Yoga Poses for Lower Back and Arthritis Pain
One key factor in preventing strain in the lumbar spine is to maintain its natural degree of curvature. Too much or too little with excessive lordosis or flat lower back can be a precondition for arthritis and poor movement patterns resulting in pain. Normal curvature is maintained by balancing the two actions of moving the top of the thighs back, which arches the lower spine, and then pulling the tailbone down.
General tips for yoga include the following when dealing with arthritis and lower back discomfort:
• In forward folding, remember to bend at the hips not at the waist. Bring the top of your sacrum forward. Tightness in the hamstrings may make this challenging, but soften the knees.
• During twisting movements, stabilize the pelvis by keeping the navel facing forward, lengthen the spine on the inhalation, and twist easily (not overdoing).
• Yoga uses back-bending postures frequently. Remember to stabilize the tailbone and lift the middle and upper back away from the pelvis. This prevents movement from occurring only in the lumbar spine. As you coordinate the parts of the spine, you can distribute the stress of the movement.
• As you strengthen the abdominal muscles, your lower back support is enhanced.
• With all your yoga practice, be careful to do all types of movement. Bend forward, bend backward, bend to each side, and twist.
If you cannot do all the poses in the practice, bear in mind that it is best to do at least some of each type to improve pelvic coordination, a combination of iliopsoas control, ability to widen the thighs, flexion, and extension.
1. Modified Jathara Parivartanasana - Supine position – Windshield wiper knees moving to the right and left ankles
2. Marjaryasana/Bitilasana - Cat/Cow (adding in a “C” Curve with the body)
3. Balasana - Side Child’s Pose – a combination of Child’s Pose and Thread the Needle
4. Phalakasana - Plank (modified on the knees or full plank)
5. Bhujangasana - Cobra pose (being very mindful about arching the spine very gently)
6. Salambhasana - Locust pose (airplane arms out to the side)
7. Adho Mukha Svanasana - Downward Dog against the Wall – hands parallel to the floor while pressing into the wall
8. Adho Mukha Svanasana - Reverse around with Downward Dog – heels against the baseboard
9. Anjaneyasana - Standing Lunge against the wall with toe towards the wall and fingertips pressing into the wall
10. Utthita Trikonasana - Extended Triangle against the wall
11. Utthita Parsvakonasana - Extended Side Angle against the wall
12. Clock Stretch – Pectoralis/Shoulder Stretch against the wall with arm outstretched at 12:00, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 and back to 12:00. You decide how close to the wall you stand; the closer you come, the more intense the stretch.
13. Supta Padangusthasana - Supine position with feet against the wall – raise one leg with strap and other foot pressing into the wall
14. Using a chair:
a. Uttanasana - Forward fold with hands on outer shins
b. Bharadvajasana - Chair twist – sitting on the side of the chair use the back of the chair to elongate on the inhale and twist on the exhale.
c. Malasana or Garland Pose seated in the chair, widening out your knees, and on the exhale as you reach your chest forward and unroll your spine as you fold forward bringing your hands to blocks or the floor.
d. Ustrasana - Camel Pose with the chair as you kneel in front of the chair, facing away from it, and feet under the chair seat. Inhale as you lengthen and exhale and bring your hands to the sides of the chair.
e. Parighasana - Gate Pose with one leg under the chair and foot flexed. Your bent knee is the opposite leg and you inhale as you lengthen up with the outside arm and your inner arm rests on the chair seat. Then you stretch over the chair with your exhale.
f. Kapotasana - Pigeon Pose with a bolster or blanket underneath front of pelvis as your front knee is bent and back leg extended on the mat. Fold over the chair seat as it faces you. Keep the bent knee hip lifted and stretch into the straight extended leg hip flexor region.
15. Balasana - Child’s Pose with bolster and blankets
16. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana - Bridge Pose with soft block underneath sacrum
17. Supta Padangusthasana - Supine Hand to Foot Pose with strap – keep other knee bent or leg extended depending on hip flexibility
18. Pavanamuktasana – Wind Relieving Pose as you bring one knee into your chest on the exhale and either extending the opposite leg on the floor or keeping it bent with foot on the floor.
19. Viparita Karani - Legs Up the Wall using blankets and a strap around the thighs to relax and come into Corpse Pose
20. Savasana for 5 minutes – Inhaling relaxation, exhaling tension as you make sure your lower back is comfortable using whatever props are necessary.
Information was gathered from Yoga for Arthritis by Dr. Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall and personal experience.