Back To Basics

By John Kelley

Take a moment to ask co-workers, friends, or family members if they have ever experienced lower back pain. Their answers will amaze you. As a fitness and yoga specialist, I find it alarming to discover how many people suffer from this malady. Any workout program should include elements that make the lower back strong, increase flexibility, and provide therapy. Participating in a yoga class is a great way to achieve all of these goals.

Causes of Lower Back Pain
Studies show that lower back pain can originate from the types of jobs people have, their being overweight, or improper lifting techniques. Note that all of these causes relate to posture. Sitting in front of a computer can cause one’s neck to lean forward, the back to be rounded, and the hips to become tight. Being overweight may prevent the body from maintaining proper posture for a long period of time because of the lack of conditioning. Improper lifting technique creates stress on the lower back and can cause injury. Bad posture conditions the body to be improperly aligned, which can cause injury. For example, with improper alignment one may reach up to grab a dish from the kitchen cabinet and feel pain in the lower back. The back was not ready for the demands of reaching up over one’s head and extending through the hips.

Simple Fix with a Five Flow Series
Yoga is a low-impact program that uses body weight to provide natural resistance in a series of poses called a flow series. The following is the Five Flow Series used in my classes. It includes the Cat, Cow, Downward Dog, Child, and Happy Baby poses.

While on your hands and knees, breathe out, and round your spine.

Opposite from Cat, breathe in, arch your back, and lift your tailbone.

Downward Dog
From Cow, place the bottom of your toes on the ground, lift your tailbone, and push with your arms.

Return to Cat position, sit your tailbone down to your heels, and push with your arms extended.

Happy Baby
From Child Pose, make your way onto your back, grab the bottom of your feet, and pull legs down.

Here are two ways to use the flow series:

Routine 1
Complete the series (cat, cow, downward dog, child pose, and happy baby) in sequence five times; do a total of three sets, resting after each set. As you become fit, you can hold each pose longer and/or move through the sequence at a quicker pace.

Routine 2
Combine different parts of the series in various reps and sets to concentrate on flexibility and therapy training. For example, combining cat and cow to warm up the body will help with flexibility in the spine. You can concentrate on stretching your neck and opening your chest to provide flexibility to your torso. After this combination, choose two more poses to concentrate on for flexibility and therapy.

Adding the Five Flow Series to a workout can prevent fewer injuries to the lower back. A flexible body allows the lower back to be healthier because it takes away unnecessary loads on that area. The great thing about the series is that it can be done any time of the day, with as many sets as desired, and as many times a person wants during the week.

John Kelley, MSS, CSCS, CPFT, CYI is a Fitness Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation in North Carolina. He can be reached at John.Kelley@MecklenburgCountyNC.Gov.