Contributing Author: Ingrid Aria
After chronic pain, back pain is the number two reason people from western countries visit the doctor annually. Although ergonomists might claim that the pain is the result of sitting, standing and bending incorrectly for many hours of the day, yoga practitioners look at back pain from a different angle. They see places around the world where people do not experience the same aches and pains that we do.
Whether you believe that back pain is the result of spending too much time sitting at a desk, driving in a car, answering the phone and carrying babies or of spending too much time in the front body, the basic stretches covered in this two part series by Ingrid Aria E-RYT and Jerusalem based therapeutic yoga teacher can bring relief to common areas of complaint.
Lower Back Pain: A First World Phenomenon?
When we speak about our posture, in essence we are speaking about the natural curves of the spine as well as the stability and mobility of the shoulder and hip joints. The surrounding musculature of these areas will either support optimal alignment or not, depending on how we carry our bodies throughout the day.
In ancient wisdom, the front body is considered the place of activity, the masculine energy of doing. The back body is the place of the subconscious, the more feminine energy of receptivity, the energy of being. In a perfect world, we would spend a balanced amount of time in each of these modes; go out and exert energy, come home and replenish energy.
We, however, have strayed from this perfect balance, spending the majority of our time in a very active, alert, front-body mode, which keeps the nervous system over-alert, the front body tense and the back body underdeveloped. This has multiple implications ranging from the wellness of our spine, joints, and organs, to our mental and emotional well-being as well.
Here is a simple stretch to reduce pain in the lower back and hips in particular. As with all stretches, if practiced regularly, if will yield positive benefits beyond just the physical.
Lower Back Stretch:
The time has come to stand up! (You thought it would be easy, right?) I want you to find a piece of wall that you can safely lean up against. If you are using a closed door, lock it so no one will push it open while you are practicing this stretch.
You are going to pretend to sit in a chair, so place your feet about thigh-bone distance from the wall with your seat resting on the wall. Your feet can be placed wider than hip-distance apart with your toes turned out slightly more than your heels.
Now slide down the wall coming into a supported squat. You can use a chair in front of you as support (as long as it is not on wheels), eventually placing your hands on the seat of the chair.
Let your upper body from lower back to head rest against the wall. If resting the back of your head against the wall feels strenuous, you can let it come forward a bit.
If using a chair in front of you for support, draw it close to you rather than lean forward towards it. It is important to take note here that you are pressing down through the inner and outer feet. Imagine the entire outline of your foot making contact with the ground. This will help protect the knees so they do not fall in or fall out to the sides.
It is okay if your heels don’t reach the floor. Don’t force them. If this causes any strain whatsoever in your knees raise yourself up to come into a chair pose against the wall with your hips no lower than the height of your knees.
Stay here for at least eight breaths. This exercise releases compression in the lower back. It also helps support the arches of the feet, which affect the entire well-being of the skeleton. Additionally, this exercise helps relieve constipation.
I would love to hear how this stretch has helped you! And for sure, be in touch with any questions. I’m here for you & your well-being.
Ingrid Aria E-RYT, has been practicing yoga since 1998 and teaching a diverse range of students since 2009, specializing in intelligent alignment and therapeutic yoga for back care, stress reduction and optimal wellness. Ingrid works with individuals, groups and corporations and leads yoga teacher training workshops. A dedicated student, she is currently studying yoga therapeutics with her teacher, Rachel Krentzman, PT, ERYT Advanced. For more information: theyogahomeschool.com