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Yoga to Stretch and Strengthen Your Back

Our backs are the part of our body that people feel pain in the most. I am also no stranger to having a sore back, so these are the poses I practice often to keep my back strong and healthy.


Stretch Your Back With Yoga


1. Supine Twist


To start, lay on your back and hug your knees to your chest. Extend the left leg down and let it relax. Pull the right knee over to the left. Extend the right arm out to the side and try to keep the right shoulder on the mat. Hold for minimum 30 seconds. Repeat on other side. This pose will get into each side of your lower back muscles.


2. Happy Baby Pose


To start, lay on your back and hug your knees to your chest. Grab the outer edge of each foot and open knees and feet. If grabbing the edge of the feet is too intense, grab the big toes, ankles, pant legs, or behind the knees. Hold for minimum 30 seconds. This pose will get deeper into your lower back muscles.


3. Sphinx Pose


Start on your belly. Bring elbows to the mat, directly under the shoulders. Plant the palms on the mat so your arms are parallel, in the same lines as the elbows. Draw your shoulder blades down your back and take your gaze up. If this pinches your lower back, walk the hands and elbows forward, closer to the top of your mat. This will give more of a curve in your spine. Hold for minimum 30 seconds. This pose will get deeper into your lumbar spine (lower back) and the muscles surrounding it.


4. Cobra Pose


Start on your belly. Plant your palms on the mat between your shoulders and ribs. Hug your elbows to your sides. Lift your chest up until your arms are straight. If that is too much, keep the arms bent to the degree that feels right for you. Hold for minimum 30 seconds for 3 reps. This pose will get deeper into your lumbar and thoracic spine (upper and lower back) and the muscles surrounding it.


5. Extended Child's Pose


Start on your hands and knees. Bring the big toes to touch, and open the knees to the edges of your mat. Sit back over your heels. Bring your forehead to the mat and extend your arms out. Aim for straight arms with your shoulder blades drawing down your back. You can choose to have your knees together if that feels better for you. Hold for minimum 90 seconds. This pose will get into your lumbar and thoracic spine (upper and lower back) and the muscles surrounding it.


6. Cat/ Cow Pose


Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees. Inhale, arch the back, allow the belly to hang and look up. Exhale, round the back, contract the abdominals, and look towards your naval. Repeat for minimum 5 reps. This pose will get into your entire spine and the muscles surrounding it.


7. Rag Doll Pose


Start standing with your feet hip-width apart. Fold forward and allow your head and shoulders to relax. Clasp opposite elbows. You can gently rock side to side and/or bend and bounce your knees if it feels good in your back and body. Hold for minimum 30 seconds. This pose will release tension in your entire spine & also get into the muscles surrounding it.


Strengthen Your Back With Yoga


1. Low Cobra Pose


Start on your belly. Place your palms on the mat, between your shoulders and your ribs. Hugs your elbows to your side. Activate your upper back muscles. Lift your chest slightly off the mat, using your arms and your upper back muscles. Hold here for minimum 20 seconds for 3 reps. This will strengthen your upper back muscles.


2. Floating Low Cobra Pose


Start on your belly. Place your palms on the mat, between your shoulders and your ribs. Hugs your elbows to your side. Activate your upper back muscles and lift your chest and hands slightly off the mat. Hold here for minimum 20 seconds for 3 reps. This will strengthen your upper back muscles.


3. Half Locust Pose


Start on your belly. Extend your arms down by your sides, palms face down. Activate your upper back muscles and lift your chest off the mat as high as you can go. Also lift your hands slightly off the matt as well. For a slightly easier variation, keep your hands on the mat. Hold here for minimum 20 seconds for 3 reps. This will strengthen your upper back muscles.


4. Locust Pose


Start on your belly. Extend your arms down by your sides, palms face down. Activate your upper back muscles and lift your chest and legs off the mat as high as you can go. Also lift your hands slightly off the matt as well. For a slightly easier variation, keep your hands on the mat. Hold here for minimum 20 seconds for 3 reps. This will strengthen all back muscles.


5. Forearm Plank


To have a strong back, you also need a strong core. Start on your hands and knees. Step back to high plank pose. Come down to your forearms, aligning your elbows directly under your shoulders. Place palms on mat or bring fists together. Hold your forearm plank for minimum 20 seconds for 3 reps. This will strengthen your upper and lower abdominals as well as your upper and lower back muscles.


6. Boat Pose


This is another pose to strengthen your core as well as back muscles. Start seated. Bring the soles of your feet to the mat with knees bent. Inhale, extend your arms up and out. Exhale, lean back and pause. Hold here with feet on mat, or lift your feet keeping your knees bent, or extend your legs out straight. Hold here for minimum 20 seconds for 3 reps. This will strengthen your upper and lower abdominals as well as your upper and lower back muscles.


7. Bridge Pose


To have a healthy back, you should also strengthen your gluteus muscles. Start laying on your back. Bring the soles of the feet to the mat, hip-width apart, and walk them as close to your hips as possible. Extend your arms down by your sides, planting palms into mat. Lift hips up as high as your can, squeezing your glutes and pulling back on your heels. You can leave your hands where they are or clasp your hands under your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold here for minimum 30 seconds for 3 reps.


I hope these poses help you keep your back in good health. Let me know your results!

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