Support a healthy spine with yoga for the low back
Unlike fitness and workout routines, yoga aims to supplement your lifestyle by strengthening and lengthening the muscles and connective tissues to enhance your overall mobility.
How we move depends on how we take care of ourselves; we all have a signature style of movement that’s influenced by various external factors including but not limited to activity level, diet, location, relationships, work, and habitual patterns.
Spinal health and mobility is a crucial component to how we move and breathe as we age. Wear and tear on the body are inevitable, especially if we partake in extreme activities or perform the same habitual routines with our bodies repeatedly. Examples of habitual routines include sitting at an office desk, carrying your child on a hip, cycling to and from work, lifting heavy objects, carrying serving trays, and so on.
These active habits create imbalances in the body. We remedy imbalances in the body through intentional exercises such as strengthening and stretching.
The Practice with Clara Method to Decrease Low Back Pain
Decrease low back pain with three simple steps: stretch, strengthen, rest & recover.
Layering these three unique practices into your workout routine will lessen the chance of injury and keep your spine strong and supple.
Stretch and lengthen the muscles around the spine.
Lengthening the muscles around the low back creates space around the sacrum and spinal column. More space means enhanced mobility, so we feel supple as well as supported in our low back.
Tight hips and gluteal muscles may affect the low back as these are the muscles that attach around the sacrum and lower spine. When muscles are tight, they shorten and contract; this may cause the body to become imbalanced as the muscles pull against the connective tissues and bones.
For example, if we have tight hip flexors (aka, the psoas), we may experience lower back and hip pain. The psoas is located deep within the core and attach to the spine and hip. By stretching the hips, we create length and space to avoid tension and pain.
Here are the main muscle groups to stretch to ensure space and length in the low back:
- Hips – rectus femoris, iliacus, psoas, iliocapsularis, and sartorius muscle.
- Buttock – gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus.
- Side body – quadratus lumborum, latissimus dorsi, tensor fascia latae.
Strengthen the muscles around the spine to support the low back.
Supporting the low back means strengthening the muscles along the spine. Stronger core and back muscles stabilize the pelvis and hips to decrease the risk of injury. The core and back muscles become weak when we sit for long periods—and we are more of a ‘sits’ culture now than ever before!
Strengthening the low back body and core muscle groups benefits athletes or individuals who train in other areas, such as runners and cyclists who depend on a stable core to support the activity.
For example, a cyclist who sits on a bike for many hours must maintain proper posture in the upper and lower back and shoulders to avoid injury. A strong core and associated stabilizing muscle groups are necessary to maintain proper posture for the ride’s total duration.
Here are the main muscle groups to provide strength and support in the low back:
- Core – traverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae.
- Back – lats, rhomboids, trapezius, erectors.
Recover and rest; give your body time to recuperate.
Any well-trained athlete will tell you that days off are vital to your overall health and progression. In the yoga practice, the most important pose is savasana; during rest, the body shifts from an active to a passive state where cellular regeneration is possible.
The longer the savasana, the better! And similar restful practices such as meditation, yoga Nidra, and body scan work to heal the mind and body during recovery.
Ways Meditation Prepares the Mind and Body for Recovery:
- Meditation works with the vagal tone, which is the activity of the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve connects to the body’s primary organs, including the stomach, liver, heart, lungs, and brain, and is responsible for controlling the heart rate. By breathing deeply, we influence the vagus nerve and slow down the heart rate. A slower heart rate calms the body’s vital processes, including the busyness of the mind.
- Theta waves, which are the brainwaves associated with healing and the powers of the subconscious, are released during meditation, dreaming, and deep sleep. When theta waves are more active during meditation, it’s possible that the mind and body experience rejuvenation and growth. Theta waves help prevent burnout and healing from mental and physical stressors and are the source of our more creative and intuitive processes.
- The release of feel-good hormones, serotonin, and dopamine, during meditation, may help with managing anxiety and intense emotions. The lessening of the stress hormone cortisol reduces tension and angst.
- Meditation boosts the immune system by decreasing the stressors on the body. When we hit the burnt-out zone, our immune system takes the hit and causes the body to become inflamed as a means to protect itself. Stress causes the body to stay in fight or flight mode, which takes its toll on the mind and body. Meditation shifts the body from fight or flight, the sympathetic nervous system, into rest and digest, which is a function of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s in rest and digest mode that we can recover and restore to a more balanced state.
- The muscles relax when we meditate. Deeper breathing and stillness slow the body’s processes down, so we might passively release any tension we’re holding in the body or mind. Where yoga actively stretches to release the muscles, meditation creates space for muscles to soften and relax.
Yoga for the Low Back
On Practice with Clara, you choose from a selection of classes that vary in style, length, and level. We take care of the planning and preparation, so all you have to do is set up your yoga mat and select the class that suits what you need on any given day.
Take these three classes to create space, strengthen, and restore:
1. Back Release
Back Release creates space in the hips and side waist to create space in the lower back.
A quick grounding floor sequence to create space in the lower back and calm the nervous system.
The whole class is on the back doing various hip and side waist openers, ending with a seated pranayama (breath work) and neck rolls.
Try this class on Practice with Clara, new members get 7-days FREE!
2. Core Flow
Strengthen the core stabilizers to support the low back in Core Flow.
Based on Forrest Yoga’s core sequences, this short class was designed to build heat and to create core activation. If you’re practicing inversions on your own, this short flow is recommended to do prior to going upside down.
Also recommended before a vinyasa practice to bring more awareness into your core for stabilization.
Try this class on Practice with Clara, new members get 7-days FREE!
3. Ocean Meditation
A short meditation inspired by the wind, waves, and sea; Ocean Meditation has a calming effect to calm the nervous system.
Recovery and rest are essential aspects of healing, so take a moment to be still and breathe into your body.
Try this meditation on Practice with Clara, new members get 7-days FREE!
Repeat these classes or build your own sequence to lengthen, strengthen, and restore the muscles of the low back. With hundreds of classes to choose from on Practice with Clara, you have the freedom to choose from Hatha, Slow Flow, Vinyasa, Restorative, Yin, and Meditation courses.
Practice with Clara provides on-demand content with yoga and meditation classes.
We also host weekly LIVE classes where members worldwide come together to practice.
If you have a peak pose you want to try, or questions on alignment, injury, and recovery, we host a LIVE Q&A after the weekend LIVE class for students to talk to Clara!