Downward Dog Pedal
Often lower back pain is exacerbated because the backs of the legs are tight. Down Dog Pedal is a great way to stretch out and loosen the lower back, hamstrings and calves. From all fours tuck toes under and lift the knees off the mat. Send the hips up high and firm down through the palms and feet. Bend the knees a little to encourage length in the spine, rather than rounding the back. Your body should look like an inverted ‘V’. Allow the head to hang loose. From this position, pedal the legs. Inhale to prepare and exhale to bend one knee as you straighten the other. Switch sides and continue to alternate legs for one to three minutes.
Ragdoll is a gentler variation of a standing forward bend and provides release and relief from lower, mid and upper back pain. Start from Downward Dog and walk your feet forward towards the top of the mat. Keep feet hip-width distance apart and check they are parallel to each other. Bend knees deeply so the belly rests on the thighs. Reach for opposite elbows and clasp them with opposite hands. Relax the head, neck and shoulders and allow the upper body to release down towards the mat. Shift your weight slightly forward to the balls of the feet and activate thigh muscles by hugging them to the bones. If it feels good, you can slowly start to straighten the legs, but make sure to keep a micro bend in the knees. Feel free to sway in the posture or move your head, neck, and shoulders to release any tension. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, taking full and deep breaths into the back body.
Sphinx is a great pose for toning the spine and stimulating the sacral – lumbar arch. It promotes the natural curvature of the lower back, which can become compromised when sitting on the bike for a long time. Lie on your belly, with the legs straight out behind you. Place the elbows under the shoulders and forearms on the mat as you lift the chest up. Press hips and thighs into the floor, and think about lengthening the spine and working the chest forward while keeping shoulders relaxed. Lengthen your tailbone and pull your belly button in toward your spine to minimise any hyperextension of the back. Hold this position for one to three minutes.
Child’s Pose takes the pressure off your lower back and elongates and aligns the whole spine. It is a decompressing and soothing stretch. Kneel on the mat with knees wide and toes touching behind you. Lay your torso over the thighs and extend arms towards the top of the mat. Lengthen neck and spine by softening hips to heels and the crown of your head away from the shoulders. Rest your forehead on the floor or a cushion if the forehead doesn’t easily reach the mat. Hold for one to three minutes breathing deeply into the lower back, back of the ribcage and upper back.
One-Legged Knee-to-Chest Pose
This pose helps to release tension in the lower back, hips, and thighs. It soothes stiffness in the spine while toning the muscles of the abdominal wall. Lie on your back and draw right knee to chest while keeping the left leg extended. Clasp hands around the right shin and hug in tightly. Keep the back of the neck long by tucking the chin to chest or placing a cushion under the head. Relax the shoulders, neck and face. If the lower back feels compromised bend the left knee and place the left foot on the mat as you continue to draw right thigh to chest. Hold for 1 minute and repeat on the other side.
This twist stretches the back muscles, realigns and lengthens the spine, and hydrates the spinal disks. Lie on your back and bring arms out to the sides in a ‘T’ position. Bend right knee to chest and then drop right knee over to the left side of the body, twisting the spine. Keep the shoulder blades flat to the floor and let gravity pull the knee down, so you do not have to use any effort in this posture. Alternatively, place the left hand on the right knee to encourage a slightly deeper twist. To take the twist into the neck and upper back turn to look over the right shoulder. Breathe deeply and hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat on the other side.
| IMAGES: Oliver Barnett | SEQUENCE: Sheona Mitchley / @sheonayoga |
| LOCATION: The Yoga Room |
ABOUT SHEONA MITCHLEY – Sheona initially discovered yoga as a way to explore the body and find calm respite from a busy external world. Having always been drawn to self – inquiry and introspection, yoga provided the platform to discover the more subtle aspects of the self. Sheona participated in an Aerial Yoga training in Johannesburg in 2015 and then went on to complete her 200RYT at The Shala Cape Town Yoga School in 2016. In 2017 she trained under Ana Forrest and completed her Advanced Teacher Training in Cape Town. She enjoys encouraging students to find a connection to self-using the yoga practice to explore not only our physical edges but our mental and emotional edges too. She is currently completing her 500RYT with The Shala Cape Town Yoga School and teaches a variety of styles of yoga including Vinyasa, Aerial and Yin Yoga.