I feel that lower back tension is common for so many people today. There are many contributors to this dilemma including stress, posture, underdeveloped core awareness, the list goes on…but we aren’t victims and always have options. I love yoga because it offers so many simple tools that can help alleviate such discomfort. 

Standing in Mountain Pose is a great way to start. This pose develops awareness as to how we are holding ourselves in relationship to the world around us. Learning to stand in a way that is balanced and upright can help us begin to alleviate lower back pain. I begin by placing my feet hip distance apart with the toes slightly ruined inwards, then let my arms drop down alongside my body. Usually, I close my eyes or soften the gaze, then go inward following my breath in and out until I start to feel how my body is shifting and moving my weight around. I rock forward and back feeling my toes and heels begin to grip the ground, then start to become still. Taking my hands in front of my chest, pressing fingers and plans together, I then drop the elbows down to the ribs and take long deep breaths tracing the sensations up and down my spine. I stand like this for a little while, maybe minutes or just a set number of breaths until I start to feel the tension releasing.  

If my back pain continues or I am just looking to deepen my awareness, I take it to the ground. First, it’s nice to sit in easy pose with legs crossed for a short time and begin to breath deeper. Rather than immediately straighten my spine, I slightly slouch and over the course of several inhales allow my back to lengthen before pressing the base of my skull back. This grants me the opportunity to let my spine start to stack in an organic way and sometimes this can move out tension that is waying me down. 

From here, I roll onto my back and take a few breaths while lifting my knees into my chest. This creates a spreading of the lower back. To further this opening, I gently guide the knees into smooth circles across the sky.  After a few sets on each side, I just hold my kneecaps or shins for a few breaths to feel the release.  

Once this is complete, I extend my legs to the sky, flexing and extending the feet a few times, then return to the breath. I remain here for a while until I start to feel a little trembling through the legs then return the feet to the floor.

Bending knees; bringing my feet back down, I keep the knees pointing up, lightly tucking the shoulders underneath me, and pressing my hips up into Bridge Pose. This pose enhances the relationship between my upper and lower body while developing the awareness needed to keep my core engaged while the back lengthens. For a more restorative version, I place a block under my sacrum and rest here for a while allowing the shoulders to spread out and the back to rest. If supported, I remain here for several minutes. Eventually, bringing myself down and when the lower back comes down to the ground, I firmly press my palms into the things. Using my palms and  the fingers to kneed  hip creases and thighs, letting the shoulders roll inward over the chest which grants the spine a chance to get massaged by my mat. 

Then, I take a gentle supine spinal twist side to side, holding each for several minutes. While here, I return to very intentional breathing, sometimes extending the opposite arm away in a relaxed manner. Often a lower back and upper shoulder pain can twist itself out in this pose, but it’s important not to try and force out such tension, instead to just lay still while having the body in such a position. Things will work themselves out if we trust the body and let it release.  

Ultimately, I find the best pose to help back tension is to lay on the ground in Corpse Pose. The previous movements have prepared the body for this, spine has been lengthened and compressed to create a free and open space in which everything can relax. Use whatever props available to become as comfortable as possible then close the eyes while tracing the breath up and down the body with the mind.
Occasionally, I will open my mouth and move my jaw around to help the subtle release occur in my chest and back. It’s important to remain awake while being here so that one can use breath and awareness to alleviate the situation. After ten to twenty minutes here I slowly recover onto a side before pushing back up to a seat then stand once again returning to Mountain Pose. Once there I acknowledge my practice and again stand for a few breaths letting the restorative process wash over the body before returning to the world.  


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