Updated: Nov 14
If you've been to me yoga classes recently, you may have noticed that I moved cautiously and left out certain staple poses. The reason? Lower back pain.
These days, I can mostly track lower back pain to overuse of my body. But even in my younger years I sometimes suffered from lower back pain, and then the causes were different: An office job where I sat at my desk for hours on end, and/or stress. In this I am not atypical.
5 things you need to know about lower back pain
Lower back pain tells us that there is a problem, but it doesn't tell us what exactly the problem is. It could be tissue damage, a herniated disk, poor posture, weakness, tightness, a demanding lifestyle, amongst others.
Equally, you may have some of these issues and not experience lower back pain at all!
Lower back pain can often be linked to psychological and social problems such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship problems, bereavement, work overload, and stress.
The spine is not delicate or easily damaged. It is designed to move through its entire range of movement: Flexing, bending and rotating. Over-protectiveness and fear can themselves lead to lower back pain.
Exercise is more beneficial for lower back pain than staying still, and the best exercise is the one you enjoy doing. Try moving every hour, especially when working at a desk, easing out the lower back. 20 - 30 minutes per day of yoga can have tremendous health benefits, but any amount of you you can manage will be good. Try my YouTube channel for such short yoga practices.
Because lower back pain can have such wide ranging causes, it is worth seeing a physiotherapist or doctor if you are concerned in order to get to the root of the problem. However, even without knowing the cause, studies have shown that there is strong evidence for the effectiveness of gentle yoga for chronic lower back pain.
How yoga can help prevent and ease lower back pain
Movement. Moving your whole body in a mindful way, maintaining mobility, strength and flexibility, and counterbalancing a seated lifestyle will all help prevent lower back pain building up in the first place.
Self-awareness. Yoga encourages you to feel into your body, work with your body and be compassionate towards your body and yourself. This increased self-awareness and self-knowledge will help you identify causes and find the right yoga poses and practices that help you feel better.
Relaxation. Back pain can create tension in the entire body! Therefore, don't just focus on your lower back, find ways of releasing tension in the whole body. Yin Yoga classes can be particularly powerful in this regard.
Breathing. When you don't have time nor energy for an asana practice, breathing techniques from the yoga tradition can also help you relax.
Poses. If I had to name my favourite poses to relieve lower back pain, these would be: Supine Knee-to-Chest Pose, Supine twists, Happy Baby, Deer Pose, Sphinx and Child's Pose. You'll find them in this video.
The Yoga For Stress Foundation Course - get started and feel better
Is your lower back pain related to stress? Do you want to release tension in the body, nurture a positive mindset, and learn how to move from feeling overwhelmed to feeling confident and in control? Try the YogaVita Yoga For Stress Foundation Programme. This 2-week programme will guide you through a practical stress management model, 12 yoga practices, guided relaxations, a loving kindness meditation, all supported by a comprehensive printable programme guide. If not now then when?
"Stress is caused by being 'here' but wanting to be 'there'" (Eckhard Tolle)