back pain

More Happy Lower Backs!

Life is like a rollercoaster.  We have ups and downs, twists and turns, and every now and then we're thrown for a loop!  Our ability to adapt to the moment and respond instead of react will determine how fun the ride can be. 

We start to ask ourselves how graceful can I be as I go up and over that first hill when, woosh, it seems like the ground drops away.  When a snapshot it taken of me, will I be cringing with eyes closed (often this is my picture from the rollercoaster ride!), will my arms be high in the sky with mouth open in joy, or better yet will we be posing for our candid camera moment?  

When we look back over time and remember snapshots of our life, where are the moments you threw your arms up in the air and just enjoyed the ride?  How did it feel?  

We can't control what's going on around us, but we can choose how we respond to it.  I invite you to become more flexible and strong in your back with these tips below.  Something amazing happens when we work with our bodies, the effects spill over into our mindset.  Watch how a flexible and strong spine changes your view of the world.

Quick Question

Are you an arms up rollercoaster rider?  Or hold on for dear life kinda person?

I hold on to the bar and to Lexi (my little girl, who is a throw your arms in the air kinda gal!).  I am working on being more of a throw your arms up kinda gal.  Maybe I'll start with one arm this rollercoaster season.

Fill me in on your rollercoaster style in the comments below or over on my facebook page!

lots of love to you!

If you didn't see Tips #1-5, check them out on the Happy Lower Back blog post.  

 

Tip #6 - Windshield Wipers!

  1. Lie down with your legs bent, feet mat distant wide.

  2. Lower your knees to the right.

  3. Lengthen from your tailbone out to the right knee.

  4. If you're not feeling much of a thigh opening, bring your right foot closer to your right hip.

  5. To release the back even more, stretch your right arm alongside the ear.

  6. Take 5-10 breaths and switch sides.

  7. Smile! 😉


Tip #7 - Hero's Pose - Virasana

 

"I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people." Maya Angelou

  1. Begin with your knees very close and your feet a little wider than your hips.

  2. Carefully sit down between your heels.

  3. Make sure your feet are pointing directly back (imagine a line from the center of your heel to the second toe and point that line back.)

  4. Ok - the first 3 steps often are easier said than done. Take these modifications so you can smile here:

  5. If the tops of your feet or ankles are super uncomfortable place a rolled up blanket beneath them.

  6. If your bottom is not touching the floor or there is pain in the knees, place height (like a yoga block) beneath your bottom.

Practice and modify according to what your body needs.


Tip #8 - Malasana

This pose was so much easier when I was 3!  These days the squatting pose, malasana, has been a challenging one for me.  It's important to keep your heels rooting down into something rather than lifting your heels.  This is so much easier to do if your are wearing a pretty pair of heels!  If you don't have great high heeled shoes nearby, use a blanket.

Please note: you can do this pose with your feet wide or close together, just make sure your heels are resting on something and your knees and toes are facing the same direction.

  1. For fun grab a blanket, fold it in half and stand with your feet a little wider than your hips.

  2. Place your heels on the blanket , with feet wider than your hips, turn your feet out slightly, and slowly bend the knees lowering your hips.

*you can always place a little stool beneath your bottom. Or hold a weight in your hands, or even the edge of the coffee table to help counterbalance.

Have fun! Keep those heels down! 😀


Tip #9 - Pigeon Variation

It's so important to laugh!  Don't take yourself so seriously!  This pose is called "pigeon prep", but for the longest time one of my students thought I was calling this pose "pigeon crap"!  Agh!  Needless to say they don't smile so much when we do this pose.  :)  But in their graceful way, they take it in stride and find something to be lighthearted about.  Like giving the pose an endearing nickname.  So here's to the parts of life that aren't always comfortable but help us to grow!  Keep smiling, it gets better.

  1. From downward facing dog swing your right leg forward.

  2. Bring your right knee to be a little wider than your right hip.  

  3. Square your hips to the front and work those right toes - pressing the tops of them towards the floor.  Keep the left toes curled under.

  4. For this variation, keep your chest upright, heads of the shoulders drawing back.

  5. Very slowly, as if a string were on your right inner thigh - one inch above the knee, lift the knee away from the floor.

  6. Lengthen from the belly back through the right heel.

  7. Switch sides!

 


Tip #10 - Pigeon with Thigh Stretch

Ok, this pose will make your eyes sparkle.  And it shouldn't be tears!  It should be the light of mischief that goes on inside your noggin.  You might think, as a pigeon, who would I bless?  Oh, it's all in silliness!

  1. From downward facing dog swing your right leg forward.

  2. Bring your right knee to be a little wider than your right hip.  

  3. Square your hips to the front and work those right toes - pressing the tops of them towards the floor. 

  4. Bend your left leg and reach back for the outer edge of the foot.  You can look over your shoulder initially and even turn your chest towards the left foot to help you find the foot.  If you can't reach the foot either use a belt around the foot or simply leave the foot on the floor for now.

  5. As soon as you have your foot - square your chest to the front of your mat once again.

  6. Press the foot into the hand (to engage the muscles of the leg) and then slowly draw the heel towards the outer left hip.  Here come's the sparkle!

  7. If finding your foot is easy.  Hold onto the inside edge of the foot.  Lift your elbow so it is pointing to the sky and then slowly rotate your hand in a clockwise direction over the top of your foot.

  8. Breathe.

  9. Switch sides.

 

with light and love,

Happy Lower Backs!

 The secret ingredient to an everyday happy lower back is open thighs - quadriceps, psoas (hip flexors), hamstrings.  If you are a runner, gardener, every day life liver then your legs are getting worked!  Muscles get tight and we lose range of motion if we don't balance out with a little lengthening and strengthening.

Any of the poses listed below are great to help relieve everyday back tension.  Give them a try after a long hike, gardening session, or just general spring cleaning.  

In the comments below, let me know which one worked best for you.  Which one do you like the best?  Which one is most effective for you?  Remember, listen to your gut instincts and modify according to your needs.  

Keep Yoga-ing!

 

Tip#1 - Hips and Thighs Don't Lie

High Lunge with Blocks

  1. Grab 3 yoga blocks (or you can hold onto the seat of a chair and grab one block).

  2. From a forward bend, your hands each on a block, step the right leg back.

  3. Slide the front two blocks back to be in line with your left ankle.

  4. Wedge the third block under your right thigh (an inch or two above the knee on the base of the thigh).

  5. It's nice to bring your left arm and block to the inside of the left leg - you made need to widen your left foot a few inches to the left to accommodate this action.

  6. Spread the back toes, soften between the shoulder blades, and lengthen from the core of your belly to the crown of your head, and from belly back through right arch.

  7. Now for the advanced part - turn the corners of your mouth up! 😊

  8. Switch legs!

 


Tip #2 - The Calf Smasher!

It really will help - once you get past the initial shock.  Breathe at least 10-20 breaths and you'll notice things get better. 

1. Roll up a sticky may (or firm blanket)

2. Wedge the jelly roll towards the back of the knees (top of the calves).

3. Sit back towards your heels (like you would for vajrasana/thunderbolt)

4. It might be a 'little' uncomfortable.

5. Breathe 10-20 breaths.

6. Slide the rolled up mat back towards the little space at the back of calves, above your heels.

7. This should feel much better!

 


Tip #3 - Ribbit

The half frog - Ardha Bhekasana. Sometimes we just can't take ourselves too seriously!  Laugh a little, live a lot,  love a ton!  and open up those thighs!

1. On your belly, bend your right leg.

2. Keep your thighs parallel and hips distance wide.

3. Right hand reaches back to hold onto the outer edge of right foot.

4. Press the foot into the hand and then draw the foot towards the outer edge of the right hip.

5. Lengthen from the belly to the crown of the head and from belly back through right knee.

6. Breathe.

7. Advanced option: turn up the corners of your mouth 😉

 


Tip #4 - Shoot for the Moon

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." Norman Vincent Peale

Modified Warrior 1

1. From a high lunge, place the heel of your back foot against a wall.

2. Keep the front leg bent to a 90 degree angle.

3. Square your hips and reach your arms for the stars!

4. Actively extend from your belly through the back leg and press that heel into the wall.

5. Lengthen from the belly up through the finger tips and breathe!

 


Tip #5 - It's Not Over Until the Pigeon Sings!

Variations on Pigeon II (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana II)

Now some people like to call this the screaming pigeon.  I find that name just scares all of us!  :)  Why not sing instead of scream.  Although I have been to some very interesting concerts where you could question singing versus screaming.  

  1. It's nice to have two blocks for this one and blanket or towel for your back knee.

  2. Starting from table, your hands on the blocks, slide your left knee back, about an inch from the wall.

  3. Place the top of the left foot on the wall (make sure your toes are pointing right up to the sky).

  4. Swing your right foot forward and plant the foot flat on the floor.

  5. Walk your hands and blocks a little to the left diagonally and see if you can lower down to your elbows or blocks.  (This is going for right inner thigh and hamstring, maybe the front of the left thigh too.)

  6. Your hips will move away from the wall.

  7. Come back up to your hands and slowly walk them back, moving your hips towards the wall.

  8. Maybe you keep your hands on the blocks, maybe you bring them up to rest on your right thigh.  Or maybe if you need more stretch, reach them all the way up to the sky.

  9. For even more opening, keep the hips square, muscles engaged, and move the hips forward away from the wall moving towards a backbend.

  10. Switch sides. (Hold each side 5 - 10 breaths.)

Sing your heart out!

 

If you're back is feeling happy, then you won't want to miss these extra Happy Lower Back Yoga tips.  Just click here to see more!

with light and love,