Did you know that according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010 that low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide? It is also one of the most common reasons for missed work, in addition to visits to the doctor’s office. One half of all Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year. Perhaps the most staggering statistic is that Americans spend at least 50 billion each year on back pain. Yes, that’s right: 50 BILLION DOLLERS! Insanity. There are many things that can cause back pain, but one of the most common is poor posture. Since most Americans are hunched on their computers for the majority of the day, it makes sense that back pain is such a prevalent problem in our society.
One of the best ways to combat back pain is doing yoga. I have been doing yoga for just about three years, and I have found that the aches and pains in my back have been dramatically reduced. I occasionally will get some back pain because I am a college student and often have to be working on a laptop, but the pain is incomparable to what it used to be. Doing yoga allows your body to release tension, and it also strengthens the muscles in your back. Consistent yoga makes your posture better, in addition to the hundreds of other benefits.
These are some of the best yoga poses to incorporate starting from the easiest to most advanced.
Updog: Updog is excellent for lower back pain. Start in plank with your hands planted firmly in front of you. Shoulders should be parallel to your arms. Use your arm strength to drop slowly into a pushup, and then pull through, rolling over your toes to perform updog. Your arms should feel very secure, and your legs should be lightweight. Your knees should not be touching the ground. When we sit forward all day while we are at our desks or driving, our back muscles are being strained. Back-bending poses like this one creates extension throughout the entire spine, strengthening the muscles. Updog is part of Sun salutation A or B, but it is also effective by itself.
Fixed Firm Pose: This is a more advanced pose, part of the Bikram Yoga Series. I learned to love this pose while interning for Bikram one summer. You sit on your heels, keep your knees on the floor, and then lie down, creating an arch with your back. Do not let your knees come off the floor. Relax, and try to bring your knees closer together. This pose relieves lower back pain, while also strengthening the muscles.
Camel Pose: Also an advanced pose from Bikram Yoga. This pose compresses your spine and helps lower back problems. In addition, it promotes the elimination of toxins. If you are a beginner, I do not recommend going all the way back immediately because this pose can cause you to become very dizzy. Start with your knees on the floor, and place your hands on your hips, fingers down. Let your shoulders roll back, and keep the chest lifted. Put your thumbs on the outside of your feet. Push your hips forward while maintaining a tight grip on your feet.
Wheel Pose: The last pose is wheel pose, or an extension of bridge pose. This pose is perhaps the best to strengthen your low back. Start by lying on the floor in bridge. Set up your hands behind you, with your wrists upwards. Straighten your arms and lift your head off the floor. You can point your feet to go even higher, which I am doing here. To come out, slowly bend your arms and tuck your chin towards your chest. Lower your spine gently to earth.
I hope you incorporate these poses into your daily routine because I assure you they are 100 times better than any drugs or medication you may take for your back. Also remember to try to have good posture throughout the day. Don’t slump forward and instead remain sitting upright with your shoulders back as you work.