At any given time, 31 million Americans experience low back pain, according to the American Chiropractic Association. This isn’t especially surprising considering that everyday activities — like driving, sitting at a desk and even sleeping — can place strain on the muscles in the back.
We’ve all dealt with pain in the lower back at some point, whether it be dull aches or sharper pains, and it can sideline us not only from exercise, but from our day-to-day today activities.
Moving more throughout the day and incorporating core-strengthening exercises can help strengthen your back and abdominals and prevent back pain. Stretching your lower back can make a big difference, too. Yoga poses are great for releasing tension and loosening your muscles, and there are some great poses that help stretch the back and counteract all the wear and tear our body endures each day. If you’re suffering from back pain, be sure to check with your doctor before performing any exercises.
As a certified yoga instructor, I encourage you to utilize your breath to help you release and relax the muscles in your lower back. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. As you breathe in, feel your stomach expand filling up the front of your stomach and breathing into the back of your body. As you breathe out, feel your body and muscles relaxing deeper and further into each position.
If your lower back hurts from sitting at a desk all day, child’s pose is a great yoga move to perform to help find some relief. Kneel down on the floor so that your shins and tops of your feet are on the ground. Bend at your hips, moving your hands forward and your butt back. Inch your hands out in front of you until your stomach is resting on your thighs and your arms are stretched straight out in front of you, palms on the floor. Focus on your breathing, and take it slow. Hold this pose for about one minute to help loosen your lower back.
The seated spinal twist helps stretch your lower back, hips and glutes. It’s important to begin twisting slowly so that you don’t aggravate any muscles. Sit down with both legs extended out in front of you. Bend your right knee, crossing it over your left leg. Begin twisting to your right, placing your right hand on the floor behind you. Place your left arm on the outside of your right leg for support while twisting. Hold for about 30 seconds then switch to the other side.
The cat-cow is a classic yoga pose that is very helpful for releasing the lower back muscles. Start on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and knees below your hips. This exercise encourages you to move naturally while taking deep breaths, so don’t forget to pay attention to the flow of air in and out of your body. Breathe in while lifting your head up toward the ceiling. Arch your back as you breathe in, moving your stomach toward the ground. Exhale while pulling your chin to your chest and pulling your abs in so that you arch your back toward the ceiling. Continue alternating back and forth for about one minute.
Revolved head to knee pose
This pose stretches the sides of your waist and the lower back. It also elongates the spine to help loosen up the sides and back of the body. Begin seated in a straddle position on your mat with both legs extended out toward the sides of the room. Bend your left knee, placing your left foot on the inside of the right thigh. Reach the right arm down along your right leg, and reach your left arm up toward the ceiling. Then lean slowly toward the right to stretch the left side waist, reaching the left hand toward your right toes. Drop your head toward the knee. Hold for a few breaths, then release slowly and switch sides.
Knees to chest
Knees to chest will help you align your spine while stretching your lower back and glutes. This move is easy and comfortable and can even help improve flexibility over time. Lie down on your back. Bend your knees and slowly move your thighs toward your chest. Wrap your hands around your knees or shins, pulling them closer to your body. Hold this position for about 30 seconds. Look at the ceiling or close your eyes and relax while enjoying the stretch.
Stephanie Mansour is contributing health and fitness writer for TODAY. She is a certified personal trainer, yoga and Pilates instructor and weight-loss coach for women. She hosts “Step It Up with Steph” on PBS. Join her complimentary health and weight-loss challenge, and follow her on Instagram for daily inspiration.