Give Your Lumbar Spine Love! If all you ever do is stretch, you're only gaining half the benefits of a yoga pose. Try reeling in the depth of your poses and moving dynamically. Your back will thank you!
The question is not, “Did you ever throw out your back?” The question is, "How many times?" It's a universally known truth: low back pain can bring you to your knees.
Low back pain is such a common complaint that I don't think I can count one person (over the age of 10) who has never uttered the words, "Oh, my aching back!" This stems from too much sitting or over use; everyone from couch potatoes to athletes can suffer.
As a physical therapist and yoga teacher, I see too many students and clients gritting their teeth and dealing with the pain. So, I make a point to address low back care in most, if not all, of my classes.
A surprising number of factors cause low back pain, many of which have nothing to do with the back, per se. Tight hamstrings, tight hips (especially the iliopsoas), weak core muscles, hyper-flexibility, poor posture, poor movement patterns, and anterior tilt of the pelvis can and do impact the low back.
__Staying both limber and strong will go a long way to mitigating pain, as will aligning your posture. __
Here's how to do it:
Start by focusing on the pelvis and — more specifically — the muscles of the core. Anterior tilt of the pelvis (when the pubic bone points down and "banana back" is exaggerated) shortens the discs of the spine and weakens corresponding muscles both in the back AND the front. Lift the front of your pelvis and lengthen your tailbone toward your heels to bring your pelvis out of an anterior tilt and into a neutral, level position. Hint: You'll feel your core start to engage a tiny bit when you hit neutral!
When the transverse abdominals (TVA) are strong, they support the low back. These low, deep muscles must fire to hold the pelvis in place. It's what you started to feel when you tilted your pelvis in step 1. To feel your TVA more clearly, place your thumbs on your belly button. Bring your pointer fingers together and onto the pubic bone, creating a diamond shape between your hands. The middle of that diamond is the place you need to get strong to support the low back. Make it your goal to feel this diamond area lighting up whenever you stand, sit or do core work.
The iliopsoas is located on the front of the hip and travels through the body where it attaches to the low back. This is an important postural muscle that can shorten and weaken from sitting. Open this area, and the low back, by practicing a low lunge with both the front and back knees creating 90-degree angles (rather than overarching for the sake of a pretty backbend!). Add a little movement up top, like side bends, and the back will loosen even more.
Hold on - step 3 is stretching! Yes, but it comes after aligning the body and strengthening it. That, my friend, makes all the difference.
By all means, keep enjoying those delicious, stretchy shapes. But don't forget the yang to your yin and get moving!
Are you a low back pain veteran? How do you take care of it now? Or maybe the question is...how are you going to start taking care of it? Share below!