Category Archives: Back Pain

5 Relaxing Yoga Exercises for a Good Night Sleep

Sleep is the golden chain that binds health and our bodies together – Thomas Dekker

Sleep is the best meditation – Dalai Lama

How yoga can help you unwind?

A very common cause of sleeping disorders is stress. Stress prevents the body and the mind from relaxing and keeps thousands of people awake at night. And this is where yoga can make the difference. A gentle, restorative yoga practice can help to calm down the mind and to release physical tension. This type of yoga practice activates the parasympathetic nervous system or the bodies “rest-and-digest” system, which helps to counteract physical and mental stress.

Below you can find five yoga poses to help relieve tension in the body and the mind. Ideally they are practiced one hour to 30 minutes before going to sleep, or you can even do them in bed. They are easy poses to be held three to five minutes for maximum effect.

 

  1. Savasana – Corpse Pose

1-savasana-corpse-pose

Savasana or Corpse Pose is a very beneficial pose to calm down the mind and to relieve stress. It is commonly the starting and ending pose of any yoga practice.

  • Lie down on your back
  • Feet are mat width apart, toes dropping out
  • Arms are relaxed by your side, palms facing up
  • Shoulders are away from the ears, relaxing on the mat
  • Back of the neck is long, chin slightly tucked in

People with lower back pain might like to place a cushion under their knees to relieve tension in the lower back. If you feel tension in the neck you can also place a blanket or a low cushion under the head to keep the back of the neck long. As you lie in this pose, bring your focus to your breath, observing each inhalation and exhalation. Feel the expansion of your belly as you inhale and observe your belly relax as you exhale.

 

  1. Anuloma Viloma – Alternate Nostril Breathing2-anuloma-viloma-alt-ernate-nostril-breathing

Anulom Vilom or Alternate Nostril Breathing is an excellent breathing exercise to balance the right and left side of the brain and to calm down your thoughts.

  • Sit in a comfortable position
  • Place your left hand in Chin Mudra (tip of the thumb and index finger touching)
  • Place  your right hand in Vishnu Mudra (bending the index and middle finger)
  • Place your right thumb on your right nostril and breathe in through your left nostril for four counts
  • Close both nostrils using your right thumb and your right ring finger and little finger and hold your breath for eight counts
  • Release your thumb and breathe out through your right nostril for eight counts
  • Breathe in again through your right nostril for four counts
  • Close both nostrils using your right thumb and your right ring finger and little finger and hold your breath for eight counts
  • Breathe out through your left nostril for eight counts

This is one round. Continue this breathing exercise for five minutes. Once you feel comfortable with this ratio, you can hold your breath for 16 counts. While practicing Anulom Vilom, keep your focus on your breath, following each movement of your breath. This breathing exercise activates the parasympathetic nervous system, slows down the breath and the heart beat. Because you breathe in and out separately through each nostril for the same count, both hemispheres receive an equal amount of oxygen. The hemispheres are balanced and the mind is calmed down.

 

  1. Shashankasana – Child’s Pose

3-shashankasana-childs-pose

The following pose in this sequence for a good night sleep is Child’s Pose or Shashankasana (also called Balasana).

  • Sit on your knees in Diamond Pose, back straight
  • Keep your hips on your ankles and bend forward until your forehead touches the floor
  • Arms are relaxed by your side, palms of the hands facing up

When you are in this pose the hips should be resting on your heels and the head should be resting on the floor. If this is difficult you can make two fists and place your forehead on your fists or place your forehead on a cushion. If required you can also open the knees apart or place a cushion in between your hips and heels. Make sure you feel comfortable. With each exhalation let go of any tension in your body.

 

  1. Supta Baddhakonasana – Lying Butterfly Pose

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Baddhakon asana is a very good yoga pose to increase hip flexibility. It is said that emotions such as tension, stress, anger, etc. are stored in the pelvis. By working on hip flexibility, the tensions in the hip joint and as a consequence also emotional tensions are relieved.

  • Place the souls of your feet together and let your knees drop out
  • Gently lean back and lie down on your back, keeping the souls of your feet together
  • Arms are relaxed by your side, palms facing up

If you can’t lie down completely on your back, you can use a bolster and lie on the bolster. Make sure your head and back are properly supported. If you feel tension in your knees you can place a cushion under your thighs to reduce the tension in the knees. Once you are comfortably in the pose, bring your focus to your pelvis. Use each exhalation to release the tension in your hip joints, and try to relax completely.

 

  1. Legs-up-the-wall pose

5-legs-up-the-wall-pose

The legs-up-the-wall pose is a very gentle inversion which improves blood circulation in your lower limbs. It is a very relaxing pose after a long day of standing on your feet.

  • Lie down on your back, hips touching the wall
  • Place your legs straight against the wall so your legs and upper body form a 90 degree angle
  • You can keep your legs together or open your legs wide for an extra stretch of the inner thighs
  • You can place your hands on your belly or relax your arms by your side, palms facing up

 

Tips and tricks for optimal sleep

Sleeping disorders can also be caused by improper sleeping habits or routines before sleeping. The activities you do prior to going to bed as well as the environment have a very big effect on your sleeping pattern. Therefore it is advisable to develop a regular, relaxing bedtime routine. This informs your body that it is almost bed time and gives it the chance to prepare. Here are some do’s and don’ts which might help you for a good night sleep:

  • Avoid watching TV or using the computer right before going to bed
  • Avoid coffee, chocolate or any other stimulating substance in the evening
  • Keep negative emotions such as worry and stress outside the bedroom
  • Avoid taking naps during the day
  • Avoid heavy workouts close to your bedtime
  • Take out 7-9 hours of sleeping time
  • Make your bedroom a cool, dark and quiet space
  • Use your bedroom for sleeping and relaxing only
  • Keep a notebook nearby to write down ideas and reminders for the next day

Developing a bedtime routine is very important to help you deal with insomnia for many reasons. It helps to calm the mind before bed, and it helps to condition your body and your mind in realizing that it is almost time to go to sleep. The yoga sequence in this article is a very gentle sequence suited for people of all ages and of all practice levels. You can play some relaxing background music and if you like you can also use some essential oils such as lavender to stimulate a relaxing and calming atmosphere. While practicing these yoga poses, avoid getting distracted with thoughts by bringing your focus to your breath, using each exhalation to release any tension.

Enjoy the relaxing yoga poses and… Sweet dreams!

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Yogi Ram, a renowned Yoga and philosophy teacher from India. He is the founding director of the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams in India and The Netherlands.

 

A Day Without Back Pain

A Day Without Back Pain

Back pain is a slow killer; at one moment in your life it creeps into your system, you then learn to live with it. Slowly it is getting worse and one day you may reach a point of no return when surgery is imminent. Do not let this happen!

It is time to set a goal: “I want to have a day without back pain within 2 weeks”.
Great! Now all you need is a plan on how to achieve this.

Here is a 5-step plan on how to improve your back’s condition.

1    Assessment
Where does my back hurt? When, constantly or only after certain movements?
If you experience a constant pain that radiates to other parts of your body it is time for immediate action: pick up the phone and call a chiropractor or an osteopath. You may have or be very close to having a herniated disk or a pinched sciatic nerve.
In early stages a herniated disk and sciatica can be treated very effectively with correct exercises. Find a therapeutic yoga or restorative alignment class. Do it today!!

If you have an intermittent pain, a pain that comes and goes, you can continue with the following steps.

2    Walk, walk, walk!
I am serious, literally walk wherever and whenever you can!
Walking involves all the muscles of your back and pelvis and with every step your vertebrae and pelvic bones move.
When moving muscles receive fresh blood and release tension. Each step you take sends a little shockwave up your body that may knock vertebrae or a misaligned SI-joint back to their correct position.
Walk when taking phone calls, park your car a few blocks from your work and walk the last part, go for short walks during every little break you have.

3    Use a pillow
If you have lower back pain and you sleep on your side, a pillow between your knees – or if you sleep on your back, a pillow under your knees – does wonders.
Use a small firm pillow in your lower back while driving or when sitting on a chair or couch.
For upper back pain or neck pain you might feel improvement when you change your pillow or leave it out altogether. Try one of those pillows with roll-like raised sides for neck support.

4    Exercise
Often the cause of back pain is when too little muscle mass has to do all the work.
Start doing regular exercises to strengthen the muscles of your back and to build muscle mass; go to the gym or join a yoga class. Take it slow! Don’t let yourself get carried away in competition or enthusiasm.

A great exercise for your back is hanging from a branch, a high bar or from the back of an open staircase. It has to be high enough to be able to hang with your whole body straight and relaxed. Do this for a few seconds, later maybe a minute, as long as your fingers can hold on. Relax the muscles of your back, let the weight of your legs elongate your spine and breathe. Careful! Strongly activate your abdominal muscles, compacting your body, when coming back down on your feet.

5    Do the right movements
– Lift or pick up things (and grandchildren) as close to your body as possible. Bend your knees, keep your back straight, and activate your abdominal muscles, fixating spinal movement. Like this you prevent disk injuries.
Always completely turn your body towards the thing you are picking up.

– To stand up from a chair or couch first sit on the front edge, pull your feet as near as possible, and put your hands on your upper legs, elbows out. Now bend your upper body forward keeping your back straight, activate your abdominal muscles, and in a rocking movement push yourself up using both the strength of your arms and legs.
To sit down reverse the process.

– When doing seated work try sitting on the front edge of the chair with your back straight, without using the backrest. When this tires you, use a small firm pillow in your lower back as support.

– When gardening; Plant your vegetables and flowers in narrow beds to avoid over-reaching. You might even consider raised beds. Work in short sessions, get up often and walk about to enjoy the beauty around you 🙂

– Playing golf is risky for your back. When putting the ball on the tee or lifting up your golf bag, bend your knees and not your back. Make sure to activate your abdominal muscles before the swing and ease out of it by looking after the ball.
Do warming up exercises!

 

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