Three yoga exercises to relieve back, neck and shoulder pain
Regular practice of this ancient discipline helps to strengthen the spine and increase flexibility, which reduces pain and discomfort.
Spending many hours in front of a computer screen sitting in an unergonomic chair and in the wrong position, a sedentary lifestyle, age, smoking and being overweight are the main causes of back pain. In addition, it seems that all the stress and tension of everyday life tends to accumulate in the neck and shoulders, causing everything from muscle stiffness to contractures. And this makes us sleep worse, which aggravates the problem even more.
To alleviate these pains and prevent them from happening in the future, it is essential to boost both muscle strength and flexibility with specific exercises that strengthen the area and minimise the existing discomfort. Yoga is an excellent solution because, in addition to the many physical benefits, it helps manage stress and promotes restorative rest. As Rachel Rose, Mind & Body expert at SHA Wellness Clinic, tells us, “if you want to relax your back, it’s important to work lying face down on the floor because, since it’s a hard, flat surface, it serves as a reference to help you pay attention to supporting the spine which, in this position, naturally seeks out its alignment. This also reduces the risk of accidents, such as falls, especially if you’re doing the stretches in the living room, since it’s a space that isn’t usually designed or adapted for physical exercise”.
Practising yoga regularly is a very healthy activity for reducing back pain because it stretches the spine and reduces muscle tension. But, depending on the area (cervical, thoracic or lumbar), there are certain poses that provide better results than others. If the pain is in the neck or thoracic area, Rachel recommends “opening and closing the rib cage by moving the arms in sync with the breath. On the other hand, if the pain is in the lower back, I recommend moving the legs, for example by raising them at a 90° angle. Another very beneficial exercise is to bend your knees and lower them to one side while breathing out, return to the centre while breathing in, and lower them to the other side while breathing out, like a pendulum. The apanasana pose is also a perfect way to get rid of these pains: lie face up on the floor, stretch your back so that your entire spine is in contact with the floor and, breathing out, bring your knees to your chest and stretch your arms, breathing in. This will open up the space between your thighs and abdomen”. Finally, Rachel underscores the link between breathing and a healthy spine. “Breathing in a conscious and balanced way, using the diaphragm and intercostal muscles rather than the chest and shoulders, prevents the muscles from becoming overloaded”, she says.