February 04, 2017

Got a cranky back? You’re not alone - recent statistics show about 3.7 million Australians (16% of the population) have back problems, and that around 70–90% of us will suffer from back pain in some form at some point in our lives.

Back pain, ranging from an occasional niggle to persistent pain can crop up due to injury or lifestyle habits like too much time slouched over a desk or sloppy posture. Other culprits include carrying kids, lifting too much on moving day or hauling heavy groceries.

Yoga poses can bring good cheer to a grouchy back via postures designed to gently lengthen out the spine, stretch and strengthen the muscles, and encourage the back into proper alignment.

In particular, a slow, soothing restorative yoga practice can be the perfect tonic to soothe not only physical aches, but the mental tensions and fatigue that may accompany back pain. Restorative yoga uses a suite of props, such as blankets, cushions, blocks and bolsters to cradle the body into nurturing shapes. By letting go and yielding the weight of the body into the support of the props, deep rest, rejuvenation and healing is possible. Restorative yoga also blends the ingredients of time (poses are held for 5-20 minutes), quiet, darkness and warmth to withdraw the senses and deliver a complete body-mind recharge.

Ready to get your back smiling again? Try this sequence using a favourite prop - the yoga bolster! Squishy and supportive, a bolster is the perfect companion for a practice designed to untangle back niggles and reinstate a sense of ease.

You will need: A yoga mat and bolster. Optional: blanket, eye pillow, timer.

Preparation: Ensure your practice space is warm, uncluttered and free of distractions.

1. Child’s Pose  - Curl up in this foetal-like position and enjoy going inside as you literally turn your back on the world!

What to do: On your mat, sit back on your heels with the knees apart and draw the short edge of the bolster in toward you to fit snugly between the thighs. Bending from your hips, fold forward and drape your torso along the length of the bolster. You can either extend the arms and rest the palms in front of you, or rest the hands, palms up, beside the feet.

In the pose: Once settled on the bolster, turn your head to rest on one cheek. Rest here for 5 minutes, then turn to rest on the other cheek.

Child's pose

Photo: Endless Lifestyle Studio, Balwyn

2. Easy Twist - Unravel tightness and coax mobility by gently moving the upper and lower spine in opposite directions.

What to do: Sit side-on to the short edge of your bolster, and fold your legs so both feet are in line with your hips. Revolve from the waist so your heart faces the bolster. Using your hands for support, lay your torso and head along the bolster.

In the pose: Experiment with your head position - either face the same direction as the knees, or for more rotation, look away from your knees. Linger in Easy Twist for 3-7 minutes, then change sides.

Easy Twist with Yoga Bolster

Photo: Endless Lifestyle Studio, Balwyn

3. Supported Savasana - A little comfort under the knees dilutes any pressure on the back, encouraging the spine to lengthen into smooth alignment.

What to do: Place the bolster across and ⅓ down the length of the mat. Carefully lower yourself to lie down with the bolster under the knees. Use a cushion under the head, and eye pillow over the eyes if desired. Cover up with a blanket if it’s cool. Enjoy Supported Savasana for 10 minutes or more.

Savasana with Yoga Bolster

Photo: Endless Lifestyle Studio, Balwyn

General practice tips:

  • Flow slowly and gently between poses; let go of rushing.
  • Enjoy long, steady and slow breaths throughout the practice.
  • Melt your body around the props; surrender to gravity.
  • Practice patience and self-compassion - allow yourself permission to go slow and time to heal.

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