Lower back pain hits most people eventually. It can be caused by injury, poor posture, repetitive motion, or simply ageing — the soft discs between the vertebrae dry over time, and less-supple discs can be more susceptible to bulging or rupture and put pressure on nerves, sending red-hot pain signals to your brain. But while getting older is inevitable, pain is not: Experts agree that routine stretching can both prevent and relieve symptoms. Use these poses to ease tension in your back, as well as in the hips, hamstrings, and inner legs, which can affect your posture and lower spine.
Approach this sequence as a form of self-care: Go easy, soothing your nerves, mind, and body. Use deep, fluid breaths to move from pose to pose. If you feel any strain in your lower back, reduce your range of motion or skip the pose.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Start by standing near a wall or surface for support. Your legs should be shoulder-width apart. Place your hands onto the back of your pelvis. Slowly raise your head up and start to lean back while supporting your lower back with your hands. You should feel a stretch in you lumbar spine area and possibly your abdominals. Hold this position for as long as it’s comfortable or up to one minute.
Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Begin by lying on your belly with your legs extended straight, behind you and your feet relaxed on the mat, hip distance apart. Plant your palms beside your ribs so that your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees and your forearms are relatively perpendicular to the floor. Inhale and press firmly into your palms and straighten your arms, lifting your torso, hips, and your thighs off the ground. The shoulders should be stacked directly over the wrists, and the creases of the elbows should face forward. Relax your shoulders away from your ears, begin to roll your shoulders back and concentrate on pulling your chest forward through your upper arms. Keep the chin in line with the floor or lifted slightly, avoiding the urge to crank the head back in order to send the gaze up to the ceiling (which can compress the back of the neck). Continue to refine the pose by firming your thighs and upper outer arms while drawing your lower belly in toward your spine. Hold for five to 10 deep breaths before transitioning to downward-facing dog or lowering back down onto the belly.
Downward-Facing Dog Pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
To do this pose, start with your hands slightly in front of your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips in a triangular position. Spread your fingers wide, trying to actively push into each finger, and place your hands firmly on the floor. Then, curl your toes under, push your hips high in the air and straighten your arms and legs, coming into an inverted V shape. The goal is to have a flat back with your head between your arms, straight legs, and heels touching the floor. Hold for 30 seconds to three minutes.
Bent-Over Barbell Row
Start by holding a barbell with palms facing down, bend your knees slightly and bring your torso forward by bending at the waist. Keep the back straight so that it is almost parallel to the floor. Keep the head up. The barbell should hang directly in front of you as your arms hang perpendicular to the floor and your torso. While the torso is stationary, breathe out and lift the barbell, keep the elbows close to the body and only use the forearms. At the top, squeeze the back muscles as hard as you can and hold briefly. Inhale and slowly lower. Repeat.
Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)
Lie face down on a hyperextension bench, with your ankles tucked under the footpads. Adjust the upper pads so that your thighs are flat, while leaving enough room to bend the waist. With your body straight, cross your arms in front of you or behind the head. Tip: You can also hold a weight plate for extra resistance in front of you (under the arms). Bend forward slowly at the waist while keeping the back flat. Move forward until you feel a stretch on the hamstrings. Tip: Keep the back straight as you get into the move. Some people can go farther than others. The key is to go as far as your body allows you to without hunching.
— The writer is a Bengaluru-based yoga instructor and professional dancer....