How to keep a healthy spine for life

We all know it is vitally important to keep a healthy spine for life. A healthy spine ensures agility, freedom of movement, the protection of our nervous system and our all important freedom to choose to do what we want to do without restrictions. But how many of us feel a little bit of back pain, tension or have a general feeling that you need to give your spine more love and attention as you can feel it is not as loose as it could be? And do you know where do you start?

This blog will give you some insight into why you may feel nondescript back pain, it will show you some of the best exercises for a healthy spine, how to use your core muscles and how you can become pain-free with some really easy movements with our short healthy spine yoga video. It will not diagnose issues. I recommend a chiropractor, physiotherapist, acupuncture or Kinesiology for diagnosing.   

DISCLAIMER: 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. 

The first step…..Become aware of your everyday movements and how they may be contributing.

The first step when addressing any niggling aches and pains is noticing throughout your day what positions you are in that may cause you problems. For example are you sat at a desk for long periods of time, if so are your desk ergonomics set up perfectly for you? Here are a few tips for you on workspace set up. Make some changes to the parts of your day that you notice your back is not happy with. Maybe change to more comfortable shoes, adjust your workspace, use cushions for back support, walk around more frequently and add some of the exercises below into your daily routine.

It is increasingly common, due to our lifestyles and environments for people in their 30’s + to be experiencing back problems and this is by no means a later in life issue. See our blog ‘Relaxation -Natural Pain Relief’ for more statistics on back pain issues as well as the enormous benefits of relaxation techniques for natural pain relief.

Harvard Health Publications

Adding in some core strengthening exercises into your day is a good place to start. 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 leisure and sporting 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

Your back is designed to move, most effectively, from the core muscles. 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.

Where are my core muscles?

Your core muscles are made up of the transverse abdominous 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.

Core strengthening gentle yoga for strength and joint freeing

Strengthening the core does not have to be painful. There are some truly effective yoga poses such as the cat posture, the cobra posture and the tiger posture which gently help you strengthen your core muscles. (Members of Soul Harmony Yoga simply go through the Course Mapping hand out in Course Bonuses to find these postures). If you are not yet a member try our classes for a month for $1). 

Safety is a priority in our yoga classes and the following information is important to know before heading over to practice. 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. I have recommended some of our videos below so you can practice these exercises. 

Core strengthening exercise for back pain  No. 1

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 your 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%). 

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.

Core strengthening exercise for back pain  No. 2

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 online 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!).

Spinal twist

Most importantly avoid stagnation and include some movements:

Often when we have a spinal injury we can feel nervous about moving our spine at all. If your injury is acute then you will need specific exercises based on your injury. If you need some exercises with a view to keeping your spine healthy for life then ensuring regular and segmental movements are really important. When our back becomes stiff it can tend to move as one whole section. We need to start to feel more isolated movements, for example, individual vertebrae. When we practice a posture such as the cat posture we are segmentally moving the spine which allows the spinal fluid to flow in and around our joints. This brings nourishment needed by our spines to maintain health and flexibility. Gentle twists, rotations and forward and back bends are all good ways to increase segmental movement. (see the resource list below).

Can you show me some easy and short routines to keep my spine healthy? The easy answer is yes…

Here’s where they are in our Course Library. My recommendation is to practice for one month a couple of times a week and notice the difference you feel. You can do this through our Monthly Membership.

  1. 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. This video will show you how to move your spine segmentally and begin to increase your mobility and agility.
  2. 8-Minute routine to help strengthen your core muscles (10-20 Minute Yoga Classes) This yoga video for back pain was filmed on Khao Takiap in Thailand in November as we journeyed over to Australia to film more classes for our online courses.
  3.  8 Minute Restorative Yoga Lesson (10-20 Minute Yoga Classes)–  Gentle stretching and relaxation are important to assist with the reduction of inflammation and calming your nervous system. This Short Restorative Online Yoga class will take you through an            8-minute easy session to stretch out your spine and ease out tightness and tension. When the movements are in sync with your breathing they will bring you back to a calm and peaceful space leaving you feeling calm, relaxed and balanced.
  4. The Spinal Health Care 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 practiced 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.
  5. 20-Minute Guided Relaxation (Emotional Balance and Self-Care Course) – This relaxation is in the Emotional Balance and Self-care Course. 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. Relaxation can be done with any back issues. It is particularly important to help address pain management and reduce inflammation in the body.

I’m not a member yet- how do I sign up?

Try out our classes for US$14 per month using our Monthly Membership Plan to gain access to our videos to help you develop your core strength. You are free to unsubscribe as and when you wish.

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…

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