One important way to relieve an aching back is to stimulate blood flow through the spine. Sitting for long periods with bent knees at a desk or in a chair, restricts the flow of oxygenated blood into the legs and extremities often resulting in constriction of muscles and pain. Side bends and leg extensions break up these restrictions by movement including walking, bending forward, hanging the arms towards the floor and letting the head release.
A yoga pose that involves both twisting and lengthening the spine, stimulating blood circulation and relieving back pain is “Half Lotus Extension.”
This pose begins as a seated posture on the floor. So, take a break, roll open the yoga mat and begin. With outstretched legs in front of the body, sit comfortably in the center of the mat. Next, open and spread the legs to each side. Bend a folded left knee and foot into the right thigh keeping the outer sides of the thigh lengthened on the mat. The left heel rests against the inner side of the right thigh near the perineum (the center below the naval). The goal of the pose is to have the left big toe touch the inner right thigh.
Then, twist the trunk over the right leg and lengthen the arms forward, attempting to grab the big toe of the right leg. If it is not possible to grab and hold the right big toe, forward bend over the right leg and hold onto the ankle or thigh. Gently pull the body forward. Repeat on the other side and hold the posture for a count of 10, repeating the pose three times on each leg.
The next challenge is to open the core and chest over the right leg, bringing the left arm open into a curl over the right ear. Do only what your body will allow at the present, as it takes time to break old habits and create new “muscle memory.” Hold the pose for a count of 10 on each side then stretch both legs forward, folding the body over extended legs as you grab the ankles or thighs. Repeat the posture three times and hold for a count of 10.
When we hold yoga poses, we break old stiff patterns and become more flexible, improving circulation with fresh oxygenated blood released into tissues, organs and muscles. As you lengthen each inhale and exhale, painful aches and pains will decrease. Deep breathing is a practice we all need to do throughout the day, breaking long spans of sitting by awakening the body with walking, standing or bending; a necessity for flexibility.
Yoga is a pathway to calm the mind and body with slow, concentrated movement to calm nervous tension and emotions. Living in a continuous rush, thoughtlessly jumping from one activity to the next without much contemplation or deliberate action is not a healthy practice. However, a fast, rushed lifestyle can be slowed purposefully. Just begin to practice yoga. Time will be on your side when you are dedicated to improved health!