Yoga and Chiropractic Adjustments

“Yoga is the fountain of youth. You’re only as young as your spine is flexible.” ~Bob Harper

I have been to a few different chiropractors over the years. The first one I ever went to was a strong proponent of yoga. At one point she told me that if all of her patients practiced yoga she would loose 80% of her business. Eighty percent!!! That’s huge! I was shocked by her statement, yet at the same time, not surprised.

Why do people go to chiropractors? Injury, pain, preventative medicine, to feel better. Yoga, if practiced properly, may help with the first two, yet primarily it works with the latter two.

I have long believed myself that yoga is a form of self-chiropractic care. There’s probably more than a few chiropractors out there that would have a thing or two to say about that and whether it’s safe etc. My thought is that no one knows my body better than I do. No one else lives inside my skin, knows what I know or feels what I feel. Generally I believe that if something feels right, it has got to be right… how could it be wrong?

If I practice yoga in a way that feels good in my body, 100% of the time, I will do no harm. If I do something and all of the sudden it doesn’t feel right, I get out of it immediately. I don’t push into pain or do anything that feels like it compromises the integrity of the joints.

I get spinal adjustments all the time in my yoga practice, most of the time they are small, sometimes they are bigger. Generally it’s a pop or a crack, every now and again it is a full-on adjustment where the whole pelvis shifts its orientation. I believe that this is fine and healthy, why? Because it feels good. Because I enjoy it; I look forward to when it does happen and feel better after. It gives me a sense of relief. This usually happens in twists and most often in supine twists (those performed laying down on the back).

For some students this experience of cracking, popping or spinal adjustments in certain postures can be surprising and of concern because it is the unknown and one can feel uncertain in the unknown. Go by how it feels. If it gives you a sense of relief, if it feels good, if it feels right, go with that, trust your instinct, your intuition.

I don’t discount the benefit of chiropractors. I think that they are great. I love going to see them. They serve a purpose. I also cherish the ability to be empowered in my self-care routine and not so dependent on others to help me feel well. If you have the means to see a chiropractor and you feel the desire, or the need, by all means do so. Especially if you have been injured, have pain or been inactive for many years.

I just think that it is important for people to realize how much power they have at their disposal to indeed take care of themselves and to feel well. Once you learn some basic yoga you have it for life. It is yours, you can do it just about anywhere and often without any special equipment.

Our bodies are made to move. They start to get cranky, creaky and eventually stiff without movement. One of the reasons yoga is so beneficial is because it works with increasing the range of motion of the body as a whole. Yoga helps us to keep the spine and the whole body working properly thereby increasing our ability to enjoy the experience of living in our own skin.

Grounded Through The Feet

Our feet are extremely valuable, priceless even and yet often they go on with their daily tasks unnoticed, neglected and forgotten. For many of us they work hard all day long, carrying us to and fro without much thought, care or compensation. They are our foundation, our transportation; one of the primary ways we connect to the earth energetically; and one of the best tools we have for getting centered and grounded after spending too much time in the realm of thought.

This is one of the very first things we notice in yoga practice… it is done with bare feet. For many of us in the Northern hemisphere the feet go for many, many months in the warmth and safety of socks and shoes unless we are in the shower or in the comfort of our own bed. Most activity is done with some form of footwear. Yet in yoga the shoes come off, the socks come off and one of the first things that happen is our feet connect with the floor and with the mat.

The feet are very sensitive instruments in part because we do spend so much time protecting them. Most people do not go walking around barefoot outside in order to toughen up the soles. So we take our socks and shoes off and feel the temperature of the air, the texture of the floor and the mat and it begins to wake up our senses because of their sensitivity and because of the change in status quo (status quo being socks and shoes). It immediately, if even for a moment, takes us out of our head, out of thought and into sensation, into the present moment experience.

Much like the experience of going on vacation at the beach after a long winter… you put on your flip flops, feel the warm air and the fabric between your toes and it wakes them up after their long hibernation. You head down to the beach and take a walk, now barefoot in the sand… temperature, texture, sensation… it all wakes you up, takes you out of your routine. It brings a sense of aliveness to the feet to be able to walk on the fluid, flexible, changing surface… the heels dig in, the toes spread; it’s not hard, flat or uniform. It’s a shifting, changing environment and the feet love it!

The Plum Line

One of the earliest lessons in the practice of yoga standing postures, is how to build to pose from the ground up, from the foundation. All of the standing poses begin with the feet. There two ways I think about grounding through the feet as I go through my practice. The first is the plum line. If you were to put a weight on the end of a string and hold it at the other end, the weight would drop, straight down toward the ground… this is the plum line. In the body, the plum line runs down through the legs and feet and you can feel it rooting down just in front of the heels; where the arch and the heel meet. I often find it helpful to imagine the energy of the lower body rooting down through the legs and through this point just in front of the heels. This is one of the easiest and first ways I get grounded.

The Four Corners Of The Feet

The second way is more specific. The ball of the foot is the mound, just below the toes. The four corners of the feet are: 1).the inner ball of the foot, just below the big toe; 2).the inner heel; 3).the outer heel; 4).the outer ball of the foot, just below the pinkie toe. In all of the standing postures you want to get grounded through the four corners of the feet and distribute the weight evenly across the four corners. This gives you a very strong, stable foundation to work from, as most of the standing postures require some degree of balance and coordination.

In order to feel and work with the four corners of the feet, try this… Start sitting; take your shoes and socks off; look at your feet and massage your feet a little; identify the four corners. Then… Stand in Mountain Pose, the basic standing pose; stand with the feet sit bone distance apart (the sit bones are the center of the hips); feet are parallel (there is an imaginary line between the second toe and the center of the heels, these two imaginary lines are parallel to one another, you will feel a little pigeon toed); lift your toes and spread your toes, feel the arches lift; 1).press down through the inner ball of the foot, just below the big toe; 2).lengthen back through the inner edge of the foot and press down through the inner heel; 3).press down through the outer heel; 4).press down through the outer ball of the foot as you spread your pinkie toes (you can help to spread your toes by spreading the fingers : ) At some point, lower the toes; gently press the pads of the toes, just below the nails, down into the floor as you keep the toes spread. The arches will still be lifting. This is the action of the feet in all the standing poses. Notice the quality of your attention as well as how grounded, centered and present you feel just from working with the feet in this way.

If you have flat feet/arches keep the toes lifted and spread in all of your standing postures. This will lift the arches; it will start to strengthen the feet and rebuild the arches. It may take years yet I have seen and experienced how yoga can change the structure of the bones over time. Work actively with the four corners of the feet, this will re-educate the feet as to the correct alignment.

When you are in other yoga positions where your feet are not firmly planted on the floor you can still work with the four corners of the feet. For example in postures where you are laying down on your back, you can still engage the four corners even if your feet are up in the air by pressing out through the four corners equally and spreading the toes. It feels wonderful.. liberating and energizing!

Caring for the Feet the Rest of the Week

My routine is quite simple and requires very little time. As I mentioned above the feet give us so much and often we give very little back in return. Many of us hardly think of them at all. Its really just a four step process and it has been working well for me for a long time: 1).Once a week in the shower use a pumice stone and scrub them to get all the dead skin off and keep any calluses at bay; 2).Keep the nails trimmed; 3).On the pumice scrub day and just before bed give them a good rub down with a high quality oil or lotion; 4).And this is one is the most important of all… comfortable, supportive shoes. Quality shoes are a must. Not too tight, not too lose, plenty of room for the toes, arch support etc.

I understand why many women wear high heels and yet, I am not a fan. They mess up your posture and natural alignment. Over time, if worn daily, they can cause tightness and a shortening in the muscles of the back of the legs so that it becomes uncomfortable to not wear them. Not to mention the possibility of bunions! If you must wear dress shoes for work try to find some that give you a nice enough look that are also supportive (Dansko might be a good option). Go for quality over quantity.

Legs Up the Wall

If you stand and work on your feet all day long it is very helpful to do Legs Up the Wall on a regular basis. This is a restorative posture that works wonders. Sit on the floor with your outer left hip touching the wall; lean back onto your right forearm/elbow and then your left; lay down on your back with your feet up the wall; if the legs are tight scoot back until it feels like you are the right distance away from the wall; if you are more flexible take your hands to the floor over your shoulders (elbows are bent and point up toward the ceiling) and wiggle your way down until your hips are right up next to the wall (you will be in an “L” shape).

You can receive a little more of the benefits of being inverted if you lift the hips… while you are in the pose bend the legs and place the feet flat on the wall; press the feet into the wall and lift the hips; slide a firm pillow, a bolster or a folded blanket under the hips/back of the waist; then drop the weight of the hips down onto the prop and extend the legs back up the wall. Rest there from five to thirty minutes.

If you really get into it and have some yoga props another nice version is to 1). use a yoga belt/strap and tie up your legs on the thighs, just above the knees (then you don’t have to use any muscular energy to hold the legs up) and 2).take a 10 lb. sand bag and place it across the top of the feet. This feels fantastic! It is very restorative and grounding.

Legs Up the Wall works wonders for tired, achey legs and feet. Great for reversing the blood flow and bringing a fresh supply of blood and oxygen to the brain. It works better than a nap as you will feel more energize and restored (many people feel more tired and groggy after a nap and these can also mess up your sleep cycles). It is good for swollen ankles, water retention in the ankles; when traveling; it is good for the immune system and the endocrine system i.e. it is good when you feel grumpy, sad, a little run down or under the weather.

Change

If you are feeling unstable and going through a period of intense or rapid change, look at your feet often. Use your feet to help you stay grounded during a period of transition. If you are changing a relationship, a job, a home or if you have recently lost someone close to you, look at your feet as often as you think of it. Take a picture of your feet (preferably in a happy place, like in the grass on a sunny day or at the beach) and put it up where you will see it. The simple act of remembering your feet and looking at your feet can help you feel more grounded and connected. Walk on the earth. Get off of the concrete and take a walk on the Earth or just stand in the grass.

For many people there is a disconnect between the head and the heart; so much time spent thinking and processing information can leave one feeling disconnected. We are meant to be embodied, we have bodies for a reason, we can live life more satisfactorily if we experience life from this place; it is a fuller experience. Yoga awakens the intelligence of the body, as it awakens, we live life from a more present, embodied place. Our feet are our tap root to the energy source of the Earth, we can connect to the Earth from our feet and receive energy from the Earth up through our feet. You may choose to think of it a different way. You may not think of it at all other than practicing the postures and realizing that in doing so you feel better. Being grounded is being embodied, connected; whether you focus on connecting to the Earth or not it doesn’t matter; we can do it right where we are, right on our mats with our intention and our feet.

Use Yoga Exercises To Relieve Neck Pains

The neck… inspiration for countless paintings, poems and great works of art the world over; a delicate, yet intricate connection between our heart and our head…. our mind and our body. Yet for many of us there is a disconnect… we spend our lives living in our heads and are not fully embodied as we go about our lives. Yoga can help us with this. Neck pains often arise from…

The neck… inspiration for countless paintings, poems and great works of art the world over; a delicate, yet intricate connection between our heart and our head…. our mind and our body. Yet for many of us there is a disconnect… we spend our lives living in our heads and are not fully embodied as we go about our lives. Yoga can help us with this. Neck pains often arise from poor posture, spending too much time in one position, doing work that requires long periods of misalignment or repetitive stress, poor breathing habits and/or holding the world up on our shoulders (stress). There are many, simple exercises that can be done anywhere to alleviate the discomfort and stiffness of tense, tight muscles. Five to ten minutes is all that is needed for some relief. If performed regularly, along with other lifestyle considerations, it will go a long way in preventing neck pains from developing in the first place.

Find a comfortable place to sit. You can sit on the floor as long as you can be comfortable with the spine erect and the shoulders gently back (lift the hips up as necessary on a cushion or folded blankets). Sitting on the edge of a chair, with the feet flat on the floor, also works great. Perform this sequence with a natural, smooth breath, in and out of the nose. Allow yourself to be present… focus on the breath… be aware of the sensations in the neck as you go through the movements. Stay mindful of your body and your posture.

With the first four exercises… do a minimum of twenty repetitions. Ideally do as many repetitions as your age (you can round up or down so that it is an even number). If you really have a lot of tension, and you have the time, you can work up to 100 repetitions. If you are short on time just do numbers one through four. You can skip five and six or just do less repetitions.

1). Look Right/Left: Turn your head to the right, then to the left. Alternate back and forth at a rate that is comfortable to you. Fast or slow, or anything in between. Focus on simply and easily, loosing up the neck and releasing tension, not deep stretching. Looking to each side is one repetition.

2). Look Up/Down: Drop the chin down towards your chest (keep the spine tall and chest lifted, just drop the head), then look up (keep the back of the neck long as you look up). Move back and forth. Keep it light, flowing and easy. Focus on simply releasing tension, not deep stretching. There is a natural tendency to exhale when you look down and inhale when you look up. Feel free to utilize this or simply “go with the flow.” Looking down, then up is one repetition.

3). Side Stretch: Take your right ear towards your right shoulder (stretching the left side of your neck), then move your left ear towards your left shoulder. Again, keep it light, flowing and easy. Focus on simply releasing tension, not deep stretching.

4). Axis Circles: Now, imagine you have a piece of paper in front of your face and paint on the tip of your nose. Draw a perfect circle with the tip of your nose, big or small, use your intuition and do what feels right. Go at the pace that feels right. This exercise helps to loosen up the axis where the head connects to the top of the spine. Do a certain number of circles in one direction, then stop and change directions. Do the same number of circles in each direction.

5). Now, repeat the six positions of the head in numbers one through three yet just take one deep breath (or more) in each position. This time focus on getting a good stretch. Be present… notice the sensations and where you feel it. 1. look over the right shoulder 2. look over the left shoulder 3. look down 4. look up 5. drop the right ear towards the right shoulder 6. drop the left ear towards the left shoulder.

6). Horse Shoe: Drop the chin towards the chest. At your own pace, slowly roll your head towards the right shoulder, up and over the shoulder and a little behind the shoulder, then stop and start going back the other way. Let the head be heavy like a bowling ball. Let it roll around back down to center, over to the left shoulder, up and over the shoulder and a little behind the shoulder, then stop and start going back towards the chest again. Not making a complete circle, just a horse shoe shape; never going up and over the spinal column. Do this a few times. If you find any places that are particularly tense or tight you can spend a little extra time there going back and forth over the spot. Finish with the chin dropped down towards the chest and inhale to come up.

Another very helpful yoga position for strengthening and realigning the neck is cobra pose… do this pose often. Cobra pose is an evolutionary pose. It is one of the first postures we do as babies as our mothers lay us on our bellies we lift our heads to see the world. This strengthens and develops the cervical curve of the neck. Watch the video here. Note: in the posture make sure that you can press all ten toes down into the floor, including the pinkie toes. You want to avoid bringing your heels in toward on another (that has a tendency to give a crunching feeling in the low back). Also… focus on lengthening the side body and bringing the shoulders back (not so much down, that can also cause more strain in the neck, shoulders and upper back if it is over emphasized). Variation: bring the hands forward and as wide apart as the mat, be up on fingertips. If your back is on the stiff side, hands farther forward, if you are more flexible the hands can be closer in by the torso.

Also, bring awareness to your posture as you go about your day as much as you think of it. If you sit in a chair all day or spend much time commuting put yourself in a good alignment as much as you are able to. Press your inner thighs down into the chair, draw the top of the sacrum in and scoop the bottom on the sacrum down so you maintain a slight lumber curve at the low back (the sacrum is a small triangular shaped bone at the base of the spine), lift the sternum, lengthen the side body, draw the shoulders slightly back, and as much as possible put the head in a good alignment as well… ears over the shoulders, chin level with the floor so you have a nice cervical curve in the neck (or if you know you have a flat neck look up slightly as much a possible throughout the day). And stay mindful of your shoulders… often, if we don’t pay attention, we will find our shoulders creeping up to our ears. If you are on the computer or reading, take a break every page or every five minutes and look up for a moment while you take a deep breath.

Some other considerations: stay hydrated (drink clean, pure water when your feel the slightest bit of thirst and stop when you feel you have had enough); proper breathing (a full belly breath does a lot to alleviate tension, shallow breathing strains the small muscles of the neck); sleep with a good pillow (higher if you sleep on your side and lower if you primarily sleep on your back or stomach). Personally, I have found that after years of yoga and experimentation I do best with a firm bed and no pillow at all. Chiropractors and massage therapists are invaluable if they fit into your budget. And of course, reducing the amount of stress in your life is an obvious yet often more complicated way of reducing tension held in the body. This can take some more time to work out. However, it also may just require a change of perspective. For example, the habit of worrying about time. When possible, realize that this is not the truth, it is just a thought and thoughts can change. Tell yourself “there is enough time.” Notice how that thought makes you feel, do you believe it? Take a deep breath and intentionally slow down, be present and focus on what you are doing in this moment.

What makes anything a yogic practice is the intention to be present, to unify mind, body and spirit and connect with the whole. Bring more awareness to your life, not only as your go through the exercises yet also as you go through your life. You will find that with awareness and the intention to live in greater harmony with nature (which includes the natural mechanics and alignment of your spine) your neck pains will start to subside and, depending on the cause, possibly even disappear completely. Enjoy the movement as well as the process of release and realignment. And lastly, although this might very well be the most important… as much as possible come down from the head… practice feeling the space of your heart, cultivate a light heart and a feeling of gratitude. Living life in this way may just inspire a great work of art.

The 7 Chakras Defined and Balancing Chakras Meditation

The journey of the spirit is a very personal one. Yet, at the same time, the soul travels a path of evolution that is universal. We can benefit from the experience and understanding gained by those who have walked the path before us. For those who are interested in personal growth, evolution, spiritual awakening or enlightenment it is extremely helpful to have a basic understanding of the chakras…

The journey of the spirit is a very personal one. Yet, at the same time, the soul travels a path of evolution that is universal. We can benefit from the experience and understanding gained by those who have walked the path before us. For those who are interested in personal growth, evolution, spiritual awakening or enlightenment it is extremely helpful to have a basic understanding of the chakras. They represent stages in our development, different levels of consciousness and spiritual maturity. Through our understanding of the chakras we are able to restore balance and accelerate personal growth. Balancing chakras is often just a matter of focus and intent. If you wish to absorb this material from a more centered place, do the the chakras meditation at the end of this article first.

These energy centers are seen throughout history from slightly different perspectives depending on the culture from which it sprang: Indian chakras, Christian sacraments and the Kabbalah’s Tree of Life. These experiences and understandings are universal in their origin and application.

The seven chakras or seals are powerful energy centers within the body which represent different levels of consciousness. Chakra means “wheel”; a vortex of vibration, light and energy. A chakra point is where two lines of energy cross. They are located in the astral (light/energy) body. Some people think of them as little computers; each center processes different information. There are seven major chakras and many minor ones. Each major chakra relates to a different gland. The first three levels of sexuality/survivial, pain/suffering and power respectively represent the dynamics at play in social consciousness and in the human drama. When the upper centers are activated a higher level of awareness is experienced.

The kundalini is the energy at the base of the spine. It is often referred to as the sleeping serpent. The journey of the kundalini awakening and moving to the crown of the head is the journey of enlightenment. As the kundalini energy wakes up it dances up the spine. In yoga philosophy the central channel of energy up the spine is called the sushumna and the energy that moves around it the ida and the pingala. The ida represents the sun and the pingala represent the moon. The ida and pingala separate at the first chakra, dance around the spine and meet up again at the sixth chakra.

One of the benefits of yoga is that a regular asana practice clears out these energy channels so that the kundalini energy can move freely up the spine. It has been known to be a painful experience for some if there is an energy blockage in one of the channels so that, as the kundalini moves upward, the energy is prevented from going forward. There are stories of old about yogis spontaneously jumping into different postures to assist this energy moving through the body.

What you spend your time thinking about and contemplating, what is important to you is where your energy will be dominant. If you are concerned about how you will pay rent or where you will get your next meal you will be situated in the first chakra or base chakra (a chakra could also be called a center, a seal or a level/plane of consciousness. They all pretty much mean the same thing and are used interchangeably in this article and in the chakra color chart below). If you spend much of your time thinking about sex your energy will be concentrated in the first seal. This center is located at the perineum, the base of the spine. It is represented by the element earth and all solid, dense forms of matter.

If you are experiencing a dis-ease and putting most of your attention on it, your energy is in the second seal (sacral chakra). This chakra is located in the lower abdomen. It is related to pain, the emotions (fear, anger, frustration, depression, guilt, hatred, blame, worry, doubt etc…) and the water element. At any moment we can be coming from any one of these levels of consciousness. However, most people in the world, in social consciousness, spend their time in the first three seals.

Notice when you are relating with people where they are coming from and where you are coming from. If you are having lunch with an old friend and all he is talking about is how everything is going wrong for him and nothing is working out, you know he is coming from his third seal, in a state of consciousness known as victimization. It is important that as we become aware of these levels and how they play out; not to judge ourselves or others; just notice, “Oh, I’m in the third seal right now, I’m trying to control this situation.” Know that we all have all of these inside of ourselves and that at some point or another we have all been there. We are not better than anyone else. The third seal (solar plexus chakra) of power and control is where the victim/tyrant dynamic plays out. It is located in the solar plexus area (just below the sternum and above the belly button). It is represented by the element fire and the color yellow.

The fourth seal (heart chakra) is one of unconditional love, deeply felt yet not expressed in words; like that of a mother for her child. This mother would do anything for that child and is willing to make sacrifices yet is not skilled in communication or open enough to verbally articulate that unconditional love. In some traditions its color is green and in others violet blue. It is located in the center of the chest, just to the right of the physical heart. The fourth chakra is represented by the element air and it relates to respiration. It is known as bridge consciousness because it is located in the center, between the upper and the lower chakras; it is the link between the lower states of consciousness and the higher states of consciousness.

The fifth seal (throat chakra) is one of unconditional love expressed. This level relates to sound, our voice, expressing ourselves clearly and stating our intentions out into the world. It is about speaking our truth. Its location is the neck and is related to the element of ether or space. It relates to the process of manifestation: first, we have a thought (in the sixth plane); if we want to bring this inspiration into form, at some point we must, most likely, verbalize this idea so that it can make its way down the seals into the densest form of matter and materialization at the first plane. This stage of evolution is often seen as a grandmother who has unconditional love for her grandchild and is able to freely, easily and openly express that love.

The sixth seal (third eye chakra) is the contact point between the mind of God (Universal Mind; Source; Universal Consciousness; Big Mind; The Infinite) and the individual mind. It is a sending and receiving station; a transmitter and receiver of telepathic communications. This is seen in the individual who is clairvoyant (the ability to perceive beyond the five senses) or has the ability to remote view (dura-darsana; distant viewing). Certain parts of the brain are activated so that one gains access to this information. Therefore every person has these abilities dormant and one just needs training to access them at will. This chakra is located in the center of the head and is related to the element light. The chakras meditation below as well as many other forms of meditation will strengthen and balance this seal.

The seventh seal (crown chakra) is the state of consciousness of enlightenment which is an experience masters throughout the ages have struggled to put words to due to the limited nature of language. It is an experience and words only point to the experience. A person who has never been far out in a forest surrounded by ancient trees and sacred land has no concept of what that really feels like if they have only seen pictures and read words to describe the experience.

Science has shown that we only use a small percentage of our brain. As the kundalini travels up the spine and reaches the seventh level it opens dormant aspects of the brain. Enlightenment is the awakening of the full potential of the human being; some say it has the power of immortality; others say it is a state of mind that is completely unlimited, not bound by time or space. The energy of an enlightened master is situated in the seventh seal, at the crown of the head.

Many yogis and meditators have the power to control their bodily systems; for example slowing the heart rate down through focus and intent. Our minds are very powerful. Balancing chakras is the same. If you feel that your energy is out of balance try this simple chakras meditation. Sit comfortably, with the spine erect and focus on each chakra, one at a time. Start at the base and move your way up. Simply, intend for each chakra to be balanced. As you pause at each chakra, feel that it is. Do this in whatever way makes sense to you (without dissing it in the back of your mind : ) Stop when you feel it is complete. It can take as little as a few minutes or up to 15, do what feels right.

Balancing chakras is also a matter of realizing where our consciousness is; what we focus on, where our thought is throughout the day. If we find through observation that we spend much of our time worrying about survival needs (1st seal), emotionally distraught (2nd seal) or in a power struggle (3rd seal), we can intentionally bring balance to our energy body by choosing to spend some time feeling love (towards a pet, a child or a beautiful sunset (4th seal), expressing our truth and our love (5th seal) or meditating/listening for intuition, guidance and inspiration (6th seal).

Learn where the chakras are located and the state of consciousness they represent. Then pay attention at any given moment to where you are, what you are thinking and where others are. Awareness and understanding is the first step. Do not be harsh or judge yourself or others. Be kind and know that at any moment we can change; we can choose what we put our attention on and what we think. That is the beauty and process of conscious evolution.

If you found this information useful please “Like” it and post your questions and comments below. I’d love to read and respond to all of your thoughts : )

Yogic Awareness and a Simple Exercise for Lower Back Pain

Years ago, I remember doing the dishes by hand, only to end up on the floor. My back always hurt, resulting in the need to lie down, stretch and twist. I thought that this was just the way things were going to be, due to modern living and housework. Yet yogic awareness… present moment attention, understanding of body alignment and a simple exercise for lower back pain has set me right, to this day.

Years ago, I remember doing the dishes by hand, only to end up on the floor. My back always hurt, resulting in the need to lie down, stretch and twist. I thought that this was just the way things were going to be, due to modern living and housework. Yet yogic awareness… present moment attention, understanding of body alignment and a simple exercise for lower back pain has set me right, to this day.

Lower back pain may surface for different reasons. It could be due to improper use of the body, an old injury, or an attitude (check out Louis Hay’s book: You Can Heal Your Life to discover the emotional connections to dis-ease). A combination of these may also be the root cause.

So what is it that I realized? That I always leaned forward, resting my hips against the counter top while washing the dishes. That I was just being lazy and not using the strength of my abdomen and my back to hold myself up. I was over stretching the front of the hips and crunching my lower back, which was causing the pain.

So, as an experiment, I stopped leaning against the counter. I pulled my hips back a few inches. As simple as this sounds it really is about all it took to cure my lower back pain; one little adjustment to a task that I do everyday. Of course it also required that I remember to do this because the other way of standing was such a habit.

I began to realize that I also hold myself in this same position while just standing, so I had to adjust that too. I have found that most people who suffer from low back pain also have a tendency to stand with the hips pushed forward as well as the habit of sitting hunched over with a rounded back. Ideally, we want to stand so that our center of gravity moves down the legs and comes out just in front of the heel, yet keep the curve in the lower back (the lumbar curve).

So here is a simple standing exercise for lower back pain: with the feet parallel and hip distance apart, pull the top of the thigh bones back, so that the top of the thigh bones are over the knees and ankles; put a little arch in your lower back and lift your heart. For most people this is all is takes to alleviate lower back pain.

The sacrum is a small triangular shaped bone (with the point facing down) at the bottom of the spine. To keep the lumbar curve, draw the top of the sacrum in, if it ever feels like too much scoop the bottom of the tailbone down to counterbalance until you feel just the right amount of curve. Just remember to take the top of the thighbones back before adjusting the sacrum.

This exercise for lower back pain can be modified for sitting in a chair (while working at a desk, eating dinner, driving etc…) While sitting, push your inner thighs and the top of your thighbones into the seat. This will naturally put a curve back in your lumbar spine and lift your heart. Keep that. If it ever feels like too much in the lower back scoop the tailbone down to find just the right amount of tilt. This will also engage your abdomen slightly helping to build strength and tone there.

We do many activities and tasks throughout the course of a day. We can be unconscious about it with the possibility of causing harm, or we can bring present moment awareness to our actions while increasing the probability of greater health, vitality and enjoyment. The choice is ours in every moment. All we have to do is begin again, now, and pay attention.

Do you experience lower back pain? Do you find yourself standing with the hips pushed forward or leaning against counters frequently? Try this simple exercise for lower back pain and let me know if it works for you.