Many of my clients come to me with back and neck injuries. As a result they have real fear that they will hurt or reinjure their back. Let me tell you, back and neck pain is not any fun. That pain affects every position and every social event in your life. People with back challenges, are fully aware of their back and hips if they stand too much, walk too much, or attempt new exercises. As a person and teacher who has lived with back pain, I will honestly tell you; in order to alleviate back and neck pain, a constant adjustment may be required. Chronic back pain sufferers are usually on the defensive to protect their back. But many reinjure their back carelessly by moving a piece of furniture incorrectly or to carry a heavier load (like their favorite three-year-old child, grand-child, or niece or nephew.) You know what I mean.
To me; modified yoga is a way of life to manage back, neck and hip tension. I have practiced and been teaching for twenty-two years, because it works. But here’s the catch. I really believe that these modified yoga stretches are more effective if you can work some into your daily routine. It would be like pouring milk into your coffee, and eating lunch. For many daily routines, we will do something every single day, like eating yogurt. You probably eat the same thing for breakfast for the last twenty or so years of your life. You are going to eat cereal or yogurt for breakfast, on occasion you have eggs and toast. If you live near a city, many of you have a weekly routine to go to a museum or show at least once a week. Why is it, so hard to include some modified stretching every day? Or at least once per week? The stigma?
If you want to relieve your back pain and build up the core strength, just say yes, to a more daily routine of stretching and strengthen your back. You will feel the difference, in how you move, and feel freer in your daily activities.
To begin I have chosen some back and core strength poses that work for nearly every back and every body type. The first one which I call; hanging from the side of a mountain. Do this on the mat or the bed. Start by lying on your belly. If you are on the bed, clear away the pillows and extra blankets so that you can stretch well. Lie down on your belly. Stretch your arms up past your ears, and put your palms down on the mat or bed. Give yourself arm room. If you need to; move down, to give yourself, arm room. Before you begin this pose, tuck your tail bone and hips under. Angle the lower part of the hips towards your navel or stomach, tense your buttocks all the way through to protect the back. Keep your palms down, and lift up your legs and head.
If your neck hurts as you do this, you are going to tip your chin down slightly towards your chest, so that you don’t lift the head up too high. Imagine if you were holding the edge of the mountain cliff by your fingertips. Count five to fifteen seconds. Release your arms and tuck the hands under your head, and put your elbows down, like you are making a pillow for your head. We actually call this pillow position. After a few seconds of resting, stretch your arms past your ears once again, and hold onto the side of the mountain and lift your legs and head. You can do reps of three to five.
The next pose you continue to lie on your belly. The starting position is the same. Stretch your arms past your ears, and place your palms down in front of your face. This time we are going to keep the feet down for anchors. Tense your buttocks, and tuck your lower part of your hips forward towards your stomach or naval. This pose is; a version of super girl and super boy pose. Start by lifting your arms and hands, off the mat or bed, keep your feet down, and turn your hands, as if you could put your palms together. We will put the palms together in a moment. But for now sweep your arms around to your hips. Feet stay down. If your neck is tense, turn your chin down. When your hands reach the hips, you lift your torso up as much as you can. If your back is hurting, you don’t need to lift your torso up too high. Pause for five to fifteen seconds. Sweep your arms back to the front and now put the palms together, and off the mat about three inches or so. Keep your feet down. Hold your palms together in front of your face for three to five seconds. Rest in pillow position by putting your hands under your head and breathing.
As you develop core strength the next pose is a little more challenging. This is a version of flying. Once again lie on your belly. Start by placing your hands, close to your hips. You will place the palms down on the mat or bed by your hips, so that your fingers point towards your feet. When you lift, this time it will be head, hands and feet which come up. This exercise will work your abdomen and strengthen your back. Fly like this for three to five seconds and come to resting position or pillow position. You can do reps of three to five times. If you apply some of these techniques in your daily or weekly routine, you will feel your back and neck getting stronger.
Just remember the interconnectivity. The back gets tight when the hips get locked, and the neck and shoulders when the back is in pain. Sometimes to free your back you have to start with your legs and hips. Do yourself a favor, and don’t overdo. Work with a give and take mentality. Today I’m not going to push too hard, next day you will feel better. Check with your body. If you listen, your body will tell you, if you can add more stretches, or you need a day of rest. Don’t be fearful. Be more like as scientist. Does this work? No, this doesn’t work. Does that work? No that doesn’t work. Does this work, yes this works. Then keep doing what works!