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8 Yoga Poses To Do Before You Go to Bed

8 Yoga Poses To Do Before You Go to Bed

The benefits of yoga are well documented. It is not only valuable for your physical body, but it is extremely meditative and therefore, great for your mind as well. In this way you will experience a double benefit from this practice.

No matter what kind of yoga practice you decide to undertake, make sure you do your homework. Determine which poses and positions are right for your body and which are not. There is a ton of information available on the Internet from yogis and other yoga experts that will help you as you invigorate your life with this practice.

I love yoga because it is very challenging physically and mentally. As a professional athlete, I use yoga in the off-season to train my body and mind. I enjoy the physical adversity this practice offers. At times it can be more difficult than any other physical training exercises I have done for my sport.

I mainly utilize a yin yoga practice, especially now while I am in-season. I find it helps me to rehabilitate my body. I try to do two to three sessions of yin yoga stretching per week. I have found it very beneficial to do this practice in the evening before I go to bed. It is a great way to meditate and clear the stress from my body and mind as I detach from the day. I often have my best nights of sleep after a yin yoga session.

The following is a short yin yoga session that should take you approximately 30-40 minutes depending on how long you hold each position. Suggested time lengths are given for each pose, as well as a detailed description of each pose. It is important that you don’t rush into any of these positions. Yoga is about being patient with yourself and where you are with each position. Do not try to force yourself into the position; rather, slowly fall into it. You will gain flexibility for each pose as you hold it for longer stretches of time. As you hold each pose longer and longer, your body will become more flexible. Slowly work your body into each pose.

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1. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama

This is a breathing exercise to help you calm and focus your mind before you begin your practice. Using your thumb and whichever other finger you want (ring, index, etc.), you are going to go through some alternate nostril breathing. Cover one nostril with your thumb while inhaling through the open nostril. Then cover this nostril with your other finger and exhale through the other nostril. Breathe in again, cover, and exhale. Continue until your feel relaxed and ready to practice.

For more guidelines on this pose click here.

2. Child’s Pose

Suggested length 3-5 minutes. Begin by getting into table top position on your hand and knees. Keep your hands and knees about shoulder-width apart. Then you need to bring your big toes together and form a triangle within your knees as you separate them. From this position gently extend your arms in front of you while sitting your rear towards your heels.

For more guidelines on this pose click here.

3. Half Pigeon

Suggested length 3-5 minutes for each leg. I have yet to do a pose that stretches out my hips like Half Pigeon. From the table top pose you are going to lift one leg off the ground (it doesn’t matter which leg you start with) and bring it to the front of your body. The other leg will straighten behind you. The goal is to keep the hip of the front leg on the ground as much as possible. As you position your front knee you can also press into the toes of your back knee in order to position your back leg. Repeat with the other leg.

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This pose takes a lot of practice in order to get a very deep stretch so in the beginning you will want to keep your elbows on the mat. As you gain flexibility you can place your head on the mat and stretch out your back leg behind you.

For more guidelines on this pose click here.

4. Supta Baddha Konasana

Suggested length 3-5 minutes. This pose is a great way to stretch out your groin. Begin by lying on your back with your knee bent. Bring your heels as close to your pelvis as possible with your feet and knees together. When you get into a comfortable position slowly allow your knees to separate and fall to the ground until you feel a stretch on both sides of the groin.

For more guidelines on this pose click here.

5. Caterpillar Pose

Suggested length 3-5 minutes. This is a forward fold in which you straighten your legs as much as possible in front of you and gently bend forward. If your hips are very tight and this isn’t possible, then it is ok for you to keep the slightly bent in front of you. It is also suggested that you sit on something such as a yoga block, blanket, or pillow if you feel tightness in your hips. It is very important that you don’t rush this pose because it can cause a lot of strain on the lower back.

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For more guidelines on this pose click here.

6. Sphinx Posture

Suggested length 3-5 minutes. Being by lying on your stomach with your elbows bent to the side. From this position you gently lift up your torso by pushing your hands against the ground. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. You should feel slight pressure in your lower back. Relax your shoulders and don’t tense up your back and upper body. Soften everything and stay relaxed.

For more guidelines on this pose click here.

7. Viparita Karani

Suggested length 3-5 minutes. This is a very simple inversion pose that drains lactic acid from the legs. Place your hips on the base of a wall. Then lie flat on your back and raise your legs to the wall overhead. For extra support, use a block, blanket, or pillow underneath your sacrum.

For more guidelines on this pose click here.

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8. Shavasana

Suggested length 10-15 minutes. This is the finishing pose. You need to lie on your back and extend your legs to the ground. Place your arms and hands comfortably at your side. Allow your feet to fall to the side if that is comfortable for you. Stay in this pose for as long as you wish.

For more guidelines on this pose click here.

Featured photo credit: Koreaboo via quietly-image-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com

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Published on April 25, 2019

12 Best Back Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain

12 Best Back Strengthening Exercises to Relieve Lower Back Pain

Spending your Friday evening doing back strengthening exercises may not catch your attention with ease. Yet, working to develop and maintain the muscles in your lower back can help make your favorite weekend activities more enjoyable.

In fact, you may be able to add a few new activities that you have not been able to do due to your discomfort. You are in the right place if you are looking for attainable ways to improve your lower back pain with practicality.

You might read through these exercises for strengthening your back and think, “Hmm. How would that stance help to take my pain away.” Once you put a few into practice, you will easily feel and recognize the benefit of each motion.[1] Your body may need a few gentle reminders each week to help get your muscles and joints back into pain-free cooperation with one another.

We have a list of back strengthening exercises just for that purpose. Pick your favorites, and get started!

Benefits of Back Strengthening Exercises

Once you get into a routine and begin to draw from your own hard work, you may end up surprising yourself with how much better you feel. Your lower back needs your support to do its job well. Selecting and regularly completing yoga-style exercises can help you care for your lower back and its surrounding muscle partners.[2]

Even just a few days per week with these 12 exercises can help provide your muscles and joints with a sense of functionality that may have been lost or ‘misplaced’ along the way. It may not have happened all at once, and you may not have even realized for some time that a slow change was taking place in the core of your body.

Injuries can happen in an instant or slowly over time, but they almost always take time to heal. Perhaps, you experienced an injury and have yet to recover fully. Start small and work your way to a full recovery. Moderate activity that matches your current condition is far more beneficial than too much activity or none and all.[3]

It may be that you are not directly able to pinpoint or verbally specify where your back pain or discomfort originates. Take your time working through these 12 back strengthening exercises. Try to focus on one portion of your body at a time. Be mindful of how new your injury or pain discomfort seems to be. Acute pain may need a few days or more of rest and recovery before you begin working to build strength.

Do not feel as though you must do all of the exercises each session. As you work to get rid of your lower back pain, it is going to be more important for you to go slow and ensure that each movement benefits your body. Consciously working to recognize where pain starts and what might cause it can help you better focus your process of healing.

Regardless of how you acquired lower back pain, be patient with yourself as you work to recover. Be sure to push your body through uncomfortable moments, but work to avoid pushing yourself so hard that you cause further injury or create a new injury.

Working with your lower back muscles can help your body be better equipped to handle the unexpected.[4] Go slow, take your time, be consistent and work hard; and you will recover efficiently.

Start with a couple of exercises from each category and rotate through the different ones. Mixing up the exercises will help keep your brain interested as you work to develop a routine for healing.

12 Lower Back Focus Exercises

Directly focusing on lower back muscles and connections in the body is essential for proper recovery from pain, injury, or general discomfort.[5]

Take your time with each exercise. Start with a few repetitions, and work your way up to your desired goal over a period of weeks or maybe even a few months if needed.

1. Knee to Chest Raises

Rest with your back flat on the floor, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands palm down on the floor. Bring your right knee to your chest and hold for five to ten seconds.

Switch sides. Repeat ten times.

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    You may also choose to allow your opposing leg to rest in a straightened position.[6]

    2. Floor Swimming

    Rest prone (face down) on the floor. Bring both arms flat and stretch them straight out from your shoulders. Legs should be straight and flat on the floor with toes relaxed. Keep your head relaxed and face the floor. Raise your right arm and left leg. Count to five. Switch sides.

    Raise both arms and both legs while keeping your torso on the floor. Count to five. Repeat the series five to ten times slowly.

      Floor swimming can be done in reverse while in a supine (face up) position if abdominal work is desired, but be careful to keep your back flat and only raise one leg at a time.[7]

       

      3. Straight Leg Raises (from Table Top Position)

      Start in Table Top position with knees and hands on the floor. Straighten your right leg directly behind you so that it is parallel to the floor. Work to keep your right leg straight as you gently raise and lower it ten times. Switch sides. Repeat three to ten times as your ability increases.

        4. Bridge

        Rest flat on your back. Place your feet flat on the ground with your knees bent.[8]

        Gently raise your hips and torso to form a triangle shape between your head, knees, legs, and the floor. Your head and shoulders will remain on the floor. You may rest your hands palm down on the floor or reach to touch your fingers together under your back.

        Squeeze your buttocks, and push down into the floor with your feet as you hold your torso off of the ground. Hold for a count of ten. Repeat five to ten times.

          If you have experienced a severe neck injury, you may want to wait until your neck improves or inquire with a chiropractic doctor before starting with Bridge.

          Upper Back Focus Exercises

          Your pain may be centralized in your lower back, but your upper back may begin to feel the strain if recovery does not allow your body to function as a unit.

          Giving your upper back some love will help you reunite your lower back to the rest of your body. Incorporate these upper back exercises into your routine for better comfort in your lower back muscles.

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          5. Modified Plank

          Back pain sufferers will do well to begin with a Modified Plank. For this, allow your knees and hands to rest on the floor as you work to hold your torso off of the floor.[9]

          Keep your arms directly under your shoulders, and your knees and lower legs on the floor behind you. Do not let your hips dip toward the floor. Hold for a count of five to ten. Remember to breathe. Repeat three to ten times increasing the number as your pain diminishes and your strength builds.

          Be sure not to hold your position for longer than your body can handle, especially in the beginning.

            6. Front Plank

            If you have begun to recover from lower back pain and are looking to minimize pain in the future, Front Plank is a great choice.[10]

            Begin with your hands and feet on the floor: Your hands should be directly under your shoulders with your fingers and thumbs open and comfortable. Legs straight. Toes curled. Try to imagine a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.

            The work comes in trying to keep your torso from bowing down without raising your hips too high.

              For added variety, try planking with your elbows and forearms on the floor instead of just your hands.[11]

              For the elbow and forearm style, imagine that your body is parallel to the floor. Hold your chosen position for a count of five to ten. Rest. Repeat three to ten times increasing the amount of time as you gain strength.

                7. Side Plank

                Be prepared to engage your sense of humor if you have not tried this one yet. Side plank is excellent for helping to build supporting back muscles (obliques especially), but it does take some practice getting started.

                Sit on the floor. Begin with your right side resting on your right elbow. (This should look similar to how you might relax and watch a movie on the floor. Your head may even rest in your right hand as you begin.)[12]

                As you are able, gently push your hips upward to form an elongated triangle shape between you and the floor. It may take a few days of practice, but once you can to get into position, try counting to three, then to five, and then to ten.

                  Practice on both your right and left side each time. Getting to ten may take you a few weeks, but you can get there if you start small!

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                  You may desire to try leaning against a wall as you learn how to balance for the Side Plank. Modification: Keep your knees on the floor and raise only your upper body.[13]

                    8. Standing (or Bent Knee) Push-ups

                    Standing Push-ups are better for low back pain sufferers because less pressure is placed on lower back muscles. Your upper back is engaged, but your hips and abdomen are not drawing your body down during the exercise.

                    Standard Push-ups are sometimes best left for when your lower back muscles have healed and can help you keep your body off of the ground.

                    Place your hands on a wall at arm’s length and your feet flat on the floor. Bend your elbows until your forehead gently touches the wall or comes close. Repeat slowly ten to twenty times.[14]

                      For Bent Knee Push-ups, complete the same repetitions but with your hands and knees on the floor instead of in a standing position.[15]

                        Overall Core Exercises

                        The core of your body has been designed to help keep you upright when sitting and walking. Injuries on one side of your body often affect the other side in some way, even if we do not consciously realize it. Your spine is supported by many muscles that will do their best work in cooperation with one another.[16]

                        Bring these core exercises into your day to help your lower back begin to function more efficiently and with less pain.

                        9. Knee to Elbow Lifts

                        Start in a Front or Modified Plank Position (see exercises 5 and 6) with your hands and feet on the floor. Bring your right knee close to your right elbow. Hold for a count of five (if you can).[17]

                          Once you practice this a few times, you may be able to touch your elbow with your knee. Focus on trying to keep your body as parallel to the ground as you can without straining. Switch sides. Repeat three to five times.

                          10. Knee to Opposite Elbow Lifts

                          Complete the same steps as Knee to Elbow, but bring each knee to the opposite elbow instead of reaching to the same side.

                          In the beginning, you may only be able to bring your knee halfway across your body. That is a wonderful start!

                          Focus on keeping your body parallel to the ground. Working on decent form is far more important than how far your knee comes toward the center of your body or your chest.

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                          11. Three Legged Dog

                          Begin in a Front Plank or Modified Plank Position (see exercises 5 and 6). Raise your right leg straight up and behind you as high as you are able. Ideally, your leg may end up much higher than the rest of your body, or it may stay close to the same height.

                          Try to keep your hips squared. You may choose to keep your foot and ankle at a 90-degree angle or point your toes. Ideally, you want to create a line from your hands to the heel of your raised foot.[18]

                          Hold for a count of three to ten. Switch sides for your raised leg. Repeat three to five times as you can without causing strain.

                            12. Stargazer (Kneeling Side Plank)

                            Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Bend your right knee and rest your right foot to your left inner thigh. Place your right hand behind you. Raise your left hand high above you as you push your body up from the floor.

                            Straighten your left leg as you go up. Your weight will rest on your right hand and bent right knee.

                              Stargazer may sound like a balancing act, but you can place your feet comfortably so you do not feel as though you will topple. Hold for a count of three to ten. Switch sides. Repeat three to ten times.

                              Remember to lift your face and enjoy the view, especially if you choose to enjoy this exercise outside under the night sky!

                              Exercises to Avoid

                              Back pain does not need a new excuse to cause you discomfort as you work to heal. Remember to avoid these exercises as you recover from your lower back pain:

                              • Toe Touches
                              • Full Sit-ups
                              • Double Leg Lifts (Single Leg Lifts are beneficial if you are comfortable with doing them. Be sure to keep your back flat and level on the floor.)

                              Exercises that cause frequent or intense twisting motions are also best left for another time.

                              My Favorite Stretches for Relaxing the Back

                              Stretching is essential for building muscle strength efficiently. The combination of strengthening and stretching can help you create a wall of resistance against low back pain.[19]

                              For added interest, alternate your chosen back strengthening exercises with a few of these yoga-style stretches:

                              Moving Forward without Lower Back Pain

                              Getting started may be the hardest part of using lower back strengthening exercises to help you get rid of your discomfort. Once you have tried a couple and fallen over a time or two, you may begin to realize that these 12 exercises are not as daunting as you expected.

                              Start with 3 a day and rotate as you try the different exercises. You do not need to learn to do all of them to develop the strength that you need to minimize or eradicate your back pain. You only need to find a few that you enjoy and are willing to do regularly enough to retain the benefits of your hard work.

                              Choose two exercises per commercial during your favorite show. Pick one to do while you wait for your coffee to brew in the morning. Have one in mind to try when it is your turn to wait for the bathroom.

                              Create a challenge chart and put it next to the kids’ chore chart to keep you motivated. Have your friends help you decide on a reward for a goal that you set for yourself. What will your goal be? Perhaps, a pain-free weekend adventure with the kids!

                              Featured photo credit: Form via unsplash.com

                              Reference

                              [1] Medical News Today: Home remedies for fast back pain relief
                              [2] Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab: 11 Secrets for Getting Rid of Back Pain
                              [3] Medline Plus: Taking care of your back at home
                              [4] National Institutes of Health: Yoga or Stretching Eases Low Back Pain
                              [5] SPINE-health: Exercise and Back Pain
                              [6] verywellhealth: Knees to Chest Raises
                              [7] PopSugar: No Need to Stand! Work Your Butt With These Floor Exercises
                              [8] Shape Magazine: 2 Glute Bridge Exercise Variations to Target Specific Results
                              [9] Hemmett Health: The Power of a Proper Plank
                              [10] PopSugar: Doing This Exercise For Just 3 Minutes a Day Will Put You on the Road to Tighter Abs
                              [11] India Times: 7 Surprising Benefits Of Doing the Plank Exercise Every Day
                              [12] Women’s Health Mag: How To Do A Side Plank Flawlessly
                              [13] My Health Alberta: Side Plank, Beginner
                              [14] Trainer: The Top 5 Upper Body Exercises For Women
                              [15] Fitnesslane: How to: Knee push ups
                              [16] American Association of Neurological Surgeons: Low Back Strain and Sprain
                              [17] Sassy Fit Girl: Plank Exercises
                              [18] Fitness 1440: Three Legged Dog
                              [19] Harvard Health Publishing: Daily moves to prevent low back pain

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