Thankfully, there are a few yoga moves you can do right from your chair (or couch) to relieve an achy back in the interim. Ahead, the popular “poetry-prone” yoga teacher Victoria Hutchins recommends three pain-melting poses that you can seamlessly incorporate into your day.
1. Seated forward fold
“Seated forward fold (Paschimottanasana) elongates the entire spine from lumbar vertebrae to neck,” Hutchins tells us. “It’s also a gentle inversion—meaning your head is below your heart—[which] can alleviate spinal compression.”
To do a seated forward fold from a chair or couch, Hutchins says to sit up tall with both feet flat on the ground. “As you exhale, hinge [forward] at your hips,” she says. “Allow your head to hang heavy until the crown of your head is pointing towards the ground. You can let your arms hang towards the ground as well, or give yourself a gentle neck massage while you’re in the fold.”
Rest and breathe into the fold for however long it takes to feel the pain in your lower back begin to ease. (Typically, you’ll feel some relief after a minute or two.)
2. Modified lord of the fishes pose
“Modified lord of the fishes pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) is a spinal twist,” Hutchins says. “In addition to decompressing your spine, twists stretch your shoulders and chest, support digestion, and are known to boost energy.”
To perform this seated yoga move, Hutchins says to sit down and cross your left leg over your right, with your left ankle resting on the outside of your right knee. “Bring your right hand to the outside of your left thigh and turn your head to the left,” she instructs. “Let your gaze rest over your left shoulder. As you exhale, press into your right hand to twist your front body towards the left side of the room.” You can even grab the left arm of the chair or couch you’re in with your left hand for additional twisting leverage.
The beauty of this seated yoga pose is that it can sometimes offer near-immediate reprieve from the pain, without even having to hold it. That said, try to sit in the stretch for five to 15 seconds to really unwind your spine. Then do the same on the opposite side.
3. Seated cat-cow
“Seated cat-cow (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana) flexes and extends the thoracic spine,” Hutchins says. “Many of us tend to round our thoracic spines when we sit at a desk. This pose helps balance out that rounding.”
While most cat-cows are done on the floor, Hutchins says you can modify the classic posture for a chair by sitting with both feet flat on the ground, with your butt planted at the front center edge of your chair. “As you inhale, come into cow pose (Bitilasana) by arching your back and pressing your heart towards the front of your space,” she says, noting to lift your gaze toward the ceiling. “As you exhale, round your spine to come into cat pose (Marjaryasana). Draw your chin towards your chest and your heart towards your navel.”
Continue this inhale-and-exhale sequence for five to 10 slow repetitions any time your aching back begins to distract you. You’ll be surprised by just how relieving it is.
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