"You're only as young as your spine is flexible."
I often remind myself of this well-known saying whenever I roll out my yoga mat. Each time I practice, I ensure that I dedicate a portion of my session to some much-needed backbends, whereby I focus on building spinal strength, and flexibility. Yoga aims to promote the correct curvature of the spine through building the strength of the muscles surrounding the spine. To do so, your muscles have to contract with more force than they are used to in your daily activities. Here are five yoga poses that you can add to your daily exercise regime for a strong back.
1. Low Cobra Pose
Benefits: This pose aims to tone, strengthen and massage the deep, superficial muscles of the back.
1. Lie on your stomach, forehead to the floor with your legs and feet together.
2. Keep your hands by your chest, with your fingertips spread wide.
3. As you inhale, lift your head and chest without putting any pressure on the hands.
4. Lift the hands about an inch off the floor for a more challenging backbend.
5. Hold for several breaths, then lower as you exhale.
2. Snake Pose
Benefits: This pose gives similar benefits to Cobra pose, yet it has a more profound strengthening effect on the back muscles. This pose will also help correct rounded shoulders.
1. Lie on the stomach, your feet and legs together, chin on the floor.
2. Interlock your fingers behind you, resting your hands on your buttocks.
3. Inhale and lift your head and chest, raising your arms and reaching them toward your feet.
4. Hold the pose for several breaths, then exhale to lower.
3. Warrior I Pose
Benefits: As the arms are raised in this pose, Warrior I acts as a mild backbend. Keeping your arms raised also has a strengthening effect on the back muscles. As the upper back is straightened, the curve of the lower back is slightly increased. In this pose, it is therefore essential that you tuck the tailbone under.
1. Start in tadasana, mountain pose.
2. Step your left foot back about three to four feet, turning your toes out about 45 degrees.
3. Inhale and reach the arms up.
4. Exhale and bend the right knee to a 90-degree angle.
5. Hold the pose for several breaths, then repeat on the other side.
4. Half-Locust Pose
Benefits: This pose is excellent for toning the back muscles and is especially recommended for beginners or those with weak or stiff backs.
1. Lie on the stomach and interlock the fingers, placing your hands under your pelvis.
2. Keep your arms straight and place your chin on the ground.
3. Inhale, raising one leg slowly, ensuring that you do not twist the pelvis.
4. Exhale and slowly lower the leg, then switch your legs.
5. Repeat the movements several times on each side.
5. Bridge Pose
Benefits: This pose fully contracts the muscles. It strengthens the back, particularly the lumbar region.
1. Lie on your back, bend the knees, bring your heels near your buttocks keeping them hip-distance apart.
2. Place your arms alongside the body, keeping your palms face down.
3. Exhale and tilt the tailbone toward the pubic bone to flatten the lower back.
4. Inhale and lift the hips, reaching the chest toward the spine.
5. Hold bridge pose for several breaths, then exhale to lower.