One in 7 Australians report back pain and as a result 2 in 5 experience some limitation in their day to day life (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2012). Many use medication, however increasingly people are coming to yoga to promote easeful movement.Many now use meditation to assist with mindful awareness and pain management. When you cannot get to class or onto your mat, there are many things you CAN do during your day…
Please note that the information below is general guidance only and does not replace the opinion or involvement of a healthcare professional.
1. Remember your posture – Easefully lengthening your spinal column in sitting or standing, with an awareness to inhalation as energy draws upwards from your feet and lengthens your neck, can reduce pressure on your spinal column. The spinal nerves leave the spinal column near the vertebrae (small bones that make up your spine) and any compression here can bring pain. Your whole body opens up on inhalation bringing in more oxygen and with exhalation comes a feeling of release, letting go. So on exhalation direct your attention to any bodily tightness imagining deep release, without losing your posture.
2. Find that corset – A strong and stable core assists us to remain on centre. Engaging your core can be likened to wearing a corset – our core muscles support our trunk like a corset, to protect the spine from shearing forces and other injuries. To bring awareness to these deeper muscles, an effective image I use with students is to imagine holding a 20 cent piece lightly at your belly button, breathing, without dropping the 20c! Another image is to imagine you are drawing a bubble up through your pelvic floor without bursting it. Remember it is a gentle contraction. These practices may seem simple, however it takes time to embrace the subtlety whilst sitting, standing, moving.
3. Take a deeper out-breath – Stress is often stored in your body as tension and this can relate to where you ‘feel’ your discomfort. For example, you may experience headaches, however find that by releasing tension in the jaw & neck, the intensity of the headache decreases, as does the likelihood of further headaches. Taking a deeper out-breath (exhalation) has a direct effect on the calming aspect of your nervous system. This has been directly linked to the ‘relaxation response’, often accompanied by a sense of contentment. So next time you ‘feel’ your back niggling, keep taking your mind’s eye to each exhalation.
4. Cat/cow pose using the wall – Much as we may like to do yoga poses whenever we like, this is not always possible. An option to practising cat/cow on your yoga mat, a classic yoga practice for flexing and extending the spine, is the same practice with finger-tips on the wall (a bit above shoulder height) or from standing with knees bent and hands supported on the thighs. All the above principles apply and be mindful of practising if dizzy or nauseous.
5. Lengthen surrounding muscles – One of the classic yoga poses, downward facing dog (ardho mukha svanasana) has the effect of lengthening your hamstrings and calves, which when tight can pull on your lower back muscles causing discomfort and pain. If you feel a little self-conscious doing downdog in an empty meeting room or the airport lounge (I don’t!), take a walk. Even a short walk to the printer or water cooler will get your hips and pelvis moving, elongating muscles in your legs (amongst other places!) and free up stiffness in the torso. You may even return with an improved posture.
If you wish to learn in-depth yoga strategies to ease your back, neck and shoulders, join me a Yoga Therapist and Yoga Teacher.