Summary: Read how I tackled and tamed back pain from gym overdoing with a few great yoga numbers.
Before I was a gym bug, I power ran. I loved the sheer mechanics of accelerating against air resistance and gravity with power and propulsion that was my self. My running days had an inward working energy that went amiss in the gym routine. Without much of a consciousness, I was bench pressing and lifting hard hands like clockwork. Machine-bound and focussed on strength, I somehow lost perspective on my body’s limitations and the requirement for restorative energy and was daily wearing out muscles already frayed from exercise with more and more of strong lifts and all sorts of hardcore gym things. Before I knew it, the whole business had hit me hard, so much so that I could barely move anymore.
Going overboard with my gym routine had now totally messed my spinal health. A sharp pain ran currents down the backbone every once in a while and jabbed like a sword. Contributing to the wear and tear from my absolutely neurotic gym routine was my day job hours, long drawn out and spent mostly hunched over a computer screen. I was the living, breathing proof of the debacle it can be, trying to do too much, too fast. My trainer assured me that I can get back on the lean bulking gym drill but not before working on my spinal condition, and what’s better than yoga to restore agility and strength lullingly?
Yoga promised me three essential prerequisites before starting a core gym, bodybuilding trial—
• Strength and agility for the spinal length, strong hamstrings to support a thorough crunch or press exercises, and hip flexors for sufficient agility in the pelvic discs.
• Ease up the mind and rid the body of anxiety. Calming down with intensive breath helps in the loosening of muscles and prepares the body for an effortless, fluid movement.
• Healthy and vigorous blood circulation happens through yoga, unblocks the channels of biochemical fluid passage and fills up from within with replenished virility.
Here is the back pain relief yoga sequence I observed and benefitted immensely in the following five weeks-
Bhujangasana- The Cobra Pose
A significant backward bend, the eight posture from the famous Surya Namaskar sequence of yoga, Bujangasana helps in bringing a thorough muscle stretch in the shoulders, chest, and lower abdomens, and with the reclining lunge backward it de-stiffs the lower back.
The asana works on multiple levels of the lumbar extension muscles—the erector spine and its column of muscles, mainly by improving blood circulation in the area. The propped up trunk and head in this posture exactly resembles the raised hood of a cobra.
Here is how to do the Cobra step by step-
1. Go flat on the yoga mat with your stomach to the floor, and your toes touching together
2. Extend your hands to the front, keeping them at shoulder level, and touch your palms on the floor
3. Raise your head and your trunk from the floor by placing the weight entirely on your palms and your arms bent to an angle at your elbows at this point
4. Curve your neck to the back, doing a replication of a raised hooded cobra
5. Stay in the asana for seconds long with breath set on the normal. Your stomach must be pressed fully against the floor. As you gain stamina in this practice gradually, this asana could easily be held for up to two minutes.
6. Pose release, by slowly fetching your hands to your sides, your forehead touching with the floor and moving on to placing your hands under the head. Now, shift your head to one side and breathe in slowly.
7. Repeat the posture on the other side to feel more intensifying in the backstretch.
While doing the whole posture, I was cautious to just stop if the back sting got too overpowering and just relax and breathe.
Ardha Matsyendrasana or the Half Spinal Twist
Despite the boggling Sanskrit name, the posture was a breeze to my backbone. This one is a seated posture that can be innovated into many variations. One of the Basic Hatha postures, its benefits for the back are well evident.
The twist provides strengthening for the obliques and the abs, basically, toning them; energizes the spine and opens up shoulder neck, and hips. The posture also effectively improves symptoms of a backache, fatigue, and muscle cramps. I personally found the multi-fold waist, neck, and shoulder simultaneous twist delicious and maximized the twist time to as long as possible and with more intensive breath routine.
How the twist is done—
1. Sit upright with legs stretched out, and your feet joined together
2. Fold up your legs so the heel of the left foot comes in parallel level with the right side of your hip, and keep your left leg stretched out.
3. Move your right leg across over the left knee.
4. Screw your neck, waist, and shoulders to the right and fixate your gaze over the right shoulder, all the while confirming that your spine remains erect.
5. Use your arms to enhance or deflate the stretch. You can do this simply with your right hand twisted to your behind and resting the other hand on the right knee.
6. Slowly breathe and hold the twist as you feel the tension slowly moving down your back. I found it awesomely helpful to mindfully release the toxins by mentally pronouncing my will as I breathe.
7. With a sweeping exhale and release of the right hand first, followed by the waist, then the chest, and finally the neck, the negative pressure, and toxin go out and you can bounce back to your seated posture, more relaxed and feeling light.
8. A repeat on the other side follows, what a beautiful feeling!
My trainer warned me not to be hasty with the transitions between postures to avoid sudden misshapen sprains.
Marjariasana or the Cat Pose
Most amusing things happen in yoga. For example, this one is a cat-inspired posture! Readying up for an amazing feline stretch is such a wow feeling! Wholesome, satisfying, and power wrapped with umpteen benefits, this one truly felt like love in my sore back.
Doing the Cat-
1. It starts with a stand on all fours, forming the back into a nice table top and the feet and hands rooted in the floor as its legs.
2. Hang your arms perpendicularly to the floor, with your hands resting on the floor, just under the shoulders. At this point, maintain your knees at hip-width apart.
3. We are now looking straight ahead.
4. Welcome a deep inhalation, with your chin raised and head tilted to the back. Feel a push of the navel to the down and keep your tailbone raised. Press together with your buttocks and feel the tension.
5. Stay focused on this posture for a breath a couple longer, finally lapsing back to the initial table-top position.
6. But it is not ending yet, this pose was recommended with a two-fold movement routine. Ending the part one, now it is the countermovement—long exhalation with chin dropping to the chest and an arch to the back. Relax the buttocks, and repeat. This second part of the asana will give your back a thoroughly soothing sensation.
For more effect, we will be repeating the second part of the asana separately in the next posture.
Bitilasana or the Cow Stretch
Most often combined with the marjaryasana in a recognizable Cat-Cow stretch, the Bitilasana is also recommended for separate practice. The posture lets the body internals a good message, opens the hips, abdomen, and back, and builds strength in the spinal frame and neck. The Cow stretch was handpicked to bring my damaged spinal posture into a proper order.
Doing the Cow-
1. Start with a tabletop posture, placing the knees under the hips and the wrists coming in a line with the shoulders.
2. Keeping the gaze on the floor, your head should be hung in a neutral mode
3. Now you are inverted on the mat with your buttocks facing the ceiling and your back comfortably arched. Concentrate on opening up your chest and letting your abdomen sink. Follow up with a slow head lift and fix your gaze to the front, or to the ceiling.
4. Breath out and come back to your posture with the back plateau-like.
5. The counter movement in this posture starts with deep exhale and chin drop to the chest. The back arching and the buttocks relaxing.
6. The idea is to move and countermove for a number of times, most for six times before a halt.
The knots in my back seemed to untangle and lubricate as I held longer in the arched posture.
Adho Mukha Svanasana- the Downward Facing Dog
Yet another animal inspired yoga pose, this one healed my back gently. The similarity comes from how a dog looks when it takes a wake-up stretch with legs extended forward. Packed with numerous benefits, and pain relief guarantee, the Dog needs to be performed with some caution. Soothing the spinal tension, the posture challenges the backbone with long drawn elongation. It was difficult to achieve the entire elongation without some strain in my condition at the moment. Therefore, I performed the posture with ease and slowly and tried out the following modifications, and overall, it was rejuvenating!
• Place a yoga block or wedge under your palms, and mitigate the pressure to the elbows
• It gets easier to open the shoulders wide and strong by elevating the hands from the block on the seat of a chair while releasing from the final stance
Now, to look at Downward Dog, step by step—
1. Begins with standing on all fours, with your body forming on a table top.
2. Release the breath, lift your hips gently and uncurl your knees and elbows. The body is now shaped in a V-inverted.
3. Make sure that your hands come in a parallel line with your shoulders, and your feet coming in the same horizontal scale with your hips. Have your toes pointing outwards.
4. Press down firmly to the ground with your hands and elongate your neck, letting the stretch to set in full and pleasantly down the spine. Have your ears touch the inside of your arms lightly. Fix your gaze towards the navel.
5. Stay in the posture for a few long minutes, fold back your knees and get back in the table-like posture.
Trikonasana or the Triangle
A muscle stretcher and booster of internal body functions, this posture is for restoring balance and poise in the body. Building strength and facilitating a thorough stretch in the hips, back, arms, and thighs, this posture helps cure back rigidity to a great extent.
Doing the Triangle-
1. Stand upright and part your legs, three and a half to four feet apart
2. Align your right foot by stretching it out forward at 90 degrees, and the left placed at 15 degrees
3. Further, aligning the right heel center with the left foot arch
4. Observe how your feet are rooting in the ground and your body weight is coming equally on both your feet.
5. Bend your body from the hips, but keeping your waist straight, fold to the right direction. Now raise up your left hand as your right-hand touches the ground, making the two stretched out hands form a slanted straight line
6. Keep your right hand on your ankle, turn to the left and set your gaze to the raised palm of your opposite hand.
7. Make sure of widely opened hips and pelvis, and stretch to your fullest.
8. Come back up with a thorough inhalation, have your hands by your side and straighten out your feet
9. Repeat the same on the other side.
I stopped at Trikonasana as the sequence got more intricate with more advanced postures. As the days rolled, my back kind of smiled up at the balmy effects of the postures. I was still on my high-carb diet for lean bulking but stayed off meat to deduce the toxin value in my body. It’s incredible, but yoga has given me some insider’s knowledge on my own body and intuitively I get a feeling as to how a power routine must extend and what food goes to support the drill.
Guess I am getting back on the treadmill and doing the hardcore again very soon, now that I know how to yoga my way out of back pain!