Do you have back pain?
If you do, you are not alone. Approximately 80% of us suffer from back pain at one point in our lives or another so I am going to take a punt that many of you will have had to, or will in the future, deal with this problem.
Add to that the fact that most of us have jobs which require long hours of desk and computer work, and being scrunched over mobile phones. With a fair few ounces of stress added in (which makes back pain worse), then the likelihood of of us suffering from back pain is further increased.
But fear not! Yoga is cited in the NHS back-care guidelines as one of the top recommendations for people with back difficulties. Dru Yoga (the style I teach) is a therapeutic form of yoga, specifically designed to improve your spinal health and lower stress, so this is an ideal way to start addressing your back pain.
So where to start with helping your back pain?
I recommend starting with Cat Pose. Cat is a very simple posture, that, even when you don’t feel like doing anything, you should be able to manage. It frees up the spinal discs, works deeply on your core muscles, and helps build up muscle tone all along the spine.
In Dru Yoga we practice a flowing form of the Cat Posture (called Marjaryasana in Sanskrit). The posture includes a spinal wave which is fundamental to bringing good health to your back. It brings fluid to the spinal discs, allowing the water in your body to reach these hardworking cushions and allow your spine to feel, well, bouncy!
You might find when you first work with a spinal wave that it feels like you are moving your spine in clumps; one, two or three sections rather than a fluid wavelike motion. Don’t worry it will come naturally very soon.
When I first started doing this about eight years ago I could only move my spine in one big ungainly lump. However it didn’t take long at all before I found that just thinking about moving my spine in a wave started to free things up. Then I could move two, then three sections and not long after I could really start to move vertebrae by vertebrae.
For me this has been magical. My back pain has massively reduced, I can sit and stand up straight but also flow into yoga, and life, so much easier. It also makes me look slimmer which is kind of nice!
How to do Cat
- Go onto all fours on your mat (use a blanket, or a pair of Nee-Ji’s, under your knees if you find it too hard to kneel comfortably)
- Knees should be under your hips (you can measure this by putting two fists between your knees), your hands should be under your shoulders
- Bring your spine into neutral and look down between your hands. Make sure you are using your core muscles; do this by switching on your pelvic floor muscles (the ones you use to hold back your wee!) and draw your belly button in towards the base of your spine. Make sure you can still breathe easily!
- Want more info on engaging your core? Watch this
- Focus all of your attention onto your tailbone and tuck it under
- Roll your spine upwards one vertebrae at a time (or visualise this if you need to) in a curve towards the ceiling. The last part of the movement your head dropping down. Try not to move your head too soon, wait until the wave gets to your neck before you allow it to drop
- Keep your head down as you focus again on your tailbone, pushing it away and lengthening up your spine, creating a gentle hollow in the lower back. Finally, when the wave motion reaches your neck, then lift your head to look forward
- With the head lifted, tuck your tailbone under rolling your spine upwards until your head drops down
- Keep the head down as you push the base of your spine away, lengthening up
- Breathe out as you tuck the tailbone under and curve the spine upwards
- Breathe in as you push the base of the spine away and lengthen through the spine
- Keep going for as long as you can, five minutes if possible, and practise daily to really feel the benefits.
Warm up first with Lucyoga Activations
Yoga in the office tip!
Whilst the full pose is done on all fours you can also do this at your desk. If you’ve been sitting a long time and your back is aching, it needs to move! Have a drink of water and do the Cat pose in a chair.
- Sit forward on your chair so both feet are flat on the floor and directly below your knees and you are not touching the back of the chair
- Rest your hands on your lap
- Focus on your tailbone and tuck it under curving your spine backwards towards your chair and then let your chin drop to your chest
- Keep your chin down and shift your focus back to your tailbone and push it away, creating that gentle hollow in your lower back and lengthening upwards. Raise your sternum and then lift your chin, gently letting your head drop back a bit
- Keep your head lifted as you reverse the spinal wave
- If you work with your breath – breath in to lengthen upwards and breathe out to curve backwards – you will also benefit from feeling less stressed.
Make it last
If you want to really tackle back pain I advise taking up daily practice of yoga.