Firstly, this blog has nothing to do with your flexibility. It's not about how much can you bend your back!
Secondly, remember that your spine is not a muscle. But it is being supported by a lot of muscles that do need constant strengthening.
Thirdly - Nothing new works till you do it everyday. So do this 10 minute routine for about 3-4 weeks to really feel something good happening to your back! I practice these 4 and some more back poses almost everyday in my practice or post my runs.
I trust a lot in the power of Beginners/ Basic Yoga that sets the foundation of a long term love with your body, hence I keep a lot of practice basic but do lots of repetitions and hold for long . To begin with - A brilliant quote by BKS Iyengar:
It is the job of the Spine to the keep the brain alert. The moment the spine collapses, the brain collapses.
Cobra Pose (Bhujang Asana)
I thoroughly enjoy this back stretch immediately after a strenuous workout or a very long run! It's a gentle back stretch which keeps the spine in good shape. Brings relief to the stooping shoulders. I strongly recommend this to everyone who has long desk jobs or spends a lot of time on the phone (who doesn't? and why do we???)
- Lie down on your belly.
- Draw your inner legs together and point your toes back.
- Bring your hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to the side body. Take your shoulders away from the ears.
- Remember to press your pubic bone down in to the floor.
- As you inhale, use your back muscles to lift your upper body and head away from the floor. The exertion should come from your back muscles rather than through pressing down through the hands.
- The hands are just a support gesture.
- Hold for 3-10 breaths and return back to the floor with control on an exhale.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Brilliant for working on the back muscles, keeping them strong and for keeping the spine is very good shape. I practice this very often. I promise you a very healthy spine if you practice this enough. Most advanced backbends can be performed by practicing this back strengthening pose. A foundation pose!
- Lie on your stomach with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by the side of your body.
- Fold your knees, take your hands backwards and hold your ankles.
- Breathing in, lift your chest off the ground and pull your legs up and back.
- Look straight ahead with a smile on your face.
- Keep the pose stable while paying attention to your breath. Your body is now curved and taut as a bow.
- Continue to take long deep breaths as you relax in this pose. But bend only as far as your body permits you to. Do not overdo the stretch.
- After 15 -20 seconds, as you exhale, gently bring your legs and chest to the ground. Release the ankles and relax.
Half spinal twist (ArdhaMatsyendrāsana)
This is one of those asanas that you have to really get into the action to believe the nice stretch it brings in to a stiff back. . It relaxes the shoulder, neck, back and also the hips. Almost feels like a massage. It hugely increases the elasticity of the spine. As you make the twist while keeping your chest open and avoiding bending forward, that’s when it increases the oxygen supply to the lungs.
- Sit up on your heels. Drop your buttocks to the floor, to the left of your legs.
- Bend your right leg. Place it on the floor by the inside of your left knee. Keeping your arm straight, put your right hand flat on the floor behind your back. Arms: Lay your right hand on the floor. Raise your left arm straight up.
- Lower your left arm, bringing it outside your bent knee, then grasp your right ankle. Hold for at least 30 seconds. Repeat, twisting the other way.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Instantaneously relieves a tired back. Gives a good stretch to the chest, neck and spine. Somehow it has brain calming effects on me (It's a lot to do with the twist) Also very good for reducing thyroid problems as it’s a throat-stimulating yoga pose, which in turn helps to help regulate thyroid.
- To begin, lie on your back.
- Fold your knees and keep your feet hip distance apart on the floor.
- Keep your arms beside your body, palms facing down.
- Inhaling, slowly lift your lower back, middle back and upper back off the floor; gently roll in the shoulders; touch the chest to the chin without bringing the chin down, supporting your weight with your shoulders, arms and feet. Keep both the thighs parallel to each other.
- Keep breathing easily.
- Hold the posture for a minute or two and exhale as you gently release the pose.
Hope you will actually work on the health of your spine! For a change, switch off the laptop, keep that phone away, turn off the idiot box, put the bookmarks in your books and then work on that overused back and neck! Make it fluid, let some energy pass through it...
Happy Practice! Happy Weekend!