Manage Lower Back Pain - Yoga With Abi

Jul 5, 2018
by Abi Carver  
Yoga For Lower Back Pain

The aim with the type of yoga I teach is to relieve various aches and pains by working out which muscles are tight, which are weak and where joint mobility is restricted. Obviously this is an over-simplification of everything that is going on when you experience pain, but when you add in some of the other benefits of a consistent yoga practice — increasing body awareness, improving breathing patterns, enhancing neuromuscular coordination, practicing barefoot, relaxing the body and calming the mind — it turns out to be a good formula for pain relief.

Muscular imbalances associated with lower back pain

The most common type of lower back pain experienced by mountain bikers is caused by holding an ‘unnatural’ posture for long periods of time, excessive repetition of a specific set of movement patterns and a lack of movement diversity (‘use it or lose it’).

This is how it typically shows up in the body:

- Lower back: over-stretched and weak—needs to be strengthened (not stretched). 
- Core (abs, obliques and lower back): weak—needs to be strengthened.
- Hip flexors: short and tight—need to be stretched. 
- Hamstrings and groin: tight—need to be stretched. 
- Glutes: weak and tight—need to be stretched and strengthened. 
- Mid back (thoracic spine): stiff—need to increase mobility. 

The 1-hour routine

Due to popular demand and breaking tradition with my 15-minute series, I have just finished editing a 1-hour yoga routine that addresses each of these areas in turn. Since we are not optimising for time, the pace is slower than in many of my other videos — increasing the length of time spent in each stretch and allowing for deeper relaxation of the body and mind.

If you are experiencing significant pain at your lower back, please check with your doctor or physical therapist that it is safe for you to practice these poses.

How the routine breaks down:

Seated Sidebends increase lateral spinal mobility.

Seated Sidebend



Cat-Cow increases spinal mobility in flexion and extension.

Cat-Cow



Thread-The-Needle increases rotational spinal mobility.

Thread The Needle



Puppy increases spinal flexibility in extension.

Puppy



Downward Dog stretches the calves and hamstrings.

Downward Dog



Side Lunge stretches the hamstrings and groin.

Side Lunge



Low Lunge and Lizard stretch the hip flexors.

Low Lunge

Lizard



Plank strengthens the core.

Plank



Baby Cobra and Locust strengthen the lower back.

Baby Cobra

Locust



Side Plank strengthens the obliques and glutes.

Side Plank



Boat strengthens the abs, lower back, obliques and hip flexors.

Boat



Bridge strengthens the lower back and glutes, and stretches the hip flexors.

Bridge



Wind-Relieving pose stretches the hip flexors and adjusts the pelvis.

Wind-Relieving Pose



Dead Pigeon stretches the glutes and external hip rotators.

Abi Carver



Half-Reclining Hero stretches the quads and hip flexors and re-aligns the pelvis.

Half-Reclining Hero



Reclining Hand-To-Big-Toe stretches the calves and hamstrings.

Reclining Hand To Toe



Happy Baby stretches the hamstrings, glutes and groin.

Happy Baby



Reclining Spinal Twist releases tension at the lower back and increases spinal mobility.

Reclining Spinal Twist



Final Resting Pose activates the parasympathetic “relaxation and healing” nervous system.

Final Resting Pose



Access to the video

I'm going to make the full video available to everybody on my site for a week, so give it a whirl and let me know how it goes. Here is the link: 1-Hour Yoga For Lower Back Pain


52 Comments

  • + 18
 Thank you so much for this Abi. Clarifying where strength needs to be built or flexibility built up is so useful. I had to have traction on my back 3 times a week for 3 months after losing a fight with a van. Had a recent physio appointment 15 years on for sciatica but this is way more helpful. Thanks again.
  • + 4
 It's my pleasure. I find that a breakdown like this helps with understanding not just the stretches and strengthening poses you need but also in how you can adapt your daily lifestyle and postural habits. I'm sorry to hear about your accident. I hope this routine helps.
  • - 1
 /R/ For Abi's bike check.
  • - 23
flag fecalmaster (Jul 5, 2018 at 11:40) (Below Threshold)
 Thank you for the advice and the massive boner I have right now.
  • + 4
 @fecalmaster: how old are you? 14?
  • - 9
flag fecalmaster (Jul 5, 2018 at 13:03) (Below Threshold)
 @Beez177: yes
  • + 3
 Thanks again Abi. It's really frustrating to go on a ride and not fully enjoy it when you start having lower back pains or cant ride and control the bike the way you used to. I sit(or stand up for an hour or two) and stare at the computer most of my day. Could you suggest some sitting on chair poses that has more benefits for us mtbikers? I've followed the ones I can easily get from google but would be nice if it comes from you who understand us better. Cheers Smile
  • + 1
 I just went on a 10-day silent retreat where you’re meditating cross-legged for 10+ hours a day. Initially, I had serious pain between my shoulder blades. I found that sitting with great posture—gently drawing my shoulder blades together) and contracting my abs to support my lumbar spine (Kelly Starett calls it shrink-wrapping the spine) worked a treat. Also remember to move often, stretch your pecs and breathe deep into your abdomen. I hope that helps!
  • + 2
 @yoga15app: sweet! Thanks Abi!
  • + 7
 Wind-relieving pose... lol
  • + 3
 Actually, the evidence based science shows that almost all back injuries are the result of muscular fatigue and aggravating movements,usually flexion or flexion combined with twisting, that may be resolved through increasing muscular endurance (not strength, endurance) and not stretching.

Research shows that stretching or trying to increase the range of motion of core muscles works against the need to develop muscle group stiffness and support for back protection and high powered athletic movement. Higher range of motion has been associated with increased chance of injury.

Specifically, the locust and baby cobra exercise recommended here are also known to further impact already injured discs by further compression. The plank exercises are the only exercises in the routine that are known to provide benefit and not cause or aggravate further pain or injury.

Your hour could be better spent reading the research and exercise programs from Dr. Stuar McGill who has run the University of Waterloo's Spine Biomechanics Laboratory for over 30 years researching the causes and solutions to back injuries and pain.

Let me get you started:

uwaterloo.ca/kinesiology/people-profiles/stuart-mcgill

www.ahs.uwaterloo.ca/~mcgill/fitnessleadersguide.pdf
  • + 12
 Starting a comment with "Actually" says it all............

I think i will follow Abi, looks like it works for her!
  • + 10
 @spl75: Physiotherapist (amongst other medical therapist titles) at private clinic here.
Does Abby even ride bro? Actually, ebrown123 is right, however, the article should be titled "releaving lower back pain after a ride". And the bridge pose with the block suporting your sacrum (not laying next to you) is one of the best poses for that. Strengthening your glutes and back muscles is the key to preventing back pain. Most lower back pain is actually "refered pain" starting at the glutes which does most of the work keepin you upright. Because your glutes have to work so hard they dont have time to hurt so they send the pain elsewhere. Not always, but most of the time the problem is in the glutes not the back.
  • + 2
 *referred.
  • + 0
 I'm no expert but I once read an article saying postures such as locuste and baby cobra relief the spinal disk, as they compress when you bend your spine forward. Of course maybe you have to know where to stop between relief and stretch.
  • + 4
 @Boardlife69: To support what you are saying, Once I started working on the glute muscles, the back and shooting leg pain went away.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-CrEi0ymMg
  • + 1
 @Will-narayan: it depends. Every "body" is different so there can be no blanket statements or univerasal truths. If it feels good then good it is. If it hurts, as in sharp pain, then its bad. But then we have good pain which is good. Listen to what your body tells you is the best advice.
  • + 46
 Thank you for contributing your expertise @ebrown123. I agree with some of your points, however...this type of yoga generally increases muscular endurance not strength, so this is merely a linguistic point; this goes also for the term stretching—there is a difference between increasing tissue length and yoga but it is a nuanced distinction that didn't seem relevant to this discussion; this routine does not recommend increasing range of motion to anything beyond normal and natural range; there is very little compression at the lower back in Baby Cobra, though you're right that lifting in the legs in Locust pose may cause compression at the lower back for some riders; Dr Stuart McGill's work is fantastic but it is not unanimously undisputed—I know he is keen on Planks and Side Planks but we all have our blindspots. It is possible that they are not the "only exercises" known to provide benefit in relieving back pain. The scientific research supporting yoga as an effective solution for lower back pain is actually incredibly strong. A 2017 study showed that: "Yoga is as effective as physical therapy for treating lower back pain and may be a reasonable alternative, a randomised controlled trial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine has found." Lower back pain—the causes and cures—is a controversial topic. Instead of shying away from it, I offer one possible solution that is working for thousands of riders. I encourage everyone to do their own due diligence so thank you again for your input.
  • + 14
 @yoga15app:
Probably the classiest answer I've ever seen on Pinkbike.
Salute
  • - 1
 The reclining spinal twist seems like a good place to start.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: thanks so much! I do some of these and they all help quite a bit. I find that the baby cobra really, really helps my back AND other parts.

It is always nice to be reminded to keep up the stretches and strengthening work though! I’ve learned some new ones today also.
  • + 1
 @bogey: awesome. It’s always good to add variety.
  • + 2
 I also heard the opinion that stretching is not good for the back. But there is a difference between overstretching and restoring the normal range of of movement for muscles that are too tight. I have serious issues with my back and Abi's exercises have the same effect on me as a painkiller pill.
  • + 2
 Nice one! Thank you @Slabrung.
  • + 2
 Thanks Abi, hope this Pinkbike platform has done well for you. I try to do 2-3 of your videos a week, they are paced well and good for me as a beginner. Getting to a point where if I feel like crap it's because I missed yoga time.
  • + 2
 I know what you mean. When I am travelling and have to miss a few sessions, I feel tight and grumpy!
  • + 2
 Great tips, thanks Abi. Nice to see a respectful debate on the subject. Another thing i’ve found to help with lower back pain is sleeping with a pillow between the knees if you’re a side sleeper or under your knees if you sleep on your back. Keeps the spinal stack nice and straight.
  • + 1
 Thank PB and Abi - been a long term sufferer of lower back pain which has hindered the last three years of my active life. Pretty miserable!

Has been a long road to recovery but getting there, and I can vouch for many of these movements/stretches helping me. Going to a good physio and osteo is also important, so I would say that if the pain is severe, seek professional advice first then work in these techniques from Abi.
  • + 1
 Thank you Stuart for the endorsement as well as the warning. It's great to hear that you are well on the way to recovery. There are many many types and causes of lower back pain and taking the appropriate caution is imperative.
  • + 1
 Fantastic Abi. A weekly routine with a few of these poses, in combination with some lifting and 3-4x per week riding has kept my back happy for 10+ years since a bit of trauma in a rally car accident. Looking forward to trying the 1 hour class with all these poses in sequence. Very grateful for this series -- it's the most useful stuff on Pinkbike!
  • + 1
 Hopefully it will give you some new poses to add to your routine. I'd love to hear more of your story—sounds like it could really inspire other riders. I've started to post some on my site: yogaformountainbikers.com/mtb-stories You can email me at abi@yoga15.com.
  • + 5
 Thursday treats.
  • + 1
 Thanks so much, Abi. I'll be trying your 1 hour vid this weekend. And such amazing props to the commentards here. Not one lewd innuendo. I think this must be a first.
  • + 1
 Give it time! Enjoy that long rest at the end of the sequence. I'm sure you deserve it.
  • + 2
 Great stuff Abi, I've been doing your 15 minute routines each morning but I think it's time to give a 1 hour session a go.
  • + 1
 Enjoy the long rest at the end!
  • + 3
 You couldn't have posted this at a better time. Thank you!
  • + 0
 No problem! Let me know if you have any questions.
  • + 2
 your backs worth looking after...quality stuff
  • + 1
 Thanks. Wise words!
  • + 2
 How much warm up do you need to do before doing this routine?
  • + 1
 Because I’m not optimising for time, this routine includes a warm up.
  • + 2
 Thanks for the hour long session!
  • + 1
 My pleasure. Let me know how you get on. If you push the core section, the longer rest should feel really good.
  • + 2
 My lower back pain always begins when i start ride hardtail...
  • + 1
 Sorry
Because of its privacy settings, this video cannot be played here?

Is this just me?
  • + 1
 Works for me in the UK.
  • + 3
 God damm side planks.
  • + 0
 I got to "happy baby" and funnily enough I didn't have any back pain. [Lights cigar like boss]
Lol
  • + 1
 I was just getting ready to try the video: "Error: Page not found" Help?
  • + 1
 It should be working now.

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