The good news is that gentle movement is one of the best, most easily accessible, free ways to get some relief from occasional back pain. And doing these moves not only offers back pain relief after the fact, doing them BEFORE you shovel (or haul rocks or lift kids or whatever else you do in your life) might help your body avoid feeling rough in the first place. Win!
As always, the guidelines are as follows: I am not a doctor! If you feel more than a general sense of I-shoveled-too-much discomfort please don’t continue with the moves. If you are in pain or have trouble breathing please contact your health care provider instead.
Now, on to the magic moves! Read on or hop straight to the video where I’ll teach you the whole series.
The first 2 aren’t actually moves. They’re positions that help your body and your nervous system to settle and find places that feel good (or at least feel less not-so-good).
The Psoas Release
Support your head and shoulders with a bolster or stack of cushions and blankets. Your head should be higher than your shoulders and your shoulders higher than the base of your ribs. You can have your legs flat on the floor or you can pop another pillow under your knees. The goal is for your back to be able to totally relax and release and hold less working tension. So keep messing around with your props until it feels good! (What’s a psoas? Glad you asked. Here’s a long-ish and detailed post all about the wonders of your psoas)
Hold for 2-10 minutes
The Low Back Release
Place a yoga block or thick book under the back of your pelvis and chill. Let your ribs and lower back settle towards the floor. Hopefully, your ribs are actually on the floor, but your lower back will be floating in space because there’s a block holding your pelvis higher than your ribs. Again, the goal is ease and comfort, so move as and when you need to!
Hold for another 2-10 minutes
Windshield Wipers (I’ll show you these moves in the video below)
Stay on your back (without the yoga block), bend your knees and slide them from side to side.
Go slow, think of a controlled ease rather than a flop.
Stay in a range that feels like a gentle stretch for your lower back.
10-20x in each direction
Use a yoga strap or non-stretchy scarf around your foot and glide your leg up and down.
Try to relax your leg and let the strap and your hands hold the weight. We want your hip flexors to be as quiet and un-helpful as possible!
Keeping your pelvis and lower back still, aim for about a 5/10 in terms of the stretch sensation. It’s not a huge move.
10x on each leg
Lie on your side and reach your top arm for the ceiling. Keep your arm nicely plugged into your shoulder joint and twist your chest towards the ceiling.
Your arm will go back, but the goal isn’t to get your arm to the floor but rather to use the active weight of your arm to help your chest, shoulders and upper spine to gently rotate. As always, find a position that feels sustainable, where you can breathe easily and where you have no pain in your back (or anywhere else for that matter). You can either stay there for a minute, or rotate forward and back 10-15x on each side.
Here’s the video to take you through it with lots of cues and descriptions. Enjoy!
Looking for more useful movement tips?
Check out my free Build Better Balance mini-course! You get a stability exercise video, a dynamic balance challenge video, a downloadable list of the exercises you can print and stick on your fridge and some useful everyday things you can do to support your balance. xo Alison