This morning’s Karma Yoga was great as it was a back-relieving practice with Azmi. Before the start of the class, Azmi asked if any of us were suffering from back problems and shared some info about back problems such as sciatica which is a symptom of a problem with the sciatic nerve, a large nerve that runs from the lower back down the back of each lega and should be treated before it gets serious.
Before the class, I met a new practitioner who was attending her first class at Beyoga and she told me that she was having back problems. Her friend has been pestering her to try-out the yoga class and she had reluctantly agreed to come to the class today. What a coincidence that Azmi chose to do the back-relieving practice as the teachers in Beyoga normally will have a theme yoga practice for their Karma Yoga class.
Azmi told us that there are 26 poses for relieving back pain and the poses we did today included Cat-Cow pose, Downward Dog, Child's pose, Warrior 2, Trikosana (triangle), Warrior 1, Warrior 3, Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch), Plank pose , Vasisthasana (side plank), Ardha Salbhasana (half locust), Bhujangasana (cobra), Dhanurasana (bow), Supta udarakarshanasana (lying abdominal twist), Supta Padangusthasana (reclined big toe), Supta hasta padangushtasana (lying hand to toe pose), Reclining Knee-to-Chest, Jathara Parivartanasana (reclining twist), Setu Bandha (bridge) and Matsyasana (fish).
I read in the Healing Yoga book that about 80 percent of us will, at some time in our lives, experience back pain or a back-related problem. Do you know that our spine is a column of 33 boney segments called vertebrae that run from the base of our skull down to our pelvis? The column provides the central scaffolding for our body, supports our head and torso, protects our spinal cord and provides anchorage points for our ribs, muscles and ligaments. The back is an amazing piece of engineering but this very complexity makes it vulnerable to all the stresses and strains of daily life. Our lifestyle is usually the cause of back pain as bad posture, bad lifting techniques and any habitual pose that changes our back’s regulars curves can increase the pressure on our spine.
The yoga poses can help to alleviate the pain of back problem by stretching and strengthening our back when they are done regularly. Azmi told us that the bridge pose is one of the best pose for back pain as it helps to keep the spine flexible and doing the flowing bridge help to stretch the muscles of the lower back, strengthen the abdominals and massage the spine and sacrum.
Flowing Bridge and Full Bridge Pose
To begin lie on your back and get comfortable being on the floor then bend your knees and bring your feet hip distance apart and parallel to each other.
Press your shoulders into the floor and inhale as you life your hips off the floor while taking your arms overhead toward the floor behind you. Pause and then exhale as you slowly lower your hips back to the floor and your arms back to your sides. Make sure that as you lift your hips up your thighs are parallel and your knees are pointing forward, not splaying out, as this will compress your lower back.
Repeat this gentle flowing bridge movement several times working to time the movements with the flow of your breath.
When you feel ready to move to full bridge, lift your hips up and then wriggle your shoulders in toward each other, as you interlace your hands beneath your hips. Gently press the back of your head into the floor to maintain the natural curve of your neck. Think about lengthening your thighs out away from you as the inner sides of your feet root into the floor. Feel your shoulder blades drawing into your back creating a lift in your upper chest. Stay here for a few breaths, then release your hands and gently roll down one vertebra at a time.
Rest for a moment and then counter the backbend by drawing your knees into your chest and releasing.
After the class, the practitioner told me that she really enjoyed the class and she will be coming back for more classes.