Backache is a common problem whether you are a couch potato or an athlete. But definitely our sedentary lifestyle coupled with easy availability of painkillers has accentuated the issue. If you too are one of the sufferers, yoga is the way to go. Annals of Internal Medicine even published a research in 2017 claiming that the ancient Indian practice can help reduce the requirement of painkiller for back pains. It was found to be effective in mild to moderate chronic lower back pain.
Yoga which is more about gaining all-round fitness focuses on stretching and strengthening of each and every part of the body and reduces the chances of serious injuries. Following is a list of seven asanas or poses one must inculcate in their daily routine for a pain-free back:
Marjariasana Or Cat Pose
Marjariasana is made up of two words marjari (meaning cat) and asana (meaning pose). The cat pose if done correctly is a great stretching exercise for the back.
To perform marjariasana, stand on all fours, inhale deeply and push the stomach downwards with the back taking a concave shape. This concave position is known as cow pose or Bitilasana. The counter pose follows with an exhalation in which the back is stretched upwards. Marjariasana can help make the back more flexible and performing it regularly can provide relief from chronic back pain.
Other Benefits Of Marjariasana
- It is especially recommended for females as it helps in providing relief from the pain inflicted by menstrual cramps. This is because it improves blood circulation around the abdominal region and stimulates the female reproductive organs.
- It helps in increasing flexibility not only of the spine but also the shoulder and neck region.
- Marjariasana is quite beneficial for the digestive system as it stretches the abdominal region and thereby removes any blockages. Such stretching of the abdomen can also help rid of the unwanted belly fat.
- It also helps relieve stress and anxiety and induce calmness.
- It is never good to stretch beyond what is possible as it might result in tearing of ligaments.
- Pregnant women must practice it cautiously.
- Avoid if suffering from any injury on the head, back or knee.
Also known as Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward facing dog pose or Mountain pose is one of the asanas of Surya Namaskar. The pose while massaging the organs in the chest and abdominal region provides relief from back pains.
To perform the asana, stand on all fours, inhale deeply and while exhaling rise up in an inverted V position. Keep the hands and legs stretched as much as possible while trying to touch your heels on the ground. This will stretch the spine opening up the clogged spaces. After completing the Parvatasana, one can bend back while keeping the hands stretched outwards and sitting back on your hips. This is called the child’s pose. Along with being a resting position, it relaxes the back muscles too.
Other Benefits Of Parvatasana
- It stretches the spinal cord and strengthens the neural connections and improves the flow of blood to the brain thus improving cognition.
- It strengthens the muscles of shoulders and legs, especially the hamstrings and the calf muscles.
- It provides relief from stress and anxiety by improving blood flow and relaxing the muscles.
- Try and distribute weight equally on hands and feet rather than putting all weight on hands.
- Stretch only as much as possible as stretching beyond your body’s ability might sprain your shoulders.
- It is better to avoid practising this asana if you have any injury in your wrists, ankle or back.
Yoga For Back Pain – Halasana Or Plow Pose
To do the Halasana, lie down and with the help of your hands, which need to remain fixed to the ground, lift the legs, bend your hips and push the legs back towards the head touching the toes on the floor. In the halasana, the lower back is curved inwards and is stretched to a much greater extent than in other asanas. Many might not be able to perform the pose as beginners; however, with regular practice, it provides the much-required flexibility.
Halasana is considered as a preparatory pose to perform an advanced pose called the Sarvangasana or the shoulder stand. The other variations to this asana include Raja Halasana, Karnapidasana etc. Halasana is especially helpful in relieving back pains as it stretches the whole back from the neck to the tail bone and releases any tension in the muscles.
Other Benefits Of Halasana
- It stimulates the thyroid gland.
- It helps in providing relief from problems related to the digestive system like constipation.
- It even helps in stimulating the female reproductive organs.
- If you’re suffering from hypertension, this asana can help stabilise your blood pressure.
- It helps in regulating the thyroid gland and even boosts the immune system.
- One must not practice it while pregnant or when menstruating.
- It is always better to practice this asana with the help of a yoga teacher to avoid any injury. The asana puts more than required stress on the cervical spine which otherwise remains in a position of rest and hence makes it more vulnerable to injury if the asana is performed in a wrong manner.
- People with an injured neck or head, suffering from hypertension, liver disorders and asthma must avoid it.
Paschimottanasana or Seated Forward Bend
Pachimottanasana can help open a stiff back providing relief from chronic backaches that otherwise won’t go away without regularly popping in painkillers. It is an easy asana for those who are already flexible but for those who are not, a little practice can turn you into an expert.
To practice Paschimottanasana, one just needs to sit with legs straightened, flex their arms and bend forward trying to touch the toes with hands. If you can already do that, try touching your head or your nose on your knee. This is a great asana as it stretches the entire back releasing the built-up tension in any portion of the back.
Other Benefits Of Paschimottanasana
- This asana is helpful in increasing blood circulation in the nervous system as it fully stretches the spinal cord creating space between the vertebrae.
- It helps in boosting metabolism and improving digestion.
- If you’re wondering how to lose your belly fat, paschimottasana can be of great help.
- Women facing issues due to irregular menstrual cycles must try out paschimottanasana.
- Do not overstretch as it might lead to a ligament tear.
- People with slipped disc and sciatica must practice it carefully.
- Avoid when pregnant.
- People with stiff hamstrings must use a blanket to practice this asana.
Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose
A part of the Surya Namaskar cycle, Bhujangasana is one asana that is well known for its ability to provide relief from backaches. The name Bhujangasana is because of the resemblance of the asana to a cobra with a raised hood. A 19th century treatise, Sritattvanidhi calls the asana Sarpasana or Serpent Pose.
To perform this asana, lie on your stomach, put your hands beside your chest and lift the part of your body above the navel upwards while pushing your chest outwards. One of the variations of Bhujangasana is the Salamba Bhujangasana or the Sphinx’s pose. In this asana, the forearms are kept rested on the ground while stretching the upper part of the body upwards. Sphinx’s pose can be performed by those who find Bhujangasana difficult. One must inhale when stretching and exhale while coming back to the resting position.
Other Benefits Of Bhujangasana
- The asana is very good for the healthy functioning of the kidney as well as the digestive system.
- It helps in shedding any extra fat built up in the belly and lower back region.
- It helps in strengthening the shoulders and prepares the body for other asanas like dhanurasana, shalabhasana and naukasana.
- Regular practice of bhujangasana helps in improving posture.
- The asana helps in soothing sciatica and asthma.
- Pregnant women are not recommended to perform Bhujangasana.
- People suffering from serious conditions like hernia and peptic ulcers must also avoid doing this asana.
- Other sets of people who must restrain from performing are the ones with serious back or arm injuries.
Yoga For Back Pain – Setu Bandhasana or Bridge Pose
Setu Bandhasana, called so as the body is shaped in a bridge-like position is one excellent pose if you wish to strengthen your back. It helps in releasing the built-up tension in the muscles thus relaxing the back. People who are unable to perform chakrasana, setu bandhasana provides an alternative. To perform this asana, lie on your back straight; fold your knees while keeping the feet on the floor about a foot or two apart from each other. If you can, try holding your ankle or just stretch your hands towards your feet keeping the palm facing downwards. While inhaling deeply, slowly lift your back up not lifting the head and the shoulders. Hold the pose and exhale while releasing.
Other Benefits Of Setu Bandhasana
- It increases the blood flow to the heart, head and neck.
- The asana can help treat migraine, anxiety and depression.
- It increases the blood flow to the brain and helps in improving neural functioning.
- The asana can treat your chronic constipation if performed after having a glass of warm water.
- People suffering from neck injury must avoid the pose if the injury is severe, or perform with the help of a teacher in case of less severe injuries.
- One must avoid turning their head left or right while performing this asana.
- Try distributing extra weight from the neck and shoulder region to the feet to avoid any strain.
Dhanurasana or Bow Pose
Bow Pose is yet another asana which if practised regularly will not only be helpful in relieving your back pain but will make your back so much more flexible. To perform this asana, lie on your stomach, slowly try to get hold of your ankles and stretch yourself as much as possible while pushing your chest forward. The asana will help in shedding any extra fat and strengthening the back muscles.
Other Benefits Of Dhanurasana
- It helps in improving appetite and enhances digestive system functioning.
- It stimulates the sympathetic nervous system as well as the adrenal glands.
- The asana is a great stress reliever.
- It can help make the hips and the shoulders flexible.
- If suffering from migraine, headache or any kind of injuries on the head or neck region, this asana should better be avoided.
- Performing the asana in a wrong manner can cause an unexpected injury, hence perform it carefully and stretch only as much possible.
- Avoid when pregnant.