Cozy up

For some back pain seems to get worse in winter when the whole body goes on hibernation mode. For others if the pain is chronic it doesn’t necessarily get better when the weather is warmer. Although sore and achy backs in general are not a seasonal condition, it really helps to use some thermal therapies. Because I have had so many requests for easy to follow back pain relieving yoga routines, it occurred to me: “Wouldn’t it be great if I created a sequence that felt like being cozied up in the warmest blanket?” And, I just did.

You see, it is very hard to strike the right balance between strengthening and soothing moves and asanas when it comes to building a strong and supple spine. Most classes have primarily a core focus coupled with a few reclining twists at the end. Or they are completely restorative, with an emphasis on soothing the spine without engaging the abs. I’ve taken both types of classes, which are targeted, by not always that effective. The former is too power-driven and strains the back, rather than releasing the tension. The latter is too much reclining and cooling, and while you get many benefits you feel cold and to some degree low key.

In order to address the pain-relieving needs of a complete beginner we must work towards building a strong core while decompressing the spine. If the pain is in the lumbar spine, which in most cases it is, it is key to not only engage the core, but also stretch the back muscles that connect the upper and lower body halves. The other secret is, to focus on elongating through the sides of the waist by offering side bends. And the real deal is, when to the side bends and supported back bends you add a micro-twist, and a very subtle contraction. This feels like magic, because you are not overarching the spine or over-caving it. You are engaging the core, increasing the space between the vertebrae and soothing the back.

This new way of engaging the core muscles while contracting and twisting is a non-impact and injury-free approach to back pain relief. And it really gets you that deep stretch of the lower back, which inserts into the gluteus. We must always remember that the body is structurally integrated. We can’t stretch the back muscles without involving the hips, gluteus and the quadratus lumborum – the long muscle that holds the torso and thighs together. Most of the time, back pain is caused by tightness in the hips – so that root cause should be addressed first.

Similarly, if the pain is in the mid to cervical spine, we have to focus on side bends and neck twists, without overstraining the middle back and the shoulders. In this case, the mid or upper back pain could be due to stiff or injured shoulders – so we need to toss some good shoulder openers in our yoga menu.

Ultimately, it’s all about creating more inter-vertebral space, so the discs have better cushioning to avoid shrinking of the spine, possible height reduction. In this case, some subtle, controlled semi-inversions, and reclining twists help take the extra pressure away by reversing gravity, and nourishing the glands to secrete better. In the end, you will feel stretched, toned, but also revitalized – physically and energetically. The nice balance of soothing, strengthening and decompressing poses will give you the feel of cozying up in your favorite blanket.

Back Soothing Yoga Routine: Cozy up (beginners level)

This yoga routine offers accessible poses to stretch your back in all possible directions, strengthen the abdominal corset that holds you together, and alleviate spinal compression. The flow is very easy to follow and takes you through safe core-toning poses coupled with nourishing twists and subtle contractions. This “push-pull-curl” mechanism lengthens the muscles and tendons and creates space in the joints. It allows you to find and address the root cause of back pain, which mostly comes from

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