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Yoga and Pilates for lower back pain

By July 29, 2020 Health, Pilates, Yoga

Yoga and Pilates for lower back pain

picture of a man with his hand on his lower back

Did you know Yoga and Pilates can help relieve and ease lower back pain? Currently, 16% of the Australian population is suffering from lower back pain. That is 4 million people uncomfortable in their spines. Also, it is estimated that 70-90% of people will suffer lower back pain in their lives. So what can we do to help prevent and ease lower back pain?

What causes lower back pain?

There are many causes for lower back pain, some acute and some chronic. One common cause that can be prevented is poor postural habits. When we develop poor postural habits, we put enormous amounts of stress on certain parts of the body. The lower spine often gets the brunt of this stress. Today in this article, I will be providing Yoga and Pilates for lower back pain to help create healthy postural habits. I will put a disclaimer on this blog right now that I am not a medical professional. I am a qualified Yoga and Pilates teacher, writing this article from the perspective of poor postural habits. If you think you may have a serious lower back issue, then I strongly suggest you seek medical advice before taking any of the suggested exercises below. 

Firstly, let’s look at some potential problematic postures

Before trying any of these Yoga and Pilates for lower back pain exercises, let’s firstly look at 2 common postures that put strain on the lower back. 

Woman standing with a sway back

Sway  Back

In a sway back posture, a person has an increase in the S-curve of their spine. The pelvis tilts forward forcing the buttocks to stick out and the chest also protrudes forward. In this posture the hip flexors get tight and a lot of pressure is put on the lower back. 

One way to help move from a swayback posture to a more neutral posture is by stretching the hip flexors and strengthening the abdominals in order to draw the ribs in. See the Pilates exercises below.

Woman with a flat back posture

Flat  Back

In a flat back posture, a person tucks their hips and often hunches their shoulders forward. When the pelvis is tucked under, there is more stress in the lower back and the sacro illiac joint can become loose and vulnerable.

One way to help move from a flat back posture to a more neutral posture is by strengthening the abdominals and glutes. See the Pilates exercises below.

HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

If you have tight hip flexors, you might be pulling your pelvis forward and putting a lot of strain on the lower back. Try this Pilates Stretch to lengthen out the hip flexors.

 

START

Start on your knees and take one foot forward in front of you so that you create a 90 degree angle with the leg.

Think of dropping the tailbone down towards the ground (as if there was a weight on your tailbone). Then lift and lengthen up through the front of the hip.

If your hips are tight, this will be enough. However, if you feel you need more of a stretch, you can take your front foot forward slightly and press the hip slightly forward (however continuing to drop the tailbone down)  

 

Woman doing a Pilates hip flexor stretch
Woman with hands on her pelvis finding her T-zone in Pilates

find your t-zone

The T-zone is a term used to describe the “core” in Pilates. It is useful as it helps us find a neutral pelvic alignment and secure this position in order to have the better spinal health.

To find your T-zone:

Start   lying on your back, knees bent at 90 degrees, hip width distance apart. 

Place  the heels of the hands on your hip bones and the finger tips on the pubic bone. Rock your pelvis forward and back slightly until the heels of your hands and fingertips are level with each other and parallel to the ground.  This is your neutral pelvic alignment. You will notice there is a slight gap between the lower back and the ground. This is normal as want a natural S-curve in the spine.

To  activate  the  T- zone  think of drawing the hip bones towards each other. This will start to engage and activate the transverse abdominals which act like a corset around our pelvis. Then think of lifting your pubic bone up towards your naval. This will help activate the pelvic floor which also helps in supporting the pelvis.

It can be tricky at first to find your “T-zone”. If you want a fully guided class on this, then head to my online studio where there are many Pilates Basics videos.

 

lift and extend Pilates exercise

Start  on the back with knees bent at 90 degrees, hip width distance apart. Turn on the T-zone.

Inhale  float one foot off the ground

Exhale, extend the leg away keeping the spine neutral. If you feel tightness in the hip flexor, your upper back starts to arch, or you have discomfort in the lower back then lift the leg a little higher. If you want it stronger, then lower the leg closer to the ground, ensuring you maintain a healthy spine. 

Repeat  5 – 8 times on both legs.

Want a guided version of this? Then head to my online studio Omunay

Woman doing a lift and extend pilates exercise
Woman doing clam Pilates exercise with legs open
Woman doing clam Pilates exercise with legs closed

glute strengthening

If you have weak glutes, it might be contributing to lower back pain. Although it might seem unrelated, the glutes help support and stabilise our pelvis. If they are too tight and/or weak then they are going to affect the positions of our pelvis. Incorporating some glute strengthening exercises in your daily routine might be helpful in preventing lower back pain. 

Try out this one.

Clams

Start,  lying on your side with the hips stacked and the legs bent at 90 degree angles. Bottom arm underneath the heand and neck. Top arms in front of the body, lightly supporting. Switch on the T-zone.

Inhale, press the heels together and tighten the T-zone.

Exhale,  keeping the heels glued together, open the top knee, only so far as you can keep the hips stacked and stable.

Inhale, lower the top leg gently down.

Repeat   5 – 8 times slowly and intentionally on both sides.

BALASANA

Start,  on all fours. Then lower the hips back to sit on the heels. Stretch the arms out forward, or alternatively place the fists underneath the forehead to support the head. The knees can be together or separated to the sides of the body.

Breathe, deep and down into the lower back for 5-8 breaths

Child’s  Pose

This Yoga Posture is an awesome one for relieving lower back pain as it stretches and lengthens the lower back.

 

Woman doing Balasana Yoga Pose

Enjoy these Pilates and Yoga for lower back pain exercises. It is important to build strength in and and around the lower back and to also lengthen and stretch out the lower back. Also, in doing these exercises you can build better awareness of your postural habits. 

As Martha Graham said, 

“The  spine  is  the  tree  of  life.  Respect  it.”

Peace,

Emma 

DISCLAIMER:

Please note the guidance offered on Omunay is not meant to replace medical advice. Whilst care is taken in providing safe guidance, Omunay cannot take responsibility for any adverse effects from your practice. Please seek medical advice before undertaking the training provided on Omunay and listen to your body at all times to ensure the safest possible practice. Omunay will not be held responsible or reliable for any injury or harm sustained due to practising with the online videos either through YouTube or the www.omunay.com website. This includes emails, videos, and text. Omunay thanks you for your understanding in this matter.

About the Author

Emma Hawthorne is a professional Singer and Dancer as well as Yoga and Dance Instructor. She has toured with many Australasian tours of Musicals including Wicked, Hair, Mamma Mia, West Side Story, and Dr Zhivago. She frequently teaches Yoga and Dance at the Sydney Dance Company Studios as well as other studios in and around Sydney. She also has on online studio omunay.com where she has hundreds of online classes in Yoga, Dance, Pilates, and Meditation. Emma is currently living a self-converted bus home called ‘Winnie the Mini Bus’ and travelling around Australia.

Emma Hawthorne sitting at the beach
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For unlimited classes in Yoga, Dance, Pilates and Meditation by Emma, head to omunay.com and start your 7 Day Free Trial today!

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