This 15-minute sequence is designed to strengthen and stabilise the core——the abs, obliques, lower back and hip flexors—to alleviate both chronic and temporary lower back pain. Calibrating your level of effort is crucial. There is a sweet spot and it’s important that you find it. Our objective is to build muscular endurance, without over-efforting, straining or injuring yourself. Unfortunately, this may require a lot of patience.
If practicing any of these poses causes you pain, please let me know—as I may be able to offer a modification or alternative. Depending on the severity of your pain, you may need to build up incrementally to the stronger postures.
YOGA SEQUENCE TO RELIEVE LOWER BACK PAIN
Stand at the top of your mat with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward. Press evenly into the centre of your heels, the base of your big toes and the base of your little toes. Gently engage your abs and lengthen all the way up your spine and neck to the top of your head. Draw your shoulders back and look straight ahead. Allow your arms to fall naturally by your sides—palms face inwards, fingers soft. Relax your jaw and the muscles in your face. Close your eyes.
Bring your attention to your breath. Take a few slow, even breaths, in and out through your nose. Open your eyes.
HALF SUN SALUTATIONS
Let’s warm up with a couple of Half Sun Salutations. Move with your breath.
Inhale, sweep your arms out and up—look up, touch your palms together. Exhale, swan dive down with a flat back into Forward Fold—bend your knees and bring your fingertips to the mat. Inhale, come half way up with a flat back—hands can come to your shins. Exhale, fold. Inhale, look up, engage your abs—sweep your arms out and up, come up. Exhale, bring your hands back down by your sides. Repeat.
Inhale, sweep your arms forward and up—reach up. Exhale, fold forward with a flat back into Forward Bend. Inhale, look up—draw your chest forward. Exhale, step back to all fours in the middle of your mat. Check that your wrists are directly underneath your shoulders and your hips are right above your knees—toes point straight back. Let’s start to strengthen your lower back with some Bird Dogs. Look down at the mat to lengthen the back of your neck.
Inhale, press your right heel back and extend your left arm forward—palm facing in. Exhale, relax into the pose. Stay here for 2-3 breaths. Check that your back foot is no higher than hip height. Flex your foot and point your toes straight down. Draw your abs in and try to keep your lower back level. Relax any tension in your jaw and keep your core engaged. Release the pose and switch sides.
Walk your hands forward about a foot. Take a deep breath in. Exhale, tuck your toes and push up to Plank.
Check that your wrists are directly underneath your shoulders and separate all 10 fingers. Press the mat away from you and gently draw your arms towards each other to activate the muscles in your upper back and shoulders. Engage your abs, reach back through your heels and look down at the mat to lengthen the back of your neck. Seal your lips and hold the pose for up to a minute. Keep your core tight. And release any tension in your jaw.
Take a deep breath in. Exhale, rock forward onto the tops of your toes, drop to your knees, release your feet, hug your elbows in close and lower all the way down to the mat.
Bring your arms up alongside your ears—palms facing down. Inhale, lift your left arm and your right leg off the mat. Exhale, lower back down. Inhale, lift your right arm and your left leg off the mat. Exhale, lower back down. Repeat 3 more times on each side—moving with your breath.
Bring your arms back by your sides—palms facing down. Inhale, lift your head, chest, arms and legs off the mat. Exhale, draw your shoulders back and press back through the balls of your feet. Hold the pose for 3-5 deep breaths.
If you can, interlace your fingers at the base of your spine, draw your shoulders back even more and hold for another 2-3 breaths. Inhale, lift a little higher. Exhale, release the pose, rest your left cheek on the mat and rock your hips, a few times, from side to side.
Inhale, come back to centre, bring your fingers in line with your chest. Exhale, push your hips back towards your heels in Child’s pose—to release your lower back. Seal your lips and stay here for 3-5 breaths—deep into your abdomen and lower back.
Let’s come into Side Plank to strengthen your lower back and obliques. Walk your hands forward and push up into Plank.
Inhale, shift your weight onto your right hand and the outside of your right foot. Exhale, lift your left hand up to the sky. Check that your right wrist is directly underneath your right shoulder and reach up through your fingertips. Seal your lips and hold the pose for up to a minute. Look straight ahead or up to your top hand. Relax any tension in your jaw. Take a deep breath in. Exhale, come back to Plank and repeat on the other side. Drop to your knees. And rest for a few breaths in Child’s pose.
Take a deep breath in. Exhale, come up to all fours. Sweep both feet to the right, sit back and bring yourself to the middle of your mat for our final strengthening pose—Boat.
The key with this pose is to keep your back straight. Bring your hands to the backs of your thighs and sit up tall. Lean back slightly, lift your chest, engage your abs and reach your arms forward at shoulder height. You can stay here, or pick up your feet and balance on your sitting bones. Bring your toes up to eye-line and hold the pose for 3-5 breaths. Keep your chest lifted and your shoulders drawing back so that your lower back doesn’t collapse. You can rest your fingertips on the mat if you need to for support. Take a deep breath in. Exhale, release the pose.
RECLINING SPINAL TWIST
Inhale, sit up tall. Exhale, lower slowly down to the mat for Reclining Spinal Twist—to release your lower back. Hug your knees into your chest.
Take a deep breath in. Exhale, lower your left leg to the mat and squeeze your right knee into your chest. Inhale, bend your right arm to 90 degrees. Exhale, gently guide your right knee across your body towards the mat. You can leave your left hand on your thigh for extra leverage. Look to the right and relax into the pose. Take 5-10 slow, deep breaths—letting go of tension on every exhalation. Take a deep breath in. Exhale, come back to centre, and switch sides. Hug your knees into your chest.
FINAL RESTING POSE
Release your arms and legs and lie back in Final Resting pose. Let your feet come as wide as the mat and fall open. Relax your hands, palms facing up—shoulder blades rest evenly on the ground. Close your eyes. Allow all the muscles in your body to soften and become heavy.
Relax your toes. The balls of your feet. Your arches. Heels. Ankles. Lower legs. Knees. Thighs. Hips. Abs. Lower back. Chest. Upper back. Shoulders. Upper arms. Elbows. Forearms. Wrists. Hands. Fingers. Neck. Jaw. Tongue. Cheeks. And eyes. Allow any tension or tightness to fall away. And your mind to become calm and clear.
When you are ready, roll onto your right side, and gently bring yourself up to sitting. Now you can move back into your day.