Lower back pain is a nearly ubiquitous problem in North America, usually either due to physical exertion (or lack thereof) or misplaced stress. Yoga is a powerful healing practice for lower back issues, and its benefits can be enhanced if you bring focused intention and a wellness-based mindset to the mat. Here are five simple ways to think in a healing way about lower back pain.
1. Get the Facts
Do you know your sacrum from your lumbar, your psoas from your piriformis? Knowing the anatomical realities of a human body’s architecture is a crucial first step to being able to focus your attention on what is causing your pain—and where, exactly, it lives.
2. Ask and Listen
What if you approached your lower back pain with an attitude of “open curiosity?” Removing all judgmental statements, like “I’m weak” or “I’ve let myself go” from the equation, see what it feels like to simply ask your body: “What’s wrong?” “What would help you heal?” You might be surprised at the direction your answer takes you.
Even when you are not practicing yoga, be aware of the power your breath has to modulate pain and manage stress in your body. Try the simple exercise of making your exhalations longer than your inhalations to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), prompting it to slow your heart rate, allow your muscles to relax, and keep your body from translating everyday stressors into physical pain.
4. Shore up Your Strength
Many people feel that having flexibility in joints and muscles is the key to relieving pain. Without strength, though, flexibility can take your lower back body too far from its natural, healthy alignment, leaving it vulnerable to further injury. Especially helpful for lower back pain are movements that build strength in the abdominal core, which plays such a vital role in holding the lower back in place. Then, when you do stretch your tight muscles, your strong, supported lower back will be able to release tension more easily and come to a place of balanced muscle tone.
5. Rest Well and Often
Sleep—eight full hours if you can manage it—is a critical part of giving your body the time it needs to repair and refresh itself. But rest and deep relaxation are also important ingredients in the recipe for lower back health. Whether practicing Savasana after a yoga sequence or closing your eyes… on a work break, allow a few minutes of quiet calm to bring you into what’s called, in Sanskrit, “nischala,” or “a state of serenity.”
Source: www.myyogaonline.com; Holly Lebowitz Rossi & Liz Owen, November 2, 2013.