7 Steps to a Healthy Spine

1. Knowing the Importance of Spinal Health

We all know that the upkeep of a healthy spine is vitally important but how many of us feel a little bit of back pain due to our lifestyles and environments? This blog will give you some insight into why your back may ache from a long drive or from sitting at your desk for too long, about spine health care and how you can become pain-free with some really easy movements.

If you have a serious injury, or have had recent back surgery or have an active disk injury I’d advise you to check with your practitioner first before trying these movements. In such cases, I’d recommend the Full Guided Relaxation a few times a week in our resources list below. 

2. Why should I use my core muscles?

Yoga is immensely helpful for back pain relief through the use of numerous yoga poses for back pain. They all involve the use of your core muscles. Your back is designed to move from your core. Unless you consciously work to strengthen your core you can loose your core strength over time. Core strength can be lost after childbirth, through lack of exercise and repeated over compensation with other muscle groups. What tends to happen, if you don’t consciously use your core, is the other back muscles will compensate and this is where injury, strains and niggling pain can come from.

3. Knowing where your core muscles are?

Your core muscles are made up from the transverse abdominus muscles (lower abdomen), the pelvic floor muscles and the lumbar multifidus (lower back) muscles. These three muscles groups all work together help you move in a way that protects your back. The interesting thing is that once you begin to consciously strengthen these muscles they will work for you automatically, once they are trained.

4. Knowing how to train my core muscles?

You can begin to engage the core muscles and strengthen them with some simple breathing and engagement of the muscle groups mentioned above. You have a large muscle called the diaphragm above the lower abdominal muscles, which expands as you inhale (place your hands on your lower ribcage and take a deep breath in to feel your diaphragm expand).

As you exhale you will feel the muscle contract back into the body, leaving space for you to draw your abdominal muscles back towards your spine. You have now just engaged your core muscles. To be more precise with this you can draw up the muscles of the pelvic floor as you exhale (only about 10-15%) and you may feel the lower abdominal muscles (the transverse abdominus) contracting.

The lumbar multifidus muscles (in your lower back) will engage naturally and in fact, can only be engaged when the pelvic floor muscles and/or the transverse abdominus muscles are engaged. Depending on how much you have used your core muscles recently affects if you can feel the muscle group in your lower back. With regular practice of engaging these muscles, you will be able to feel your lower back engaging too.

5. Exercise to strengthen your core muscles

The two images to the right above show two yoga asanas (postures) which are great to strengthen the core and lower back.

The first is the Tiger posture (Vyaghrasana) and the second is the Cobra posture (Bhujangasana).

In our yoga classes, we would always do some preparation muscle work to ensure your body is well prepared. The exercise we would include to strengthen your core is an easy breathing technique with a focus on the three muscle groups of the core. You can do this exercise either:

  1. Lying down on your back with your feet resting on the floor (heels by your bottom) and knees up.
  2. Or you could practice in a Cat (Majarasana) alignment on all fours – wrists under shoulders and your knees under your hips.

To strengthen these muscles simply breathe in and on the out breath draw your pelvic floor muscles up into your body and your abdominal muscles back towards the spine (only about 15%) and keep breathing.  Do this exercise 10 times and hold for 10 full breaths (remember- keep breathing as you gently hold the muscles!).

6. Being aware of your everyday movements and how your core helps you

Harvard Health Publications

According to Harvard Health Publications, we should “think of our core muscles as the sturdy central link in a chain connecting our upper and lower body. Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your core, or move through it”. Your core underpins everything you do. Here’s a list to get you thinking of where you use your core muscles:

  • Everyday acts- e.g. bending to put on your shoes
  • On-the-job tasks where you may or may not notice you use your core
  • Sports and other pleasurable activities
  • Housework, fix-it work, and gardening
  • Holding your upper body upright

When you give time to become aware of using your core you’ll have:

  • A healthy back – having a strong core reduces lower back pain
  • Better balance and stability
  • A sense of feeling tall and open – good posture

7. Access to Resources for a healthy spine- Easy Exercises for back pain

Our Online Yoga Classes

Try out our classes for US$1 on our Monthly Membership Plan to gain access to our videos to help you develop your core strength. I would recommend:

  1. 8-minute routine to help you strengthen your core muscles. This yoga video for backpain was filmed on Khao Takiap in Thailand in November as we journeyed over to Australia to film more classes for our online courses.
  2. Spinal flexibility in Four Easy Movements– this class is only 15 minutes long and is in our Short on Time Yoga classes. It takes you through 4 movements to stretch and move your spine in its totality.
  3. The Spinal Health Yoga Course. This has 5 full yoga classes which will guide you through a full course to develop both strength and flexibility in your spine. If you haven’t practised yoga before this course will take you through step by step to help you understand the workings of your spine and how you can reduce, or become free of, general back pain.

Facebook Live Free Video

Also, check out our 15- minute Facebook Live Video which talks about four ways you can move your spine in every direction. This short sequence will help you maintain your spinal health and it really is amazing how little time it takes. Like our Facebook Page to be notified of our free Tune-Up Tuesday videos.

Special Offer

Relaxation – relaxation is a key aspect of allowing your spine to ease. It helps to reduce inflammation and release tightness and tension out of the muscles. I have a great free offer for you if you are interested.

For your a 20 minute free guided relaxation for your spine.

Remember you don’t have to suffer from non-descript back pain. I’ve had students who have come to a yoga class after 20 years of living with pain and now don’t suffer at all because they make some time in their week to create strength and flexibility in their spine.

Here’s what some of my students have experienced:

Deb’s classes have changed my life. I have no back pain after 25 years of problems. I feel full of peace, love and happiness.” Cathy F

“Since I started doing yoga with Debs I have found it very beneficial in becoming more flexible, my back ache is now none existent and my asthma has improved though doing the breathing exercises. I would definitely recommend giving yoga with Debs a try!” Lynne A

So see what resources resonate with you and get started today and let me know how you go! Any questions I’m here… debs@soulharmonyyoga.org

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