Build your spinal strength with these yoga poses.
Did you know that a healthy spine is essential to all of your movement? If your back is out of whack, chances are you aren’t moving around so well, either. It’s important to build the strength and flexibility of your back in order to promote correct curvature of your spine, and yoga can be utilized to do just that. There are several backbend yoga moves that will get you there.
Here are the five yoga poses you should incorporate into your routing in order to build a strong back and healthy spine.
By Julie Bernier
Low Cobra Pose
This version of Cobra pose tones, strengthens, and massages the deep and superficial muscles of the back. Low Cobra builds strength, while Extended Cobra tends to build flexibility.
Lie on the stomach with the legs and feet together—legs apart tends to increase the curvature of the low back. Place the forehead on the floor and the hands next to the chest with fingers spread wide. Inhale, and lift the head and chest without putting any pressure on the hands. Lift the hands an inch off the floor to further challenge back strength. Hold for several breaths. Exhale to lower.
Snake pose gives similar benefits to Cobra pose, but has a more profound strengthening effect on the back muscles. It also helps to correct rounded shoulders.
Lie on the stomach with the legs and feet together. Place the chin on the floor and interlock the fingers, resting the hands on the buttocks. As you inhale, lift the head and chest, raising the arms and reaching them toward the feet. Hold for several breaths. Exhale to lower.
Warrior I Pose
Because the arms are raised, Warrior I acts as a mild backbend. Raised arms also have a strengthening effect on the back muscles. Here, the upper back is straightened, and the curve of the low back is slightly increased, so be mindful to tuck the tailbone under.
Begin in Tadasana (Mountain pose). Step the left foot back three to four feet, and turn the toes out 45 degrees. Inhale and reach the arms up. Exhale and bend the right knee to a 90-degree angle. Stay in Warrior I for several breaths; then repeat on the other side.
Half Locust Pose
Half Locust is excellent for toning the back muscles. It’s ideal for beginners and those with weak or stiff backs, as it’s milder than Full Locust. The locust poses, which lift the low back against gravity, complement the cobra poses, which lift the upper back.
Lie on the stomach and interlock the fingers underneath the pelvis. Straighten the arms and place the chin on the ground. Inhale and slowly raise one leg, making sure not to twist the pelvis. Exhale and slowly lower; then switch legs. Repeat these movements several times on each side.
In order to hold Bridge pose, the muscles must forcefully contract. This strengthens the back; particularly the lumbar region.
Lie on the back and bend the knees, bringing the feet near the buttocks and hip-distance apart. Place the arms alongside the body with the palms facing the ground. Before coming into the backbend, exhale and tilt the tailbone toward the pubic bone to flatten the low back. Inhale and lift the hips, reaching the chest toward the spine. Stay in Bridge pose for several breaths. Exhale to lower.
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All images courtesy of Julie Bernier.