Low Back Congestion | How to Release Lumbar Tension

by | Sep 2, 2017 | Yoga Teacher Training in Austin, TX, Yoga Therapy, Yoga Therapy Training

I’m currently in Yoga Therapy training at Soul of Yoga in San Diego, CA, and we are currently studying the sacrum in our Holistic Anatomy and Physiology class. Essentially the sacrum is the capstone of the human spine. It allows us to rotate around the axis of the pelvis, but it also allows us to hold ourselves upright. It is a fascinating bone, actually, that even has a locking mechanism that prevents over extension of the spine. That said, it is one of the areas of the body most sensitive to injury. Couple this with the fact that most people are taught to bend with straight legs in P.E. class, and you have a recipe for disaster. If you’re dealing with low back dis-ease then you can add these tools to your toolkit and begin to heal your lumbar spine.

Get Into a Routine

Make strengthening and stabilization a priority. Create a mini routine for yourself so that you can care for this sacred portion of your body. Consider for a moment where the sacrum is in the chain of continuum that is our human spine. It is the only thing that attaches to the tail bone, the site of our root chakra. It is the bridge between the iliac crest, the heart shaped hips that hold life in the whom. It is the only point of attachment for the torso and the legs. It is a sacred privilege that allows us to walk upright. By taking five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night to protect our lumbar spine we will support vitality and health throughout the system.

Pick poses that counter one another, build strength, and release pressure. Here you want to ask yourself a series of questions. First, ask yourself if you have tightness on the right or the left. Typically sacral sensitivity will present with tightness on one side of the body, thus pulling the sacrum to that side, compressing the sciatic nerve. The opposing site might be weak, inflamed, or having referred pain from the corner of the sacral bone pressing into the lumbar vertebra.

To combat the tightness in the hips that is contributing to the pull on the sacrum bend the knees A LOT when you are in forward bends. The more you can paste your torso on your thighs the better. Try this, stand with the legs hip width apart. Bend the knees like you’re sitting into chair pose and lay your torso on top of your thighs. Inhale length and fold forward. Sway slightly from side to side and notice if you feel any pulling on the lumbar spine. If you do, bend that knee more and draw that hip back to the back of the room. Reach the arms further out and find a downward facing dog configuration with your arms, reaching away from the affected hip. This creates length in the side waist, the lateral side body, and it helps to release tension from the sacral joint while stretching the gluteal muscles. (video coming)

Options for Practice

Here is a short sequence I would recommend for early morning and evening practice. You can easily do this routine in five minutes.

Take several rounds of cat and cow poses working to extend the spine on the inhale and working to flex the spine on your exhales. Press back to child’s pose for three breaths, check in with your Sankalpa, your intention for practice; this might be awareness of the lumbar spine if you are looking to deepen your inquiry and relationship with your low back.

Bring the hands next to the knees and tuck your toes, roll to a forward fold at the back of your mat. Bend your knees a lot as you stand to rise. Bring your hands through heart center. Inhale arms high, exhale bend the knees first, then fold in. Inhale length and exhale fold. Inhale stand tall, arms reach, palms press. Exhale hands to the center of the heart. Inhale arms high, exhale bend the knees first, then fold in. Inhale length and exhale fold. Inhale stand tall, arms reach, palms press. Exhale hands to the center of the heart.Inhale arms high, exhale bend the knees, first then fold in. Inhale length and exhale fold. Inhale stand tall, arms reach, palms press. Exhale hands to the center of the heart. (Take more if you would like to spend more time in moving meditation).

From mountain pose step out to Warrior I with the right leg forward. Cactus the arms and lift the bottom corner of the shoulder blade into the base of the heart. Exhale half way. Inhale draw the right hip back and get long. On your exhale fold in. Hands will plant on either side of the right foot. If you feel sensation in the back hip you can walk the hands to the inside of the foot and towards the opposite corner of the mat–making space in the lateral side fo the body. Stay for three breaths focusing on sending the breath directionally to the side waist to draw length, and the back hip to draw back.

Come up on an inhale leading with the back of the heart. Pulse like that for three rounds. Each round straightening a little more in the front leg on the forward fold. Notice if your tempted to straighten right away, keep the knee bent until your hands touch the floor and then work towards straight — careful not to pull the hamstring attachment. Repeat on the Left side three times.

From mountain pose step out to Warrior I with the left leg forward. Cactus the arms and lift the bottom corner of the shoulder blade into the base of the heart. Exhale half way. Inhale draw the left hip back and get long. On your exhale fold in. Hands will plant on either side of the left foot. If you feel sensation in the back hip you can walk the hands to the inside of the foot and towards the opposite corner of the mat–making space in the lateral side fo the body. Stay for three breaths focusing on sending the body directionally to the side waist to draw length, and the back hip to draw back.

Come up on an inhale leading with the back of the heart. Pulse like that for three rounds. Each round straightening a little more in the front leg on the forward fold. Notice if your tempted to straighten right away, keep the knee bent until your hands touch the floor and then work towards straight — careful not to pull the hamstring attachment.

From here, sit down into a chair and take figure four, crossing the right foot over the left thigh. Sit up tall and fold forward noticing if you feel congestion or tightness in the right hip. If you do, walk the hands to the right and take your torso along for the ride. Repeat on the left side, sit down into a chair and take figure four, crossing the left foot over the right thigh. Sit up tall and fold forward noticing if you feel congestion or tightness in the right hip. If you do, walk the hands to the right and take your torso along for the ride.

The last pose is an isometric leg extension. Lay on the floor with the left leg straight and the right leg straight in the air. Interlace the fingers behind the hamstring and pull the leg towards the face while you kick the foot to the earth. breath working to move the leg away with your leg muscles and glutes and trying to pull the leg to the face with your arms. Lengthen the tail to the heals.

Release and take the second side: Lay on the floor with the right leg straight and the left leg straight in the air. Interlace the fingers behind the hamstring and pull the leg towards the face while you kick the foot to the earth. breath working to move the leg away with your leg muscles and glutes and trying to pull the leg to the face with your arms. Lengthen the tail to the heals.

Strengthening Verses Therapy

To maintain health you will have to strengthen the core, release the lateral gluteal muscles, and strengthen the inner thighs. When the sacrum is compromised or there is an SI imbalance you will need to work with one off exercise to release inflammation and reorient the sacrum to a more healthy balance. That is where Yoga Therapy comes into play. If you’re in recovery from an SI imbalance you can work strengthening to maintain stability.

Once you are feeling less pain or sciatic sensation you can begin to work on strengthening and stabilizing. Abdominal work needs to bee done daily to rebuild internal core muscles, and in my opinion so should back bends daily. Here is a great go to for core strength and heart opening.

Begin in puppy pose; knees on the earth, hips high, and arms outstretched. Melt your heart to the earth and bring the forehead to the earth or the chin. Breathe here for several breaths. Move from puppy to cat and cow rotation. Move with your breath, and concentrate on the breath. Move into bird/dog crunches: 10 reps each side. From here, move into beast pose: From all fours, draw the navel up and in and lift the knees to hoover one inch above the mat. Hold for five breaths and repeat five times.

Move to your back and lift the legs to the sky. Interlace the fingers behind the neck and lift the shoulders. Inhale, and exhale lower the right leg. Inhale lift the leg, exhale lower the left leg. Inhale lift the leg, and exhale lower the left leg. Inhale lift, repeat 12 each side.

Grab a block if you have one and place it in between the legs. Lay down with your back flat on the floor, knees bent, block in between legs (or not). Press into the feet and lift the hips. As you inhale lift the hands and bring the arms all the way up and over so that the backs of the hands are on the earth. As you exhale, leave the arms over head and lower the hips to the ground. Inhale, lift the hips, and on your exhale lift the arms as you lower the hips. Repeat three to four times taking one full bridge pose with the arms up overhead, heart open, and then bringing the arms back to the sides on your exhale as you lower the hips.

When you’re finished with your bridge repetitions you can finish with core strengthening. Lift the legs to the sky and interlace the hands behind the head. On an exhale lower the right leg to hover above the earth. On an inhale, lift the leg in line with the left foot. On your next exhale lower the left leg to hover, and on your inhale lift the left leg to the sky. Take five repetitions to start and slowly over several practices work up to ten, and then fifteen.

Rebuilding strength and stability in the lumbar spine can be done with care and consistency. If you find that your efforts are making matters worse you can consult with a Yoga Therapist or Chiropractor to determine next steps. Always listen to your body, and stay with your breath.

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