5 yoga poses to strengthen your lower back

Back pain, especially lower backache, has reached epidemic proportions due to lifestyle changes. Yoga is used widely to relieve victims of this self-limiting affliction.

Though backache was earlier associated with an aging body, it has begun afflicting younger generations. There are several reasons for this: lack of exercise or even mismanaged exercise, a sedentary work-style, sedentary forms of entertainment, lack of ergonomic furniture where one is required to use them for long hours, use of household gadgets which restrict or deny the body its natural and full range of motion, high stress levels which contract key postural muscles and lack of repairing nutrients in one's diet, such as vitamins C, E or magnesium.

Though lower backache is largely due to spinal degeneration, certain yoga schools subscribe to the view that stress also contributes to its manifestation. The large muscle band at the back, called psoas, becomes contracted in reaction to extreme negativities such as fear or anger.

If physical examination, including an X-ray, establishes no known cause for chronic backache, it is safe to assume psychosomatic triggers. In such cases, resorting to yogic practices will offer immense relief. But even where the triggers are physical, yogic exercises form part of a holistic therapy. In fact, most exercises in your physio-therapy, as advised by your spinal expert, will also definitely be yoga-based.

Lower backache can be more stubborn to heal than upper or middle back pain. But it responds just as well to therapy. However, unlike with other areas, the problem must be clearly identified by a spinal expert and an individualised therapy be drawn. Self-diagnosis or joining a general yoga class when the pain is acute can be counter-productive, by acerbating the existing problem.

Shameem Akthar, yoga acharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, takes you through five yoga poses used to heal lower backache.

Uttanpadasana (Raised leg pose)

Lie on your back. Bend your knees, placing feet flat on the ground. Inhale. Raise your right leg up. Exhaling, place your hands around the shin. If that is not possible place your hands around your thighs. Hold for a few seconds.

Those who are using this practice as preventive, may exert a slight pressure, by pulling the leg towards the chest. Continue normal breathing, holding for a few seconds. Release. Repeat three to five times. Relax and repeat for left leg.

Points to remember: Those with lower backache must remember to do such leg raises with legs bent at knee. This takes the pressure off the spine. Others may do them with legs out, to get more abdominal work-out.

Benefits:This is a preventive in spinal disorders, and also helps heal them. It strengthens leg muscles, helping bear body weight better. It is a preparatory pose for most advanced asanas due to the complete body work-out it gives.

Supta hasta padangushtasana (Lying hand to toe pose)

Lie on your back. Inhale, spreading your arms, placing them on either side of your body. Exhale, then inhale. Exhaling, move right leg upwards, towards the right hand. Inhale. Hold right big toe with right hand.

Exhaling turn head to gaze at left hand. Hold this final pose for a few seconds, breathing normally. Repeat three to five times. Relax. Repeat entire sequence for the other side.

Points to note: All poses here may be done only up to capacity with those having any existing discomfort. The legs may be bent at knees (as required), to lessen the pressure on the muscles and nerves.

Benefits: This position gives the entire spine a powerful transverse twist and is used as a preventive in all spinal problems. It is teh ideal all-in-one pose for those with a sedentary job. Spinal nerves are toned, strengthening you emotionally. Legs are toned, helping in aligning posture. Metabolism is tweaked, due to the massaging pressure on abdomen, aiding weight loss. Waist and hips are trimmed.

Supta udarakarshanasana (Lying abdominal twist)

Lie on your back. Spread your arms out, placing them on the floor, palms down. Inhale. Bend the right leg at the knee. Place the right sole on the left thigh. Exhale, using your left hand press down right knee to floor on the left.

Simultaneously, twist your head to gaze at the right hand. Hold for a few seconds, without letting off the pressure on the bent knee, breathing evenly. Release. Repeat three to five times. Relax. Repeat entire sequence for the other side.

Benefits: The benefits are the same as the prevoius asana, but with greater impact on the abdomen, thus further promoting weight loss.

Kandharasana (Shoulder pose, also called pelvic tilts)

Lie on your back. Place palms flat on the ground, beside hips. Bring the feet closer to the hips. Inhale, raising hips. Exhaling, lower the hips back to ground. This is one round. Do 10 rounds.

Points to note: Those using this pose as prevention or to tone the body may hold the final pose longer, continuing to breathe normally. You may also increase the number of rounds to 30.

Benefits: It is the most powerful healing pose for those with lower backache. However, they may raise hips only slightly. It works out the entire spine, powers the neck and builds stamina. Trims hips superbly. Boosts metabolism, promotes weight loss, improves nutrient absorption. This in turn affects healing positively. Boosts immunity.

Dradhasana (Firm pose/ side-relaxation pose)

Lie on your right side. Fold the right arm, using it as a cushion. Align your body so that it is in one straight line. Shut eyes, and relax in this pose, breathing normally. Switch sides, so you are now lying on the left side for an equal duration.

Points to note: If unable to align body initially, you may fold your legs at the knees or where required. But try to attain perfection in this pose, with regular practice.

Benefits: For those with pain, this pose is an ideal one to relax or even sleep in. Relaxing on each side for equal durations harmonises both brain hemispheres, helping you attain inner balance. It is a good meditation pose, and an ideal one in which to catnap when you cannot afford to doze off for long. It is ranked as a healing pose.

Source: Rediff.com



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