Tip Tuesday: 5 Poses for Easing Back Pain

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

Baby got back (pain)?

You are hardly alone. Here’s a 5-pose sequence to help get you back on your game.

1) Breath work: Standing Uddiyana, 3 rounds
Feet hip-width distance apart, hands braced on mid-thighs, straightening arms
Exhale all air out, while still empty of air, pull belly in & up.
When you need to breathe, release belly, then inhale.
Work up to holding for 10 count

Image credit: Yoga Journal

 

2) Seated side bend w/ neck release
Sit in cross-legged position. Bring right hand about 12 inches from right hip. Inhale, reach left arm up
Exhale, side bend towards right.
Keep length in both sides of waist and expand your breath out into the rib cage. Repeat on the left side.

 

Neck release: Inhale, reach left arm out a foot from floor near left side of hip feel for stretching through side of neck and out through fingertips.
Exhale, relax the neck
Gently release torso to center, use hand to pick head up. Repeat other side.

Image credit: Ann Hyde Yoga

 

3) Abs with a block (or roll)*
Take your block the medium-width way (you may also use a mat that has been folded into thirds and then rolled up) and bring it all the way up between the thighs. Bring legs straight up over hips. If you need to down-level, bring the legs to 90 degrees or work with feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Clasp hands behind the head, elbows in.
Inhale, spread breath into low back.
Hold the breath, curl tailbone up, squeeze block or roll.
Exhale, lift both elbows straight up towards ceiling
Inhale, lay head and shoulders down on mat
Work up to 3-6 rounds

Image credit: Marisha Doan
Only take the thumbs-up variation like Marisha if you really love abs

 

4) Cobra with or without a block
Lay down on the belly. Brings hands 6-12 inches in front of shoulders.
Inhale, press through hands and feet and pull chest forward. Elbows are a couple of inches off the floor.
Exhale, tuck tailbone down towards heels,
With block between ankles:
Place block the long way so it is parallel to the mat. Squeeze onto the block with the inner ankles and big toe side of the feet.
Inhale, press down through hands and feet to pull chest forward
Exhale, squeeze block with ankles and tuck tailbone

Image credit: musasana

 

5) Threading the needle/back release pose
Lie on back with knees bent, hug knees in towards chest. Hook left ankle across the right knee, creating a little triangle (eye of the needle) with left ankle across the right thigh.
Inhale, thread the left arm through the eye of the needle, bringing hands on top of right knee or back of right thigh
Exhale, draw right knee in towards chest
Repeat on the other side.

Image credit: Rory Earnshaw

 

*No block or extra mat to roll? No problem, use two towels and roll them up in the same manner.

Tip Tuesday: 3 Poses for Depression

Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

As I’ve shared, yoga has some terrific poses to counteract anxiety, but it can also help when you are experiencing the flip side of the anxiety coin: depression. Here’s 3 poses for when you’re feeling the blahs:

1) Sun Salutations: Ana Forrest calls sun salutes, “Yoga Prozac.” Sometimes you just need to move your body with the breath to move energy to lift you out of the hole. For added uplift, put on some fun, upbeat music as you flow.

There are a number of variations on sun salutations. Any version you like will work or you can follow the version in this video. The most important part is moving with your breath through each pose in the series.

 

Image credit: Yoga Journal

2) Elbow to Knee: Abs are a fantastic way to access your power and your juice for life that gets buried in depression.

To get there:

1) Lie on back with bent knees up, feet slightly lower than height of knees, toes active, hands clasped behind head
2) Inhale into lower back, hold the breath and curl tailbone up
3) Exhale and reach both elbows towards left thigh, reach through straight right leg, pull belly down.

Once you’re there:

1) Relax neck into the hands
2) Keep knee over the hip, not rocking forward
3) Stay up and off of shoulder blades

Image credit: Forrest Yoga

3) Dolphin: Go upside down! Going upside down quite literally turns everything upside down. The physical shift naturally shifts your perspective and bring you some uplift (er, upside down lift?) If you have a practice of handstand, this is another outstanding pose for depression (just make sure you do a pose like dolphin or another shoulder-opener before popping up to handstand).

To get there:

1) Bring hands to upper arm to measure elbow distance. Align second finger with elbow or clasp hands out in front of you

2) Wrap shoulder blades in towards armpits, flexing chest muscles

3) Exhale, curl toes and lift hips up into dolphin

While you’re there:

1) Lift up and out of shoulders

2) Reach up through hips and reach heels down towards mat to fire up legs

3) Keep neck relaxed

What poses are helpful to you when you’re feeling low?

Tip Tuesday: Where Do You Put Your Feet in Warrior 2?


Tip Tuesday is a weekly feature where I offer a few yoga tips that have worked for me in the hopes that they can help you too.

The main adjustments I make in Warrior 2 or Virabhadrasana B have to do with the feet. I’m always amazed by how important foot placement is. Often by just making a slight correction with the feet, misalignments in the rest of the pose are corrected. Here’s a few tricks for getting your feet in the right place:

1) Make sure your feet are far enough apart The feet should be three and a half to four feet apart. However, unless you have a measuring tape with you, it can be tricky to tell exactly how far that is. Luckily you have a pretty handy built-in measuring stick. Reach your arms out straight. Your wrists should be over your ankles and this is the approximate distance you want between the feet.

2) Use your back leg If your front knee is bending way past your foot, it could be your feet are too close together (see above). It could also mean you’re not using the back foot, especially if you feel a lot of pressure in the front foot. Push through the outer edge of the foot on the back straight leg to help support yourself and ease the strain on the front foot.

3) Line your front heel with the arch of the back foot If the front foot is too far to either the left or right of the back foot, frequently one hip will be rolling forward with the other hip drawing back. Lining up front heel to back arch helps align the hips (and often solves the problem completely).
Image credit: Yoga Co-op