Yoga can reduce pain, disability and can be practiced safely. It’s no wonder then, that with it’s historic roots stretching back thousands of years to ancient India, yoga is a practice that has stood the test of time. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that regular practice can ease pain and provide natural stress relief.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that between 70 and 90 per cent of us will experience lower back pain during our lives. But the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that people who do yoga once a week suffer far less than those who receive traditional care.
And these are seven gentle poses that can relieve back and shoulder tension, while bringing you back to earth in times of stress.
How to do it: Reach your arms long, take in big inhale through your nose, then a long exhale out your mouth. With each exhale let your chest soften towards the floor a little more. This feels beautiful on the lower back — a good pose if you spend long days in a chair. If it’s more comfortable, rest your forehead on a block or folded-up towel.
How to do it: Set up on all fours, with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and knees under your hips. Inhale through your nose, look forward and lift your sitting bones to the ceiling. Slide your shoulders away from your ears. Now exhale, press your hands into the floor and lengthen your arms. Let your head gently tip forward as your tailbone lowers down and your spine reaches towards the ceiling. Repeat this as many times as you like: inhale to look forward, exhale to lower. Close your eyes and see if you can articulate each vertebra as you move.
How to do it: Start in child’s pose with your arms long and shoulder-width apart. Firmly press your hands into the ground then push through them as you tuck your toes and lift your hips up. If you have tight hamstrings, keep your knees bent and heels up. Focus on lengthening your spine and rotating your sitting bones towards the ceiling. Spin your armpits towards each other to broaden your shoulders across your back.
Standing Forward Bend
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and softly hinge from your hips (not your lower back), letting your head hang towards the floor. Keep a gentle bend in your knees and grab opposite elbows. Moving from your hips, gently sway from side to side, letting your head and neck completely relax. Calmly and deeply, breath in and out through your nose.
Gentle Seated Twist
How to do it: Sit as tall as you can in a cross-leg position. If your lower back is tight and this feels uncomfortable, roll up a towel or use a block and perch on the edge so your hips are a little higher than your knees.
Rest your right hand on your left knee, your left hand on the ground behind you. As you inhale, grow as tall as you can. When you exhale, turn your shoulders to the left but keep looking forward. Inhale, then when you exhale drop your chin towards your right shoulder; inhale through centre, exhale drop your chin to your left shoulder. Repeat 5-10 times and repeat on the other side.
How to do it: Lay on your back with the soles of your feet together. Let your knees fall out to the side. Relax your shoulders and close your eyes. Rest your hands on your stomach then inhale deeply and slowly through your nose. Feel your stomach expand beneath them. Now exhale completely, feeling your stomach contract. Repeat as many times as your like. Really focus on your breath — follow it carefully from the time it enters your nostrils, right up to when it exits them.
Knees to Chest
How to do it: Wrap your arms around your legs and pull them into your chest; keep your shoulders totally relaxed. You can bring your forehead towards your knees, or leave your head on the floor if it’s more comfortable. Gently rock from side to side, back and forth, massaging your lower back on the floor. Do this for as long as you’d like, breathing in and out through your nose.