This column is dedicated to Barry Noreen's low back.
My coworker often mentions how tight it feels, and how he wants to find ways to keep his spine limber. No big surprise, but I suggested yoga. Here's a short sequence I created for both him and, because back issues are a common complaint, for readers, too.
As one often hears in yoga, you're only as old as your spine is flexible. In order to keep the spine strong and flexible, we need to strengthen the core muscles and work on opening the hips and hamstring.
Before completing the following sequence, I recommend warming up with 5 minutes of sun salutations, walking, jumping jacks or high-stepping. Hold poses three to five breaths, unless otherwise noted. Do both sides.
Come to all fours. Take an inhale, drop your belly toward the earth, creating a concave back, and look up for cow pose. On the exhale, round your back, pull in your belly and look down for cat pose. Flow through several sets. One breath per movement.
Bird dog into child's pose
Stay on hands and knees. Extend your right arm straight in front of you and your left leg straight behind you. On an exhale, press back into child's pose. Hips come to heels. Knees are wide on the mat, big toes touch in back, forehead on the ground, arms stretched in front of you. Repeat bird dog on the opposite side and press back to child's pose. Flow through each side a couple of times.
Come forward and rest on your belly. Press up onto your forearms, palms pressed to the mat. Stack your elbows under your shoulders. Make the pose active as you press down through your hands and forearms. Pretend you're crawling across the floor.
Stay on your belly. Bring your big toes to touch, and keep the tops of your feet glued to the mat. Bring your fingertips in line with your shoulders, palms face down. Lift just your upper body off the mat, including your hands. If that's too much, keep your hands lightly on the mat. Release back to child's pose.
Half split (ardha hanumanasana)
Come to kneeling, step right foot forward into a lunge. Make sure your knee is stacked directly over your ankle. Straighten your front leg and flex your toes toward your face. Fold your torso over the leg. Bend the front leg slightly if the stretch is too intense.
Crescent moon with twist and side stretch
Come back to kneeling. Hands on top of right thigh. Press the hips forward, aiming to stretch the left hip flexor and quadricep. Reach your arms to the sky and take a backbend if it feels OK. Then drop your right arm to the side and reach the left arm over to the right for a side body stretch. Prop your right hand on a block for more stability. Release, and reach arms to sky. Take a vertical twist, and reach the right arm back behind you as the left arm reaches forward.
Come to seated. Extend your legs in front of you, place feet on mat. Reach your arms forward. Start to lean back onto your tailbone and lift your legs off the mat at the same time. You're balancing on your sit bones. Maintain a flat back. If this is too challenging, drop your toes to the mat, or bring your palms to touch at heart center.
Lay down on your back. Bend your knees, plant the feet on your mat about hip-width distance apart. Only look up in this posture, never to the side. Slowly lift your hips to the sky.
Reclining bound angle pose (supta baddha konasana)
Bring the soles of your feet to touch, and let your knees fall to the sides. Arms rest by your sides. If this is too much for your hips, bring the feet wide to the outside edges of your mat, and allow the knees to fall toward each other and touch. Either way will help release your low back.
Cobbler's pose (baddha konasana)
Come to seated. Bring the soles of your feet to touch and create a diamond shape with your legs. If your hips are tight, move your feet farther out. Fold forward over your legs.
Forward fold (paschimottanasana)
Straighten your legs in front of you. Flex your feet, toes toward your face. Bend your knees as needed. Reach the arms high, and then lifting up out of the hips, fold forward and reach for your ankles, shins or wherever on the leg feels best.
End on your back with a gentle spinal twist of your choice, and then take a few minutes in final resting pose (savasana).
Mulson's column appears biweekly in The Gazette. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.