The spine is capable of different movements, such as flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation, and axial extension. Practicing these different movements is the key to a hydrated and mobile spine, good posture, and a well-functioning nervous system.
Different yoga postures provide different benefits, but most (if not all of them) help relieve back pain and promote a healthy spine. Below are a few beginner-friendly ones that you can do at home:
Yoga for the spine
1. Seated Side Bend
Find a comfortable seated position on your mat. Cross at the shins, ground down through the sitting bones, and reach the crown of the head up towards the ceiling. Then, walk your right hand over to the side. Stay high up on the right fingertips, as you reach your left arm up and over your left ear. You can also lower down onto your right forearm.
To maximize the stretch, firmly ground your left sitting bone, straighten your left arm, and actively reach the fingers towards the right side. Revolve your ribcage forward and open your chest up to the sky. Repeat on the other side.
2. Cat Cow Stretch
Come onto your tabletop pose, by stacking the shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. For sensitive knees, pad them with a blanket or cushion. For sensitive wrists, try turning your palms out slightly or coming onto your forearms.
Inhale, open up the chest and reach the heart forward. Drop the belly, and tilt the tailbone down. Exhale, round the upper back, pull the navel in, and look in between your thighs. Repeat this for 3 to 5 cycles. This short, but simple flow lubricates the spine and helps link your breath with movement.
3. Downward Facing Dog
After your Cat Cow Stretch, stay in your tabletop pose. Walk the hands slightly forward, tuck your toes onto the mat, then lift the hips up to the sky. Keep your knees slightly bent, and lift the heels an inch off the floor. Continue to press the hips up, as you draw the navel closer towards the thighs. Gaze softly in between your ankles.
Feel free to pedal out the heels, and shake your hips from side to side. Apart from promoting length in the spine, Downward Facing Dog (or Adho Mukha Svanasana) also helps create space across the shoulders, hamstrings, and calves.
If you would like to stretch out the hip flexors and quadriceps, lift up one leg, and press the heel of the lifted foot towards your bum. Repeat on the other side, before lowering both feet back down towards the earth.
4. Low Lunge Twist
From Downward Facing Dog, step your right foot forward in between your hands. Lower your left knee down to the mat. Take your left hand next to your right foot, then lengthen your right arm up and actively reach the fingertips towards the ceiling. Inhale, lengthen the neck and the crown of the head forward. Exhale, turn the ribcage up, open the chest, and press the right shoulder towards the wall behind you.
For a deeper twist, take your hands in prayer position. Rotate your ribcage towards the right side, then hook your left elbow outside the right thigh. Repeat on the other side.
Twists help stimulate your internal organs, and improve digestion. They also help unwind your mid-upper back, and provide relief for lower back pain.
5. Bridge Pose
By stimulating the vertebrae of your spine, backbends like Bridge can help relieve chronic back pain.
Lie down on your back. Bend your knees, and press the soles of your feet down to the mat. Lift your hips up, gently squeezing your inner thighs together. Squeeze the shoulder heads underneath your upper back, then interlace your fingers together. Lengthen your spine by gently reaching the tailbone forward. Stay in this pose for a few breaths.