If you’re like most people, you probably take your back for granted. However, occasionally, your back can send signals that you aren’t paying enough attention to its health. Unfortunately, these signals are usually in the form of pain. If your pain isn’t severe or if your doctor has given you the go-ahead to participate in yoga, try these five poses to stretch and strengthen your back and reduce discomfort.
1. Spinal twist
The spinal twist is a fundamental and useful pose that can give your back a very nice stretch. Sit on the floor with your left leg straight. Bend your right leg so that your foot is flat on the floor beside your left leg. Place your right-hand flat on the floor behind you and twist your torso to hook your left elbow over your right knee. If you need to start with something a little easier, hold your right knee with your hand and look over your right shoulder as you twist your torso to whatever degree is comfortable for you.
2. Cat Pose
Begin on your hands and knees in tabletop position. Round your back upward, pushing down into the floor with the palms of your hands and the tops of your feet. Then, arch your back, pushing your belly down and your shoulders and hips up. Alternate between these positions for a nice spine stretch and massage that will help you stay limber.
3. Seated forward fold
Performing a seated forward fold the right way is highly beneficial – and it feels great. Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Then, bend at the hips and reach for your shins, ankles, or feet – whatever part you can comfortably touch. Try to keep your back straight and reach forward with your chest. Don’t worry if you can’t reach very far; you’ll find that with practice, you’ll become more and more flexible.
4. Locust Pose
This pose is a great way to strengthen both your buttocks and your back. Start on the floor on your stomach with your forehead flat on the floor and your arms beside your body with your palms facing up. Slowly raise your head, chest, arms, and legs, rotating your thighs in slightly and focusing on elongating your body from head to toe. You can hold this pose for up to 30 seconds and repeat a few times if you don’t notice any pain.
5. Eagle Pose
Here’s a somewhat advanced pose that can help stretch and strengthen your back, both of which can relieve pain. Stand with your knees slightly bent and then lift your right leg and cross it over your left. Either point your right foot downward or hook it behind your left calf. Bring your right arm under your left and try to bring your palms together; lift your elbows up and pull your hands away from your face gently for a beautiful stretch.
Remember not to push yourself beyond the point of mild discomfort; if you feel pain, ease up on the stretch. Over time, you’ll gradually build strength and flexibility and be able to take on new, more challenging poses.