Having an achy back that just won't go away? Yoga could be the answer to your trouble!
Back problems are a common reason to visit the doctor and often the only solution given are pain relief medications which don't target the problem, but simply cover it up. Yoga is becoming increasingly recognised by health specialists as a treatment and even preventative for many common health problems from high blood pressure to psychiatric disorders. Whilst yoga may not be advisable for severe back issues, it can work wonders on your everyday sore back and chronic pains and it's always good to check with your physician before starting a new fitness regime.
We've put together a list of our 4 favourite yoga poses that we think are the bees knees when it comes to stopping those achy backs.
1 Downward Facing Dog
This pose mimics what nature does so well. You will find many animals stretching in the downward dog position from dogs (of course) to cats to rabbits; even they instinctually know that a yoga pose a day keeps the doctor away.
Give it a go:
Unroll your milochie yoga mat and start by placing your hands at either side of the mat under your shoulders. Pushing back, keep your legs straight lifting your tailbone up towards the ceiling. Keep your back as straight as possible and stretch from the palms of your hands. If you're feeling a little daring, try to move the heels of your feet to the floor giving a more intense hamstring stretch. Aim to hold this pose for 5-10 deeps breaths and repeat as needed.
This pose engages your back whilst stretching your abdominal muscles and opening your chest.
Give it a go:
Start by lying on the ground, place your hands flat either side of your chest and lift your torso up with your back using your hands as support. Keep your legs straight out behind you keeping the tops of your feet flat on the ground. You can use a bolster to help support your hips to avoid working into your lumbar. Aim to hold this pose for 5-10 deeps breaths and repeat as needed.
3 Wall Plank
The Wall Plank pose helps to relieve pressure off the spine giving it a chance to relax whilst providing the hamstrings and back muscles a good stretch.
Give it a go:
Stand facing towards a wall, far out enough for your torso and hands to fully stretch out in front of you. Bend forward keeping your back and arms straight and extended and place the palms of your hands flat against the wall. Keep your head facing downward so that the neck is in line with your back and spine. Stretch back as much as possible pushing from the wall, but maintaining an 'L' shape. Try to hold this pose for a couple of minutes and bend your knees a little of you feel pain in your lower back.
4 Child's Pose
Child's Pose helps to elongate the back giving it a deep stretch along the spine and is particularly great for lower back pain sufferers. Along with being a deep stretch, it also helps against stress and can therefore be and excellent pre-bedtime pose.
Give it a go:
Start by sitting on your heels with your knees bent. Keep your legs shoulder width apart and bend forward sitting on your heels. Extend your arms and chest forward and try to lengthen by crawling your hands forward. For an even deeper stretch press into your heels. Aim to hold this pose for 5-10 breaths and repeat as needed.
These yoga poses help to relieve back pain as well as increase your flexibility. Done regularly and properly you will notice a difference in your back as it becomes stronger and you become more aware of which positions can create the onset of back pain, therefore allowing you to prevent it.
We advise to try these poses initially with the guidance of a licensed yoga instructor to prevent any injuries.
It's the beginning of the year and you've decided now is the time to start doing something about that back pain you've been having for the last year. Starting yoga is easier than you might think, all you need is a dose of commitment and the realisation that 'Rome wasn't built in a day' and that Miss Bendy on Instagram didn't become that flexible over night. Yoga is more than just touching your toes or even aiming to do the splits; simply by starting you become aware of every part of your body and develop muscles in places you didn't even know they could exist!
So here are my 6 simple reasons to starting yoga today.
1 Work It Out!
It's no secret that yoga can be a great work out and tone your muscles, but it also improves your strength and stamina. Many athletes and even some footballers use yoga as part of their fitness routine to improve in their chosen sport. Yoga gives you flexibility and strength which helps to minimise injuries caused in other sports due to stiff joints or a lack of strength in your core and in deep muscles. It can help you develop physical and mental strength as maintaining poses in yoga requires stamina, so where better to start gaining some than in yoga.
2 'Rome Wasn't Built in a Day'
Yoga is not a fast track route to a Leaner an healthier lifestyle, but it can be one of the best. It requires commitment and a will to change, as you start your journey you will find yourself incorporating yoga in so many parts of your life that it becomes more than just a workout session at your local gym. Yoga is an ongoing practice that should not be classified as 'completed' once you have achieved a certain number of poses or committed enough hours. It doesn't matter what your level of flexibility is, yoga is the perfect exercise for both body and mind at any point in your life; yoga doesn't judge and neither should anyone else!
3 Ohhh... What About the Many Health Benefits?
Taking the spiritual element aside (which in my opinion doesn't have to be included at the beginning), yoga has the potential to be a preventative to so many health problems and can help those aches and pains you've been having all year.
- Emotional Boost: Research has shown that exercise in general boosts your mood. With yoga, the focus is on the body as well as the mind and could even help those suffering from psychiatric conditions such as depression, schizophrenia as well as sleep disorders. Practicing yoga in a group setting or by yourself, can stimulate the releases of hormones such as oxytocin (the love hormone) and can result in higher levels of serotonin (the happiness hormone) and who wouldn't want plenty of those? Yoga requires complete focus on your body and concentrating on that present moment in time can have a therapeutic affect helping you to clarify your thoughts, emotions and releasing stress.
- Boost Immunity: Yoga is a great way to help maintain your respiratory system, vital organs, joints and muscles and of course minimising stress. By focusing on your breathing, stretching and strengthening deep muscles you are encouraging better circulation and blood flow as well as improving the efficiency of our lungs. By twisting your body in certain poses, your vital organs are massaged, stimulated and moved into positions that allow fresh oxygenated blood to flow into these organs improving their function. Asanas help to lubricate our joints and muscles, which can easily become stiff over cold winter months or inactive hours at the office. Yoga is a great defence against colds and flus focusing your body on relaxation which allows it to tell your nervous system to calm down. Stress can increase your chance of becoming ill drastically, but by learning to control or even minimise daily stresses you are giving your body a medicine-free health boost.
- Soothe Migraines: The causes of migraines have yet not fully been understood, but research has shown yoga can dramatically soothe migraines and even help to eliminate them. Posture and inactivity can cause your neck muscles to tighten and your shoulders to lift and hunch, creating muscular imbalances that contribute to headaches and migraines.
- Getting More ZZZZZZ's at Night: Since yoga is an effective method to dealing with stress, it can therefore also be great for improving your quality of sleep. A part of stress is the continuous thinking, difficulty or even inability to switch off from any problems or worries that get in the way of allowing your body to fully rest for the night. Practicing control over your breathing and focusing on the present can help your mind settle down, waking up refreshed and possibly even with a new outlook on any problems you may have.
4 Meditate, Don't Medicate
With meditation I don't mean chanting Om's in a candlelit room with burning incense, but rather exercising restorative poses that divert your focus from the outer layers of your body into the inner self; the mind. Modern life is a hectic place as we are constantly bombarded with messages, information and sounds. This excess of daily 'mental noise' requires a lot of energy for our minds to process, and just as our muscles need to rest after a work out, so too does our mind. Learning to listen to your body, to your mind and clearing your thoughts gives you a whole new appreciation for the physical side of yoga as you learn to breathe through the stretch and begin to understand these complex and unusual looking poses. Oh, and you can probably forget about those sleeping pills now too...
One of the best things about joining a yoga class is that you get to meet like-minded individuals in a gentle community. You learn to laugh at yourself and develop a new perspective for so many things!
6 You'll Never Feel Worse Coming Out of a Yoga Class Than When You Entered..
Prove me wrong! ;)