with eyes closed, allowing your whole body and mind to rest.