Picture this: it's 3pm, you've just passed through the post-lunch naptime, you're hunched over your computer and your back really starts to ache.
Does this sound familiar?
For so many of us, this is the reality we face at work every day. Despite ergonomics, well-meaning office initiatives and the like, our work habits have evolved faster than our bodies and our backs are simply not meant to hold static positions as long as we do.
So we have two options: you can fight the power and plot to overthrow the desk-touting majority,
You can take ten minutes to follow this quick yoga sequence to refresh and reset your entire back (lower to upper).
1. Child's Pose variation / Bālāsana (shoulders and lower back)
Okay, so Child's Pose
might not be the most glamorous or exotic of yoga postures, but hear us out. Balasana lengthens the lower lumbar spine which gets compressed when sat in a chair all day, it releases the hips and (with a few tweaks) can widen and open the chest and collarbones. Start with five breaths in classic child pose, and then press the hands together in prayer position, drawing the thumbs to the back of the neck for another five.
2. Classic Cat/Cow / Marjariasana/Bitilasana (entire spine)
Once you've got the breath going, use it to come forward to hands and knees. (Pro tip
: wrists should be under shoulders, knees behind hips, and notice when things shift!) On an inhale, lengthen the crown of the head forward and the tailbone back, and then tip them both up to the ceiling — rolling through the back. On your exhale, pull the belly button into the spine and curl under into a deep cat stretch. Follow your breath back and forth between these two using the transition to melt away any tension.
3. Thread The Needle / Parsva Balasana (shoulders and middle back)
From hands and knees, bring the left hand to the centre of the mat. Inhale the right hand up to the ceiling, and exhale as you draw the right hand under the left armpit, dropping the right shoulder to the mat. The idea here is to lie on your shoulder letting gravity work its magic on the scapulae and upper back. If you can't feel anything at first, walk the right hand up and down the mat until you find a more satisfying stretch. Repeat for five breaths on both sides.
: If you could hang out in Thread the Needle all day, you can walk the left hand around the head pressing the palm into the floor behind you and using the elbow as a lever to deepen the stretch.
After that, if you're feeling fancy, you can transition to pose four through Downward Facing Dog
or go straight to...
4. Low Lunge / Anjaneyasana (lower back and hips)
An often overlooked cause of lower back pain specifically is tight hips — specifically the hip flexors or the psoas muscle. This muscle connects the low back to the legs and as we sit it gets shorter and tighter, pulling on the low back resulting in pain. Luckily, we have Anjaneyasana
to help with that.
Step the right foot forward between the hands, release the left knee to the mat and untuck the toes. As you inhale the torso up (centre your body over the pelvis), bring the hands to the hips and allow the tailbone to drop heavily towards the floor. As you exhale, the hips can move forwards, deepening the stretch. Don't worry about the knee moving past the ankle — no danger here.
5. Inverted Back Stretch / Karnapidasana (entire spine)
This sneaky pose is known by a lot of different names. In your Power Vinyasa class, it might be Karnapidasana
or Ear Pressure Pose
, in Yin it goes by Snail
. Whatever you call it, it's a great release for the entire back body. Lying down on your back, press the hands into the floor to lift the feet and hips over the head. Let the toenails press into the ground behind the head, and the knees can soften towards the ears. Send the breath into the back wherever you feel needs releasing, expanding on every inhale and softening more on each exhale.
Give this quick sequence a try for a few days this week. Actually do it though
, we've all read an article like this and then moved on to a personality quiz where they tell you what kind of cheese you are based on your taste in cats.
Keep us posted on how you get on!
Written by: Joshua LeClair and Kate Lister
Joshua is wearing Matsaya Pants and Vajra II