I just wanted to take a few minutes to introduce who I am. I am Kristen and I have been on my personal yoga journey since 2013. I became a yoga teacher to share with you, something special that has had and continues to have the largest positive impact on my life. I am not here to sell you yoga. Yoga will unveil its magic to you on your own journey; I am simply a vessel sharing and guiding experiences.
Through break ups, earning a degree, childbirth, single-parenthood, learning to trust and love again, death, and all of life’s other obstacles, yoga has allowed me space to connect with my truest self, reflect, learn and grow, and create a habit of self-love that has granted me grace through life’s transitions.
My take on yoga: ANYONE can do it and EVERYONE should do it. There is something for everyone in yoga. All you have to do is show up for yourself and breathe. Really, that is it. I invite you to give it a try and be open to a new experience. I offer variations and modifications in all of my classes so everyone feels at home (All-Levels).
Quick fun facts about me: I love spending time with my family (especially outdoors hiking, paddle boarding at the lake, rock climbing), I enjoy being a mom to two beautiful girls, I am a registered dental hygienist, nature lover, and obviously, a yoga enthusiast and life long learner!
You’re not alone if you suffer from low back pain or have in the past. Low back pain can be tricky to try to remedy since its cause is often multifactorial and every body is unique. That being said, there are some yoga poses that can help strengthen the muscles surrounding the low back and core to prevent and/or reduce low back pain. I said the word— core... don’t worry I am not going to tell you that the key to all your problems is doing a ton of sit-ups and achieving a six-pack. In fact, I am not telling you to do anything; I am not a doctor or an expert by any means. Everything I am about to share is purely what I discovered during my own personal journey and I advise you to be evaluated by a medical professional if you experience persistent pain. If you do try these exercises, please listen to your own body, you know it best. Do not do anything that hurts. There is a line that we often refer to as “meeting our appropriate edge,” which is where some discomfort is okay, but as soon as it is restricting the breath, you’ve probably gone too far and need to go back a step in the asana.
Now that we have that all clear, here is what I know and felt in my own journey:
Weak abdominal muscles = low back pain
Weak low back muscles = low back pain
Weak PSOAS from a lot of sitting (and/or fight or flight tension) = low back pain
Here are a few of my favorite poses that have helped me reduce my low back pain.
In the past, Cobra or Bhujangasana, was not my favorite pose. Like many people, I really felt the low back discomfort during this asana. The problem: I was NOT engaging my core to the fullest extent. Making a “HAHA” sound will give you a great idea of where these core muscles are if you can’t or aren’t sure of how to activate them on your own. So, when you hear “activate your core” or “navel to spine” this is essentially that action. The next muscle engagements are your legs. The action to activate the legs fully (hamstrings, glutes, calves) is to squeeze a yoga block between your legs while pressing the top of your feet into the mat. Feel how strong and stable your legs become. Take a look back and make sure your feet are pointing straight back and not sickling in. All of this core engagement changed how my low back feels in cobra and other backbends to where I look forward to them. Learning the muscle engagement in this pose is really where I recognized the improvement of my lower back.
Tadasana or Mountain Pose
If you feel like this pose is “just standing” you are not engaging fully. The reason why Mountain Pose is THE most important pose is because it is quite literally every pose. In each asana we are striving to maintain a neutral spine. Let’s start with the feet. With your feet together, begin lifting your toes up and feeling your heel and big toe ball mound on the earth. Starting with the pinky toe, begin to set each toe down away from the big toe. This should leave you feeling rooted to the ground. Notice the equal standing position of the feet already engages your calf muscles and imagine your outer shins pulling back. Next, move up and engage the quads and turn on the hamstrings by lifting your kneecaps. Be sure that your pelvis is neutral—not tucked and that your lower back is not arched. You can use the “HAHA” sound to feel your abdominals fire and maintain that engagement throughout the pose (easier said than done). Now you can begin to feel how tadasana in itself is quite the full body workout. BREATHE. Do not let your breath go to the wayside. Relax your shoulders down and have you arms at your sides.
Cat/cow is also a go to for moving the spine gently and strengthening the abdominal muscles. That key in this pose is to avoid tucking your pelvis and not creating an arch of the lower back. Being extra mindful of a neutral pelvis is necessary, along with drawing your navel up towards your spine while in cat pose.
Half-Frog Pose also works the psoas and strengthens back muscles. This one comes with a warning to be extra mindful with lower-back issues. I recommend using a strap to ease into the pose and listen to your body. I would not recommend this pose if you are currently having a flare up of back pain, but it is excellent for stretching the psoas which is deep in the abdominal muscle and has a lot of nerves running through the muscle. It is the only muscle that connects the spine and legs directly (which allows us to walk—no big deal ;))
Plank Pose is great for strengthening the spine and abdominals. Being sure to not sink into your lower back and dip you pelvis toward the mat. Your spine should be neutral.
My secret weapon for resetting the hips is while lying on your back; hug your knees into your chest. Take 3-5 breath cycles here. While hugging your right leg in still, extend your left leg up and flex your toes toward your face. Inhale. As you slowly exhale, SLOWLY lower the left leg parallel to the floor. You may gently release the foot to the earth. Hug the knees back in and repeat on the opposite side.
I would like to credit my teachers at Practice Yoga Austin for sharing and instilling this information with and in me.