How many hours a day do you spend sitting?
The average person sits for eight or more hours a day. I had shrugged off the eight hours a day statistic until I thought more about it and started calculating how long I sit for in an average day. The hours add up!
Prolonged sitting is just one of several common causes of back pain in your everyday life. More time spent on computers gets much of the blame for this trend in sedentary behaviour and lack of attention to your wellness, according to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. On average, people spend at least two hours a day sitting to watch television, and spend at least an hour of their personal time each day on a computer; even up to three hours for some — outside of school or work.
Inactivity can negatively affect your wellbeing including blood circulation and the immune system, and doesn't give you that much-needed boost in energy, mood and sleep quality that comes from regular activity.
On that note, and at the request of several Activ Life clients, I've put together this short 10-minute yoga-inspired stretching sequence designed to ease back pain and build support for the lumbar region. Flow as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, or just before going to sleep at night.
Child’s Pose: Kneel on the floor with your toes together and your knees hip-width apart. On an exhale, lower your torso between your knees. Extend your arms alongside your torso with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders toward the ground. Rest in this yoga pose for as long as needed.
Cat Cow: Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips. Point your fingertips to the top of your mat. Place your shins and knees hip-width apart. Centre your head in a neutral position and soften your gaze downward. Begin by moving into Cow Pose: Inhale as you drop your belly towards the mat. Lift your chin and chest, gaze up towards the sky and draw your shoulders away from your ears. Next, move into Cat Pose: As you exhale, draw your belly to your spine and round your back toward the ceiling. The pose should look like a cat stretching its back. Release the crown of your head toward the floor, but don't force your chin to your chest. Inhale, coming back into Cow Pose, and then exhale as you return to Cat Pose. Repeat five times.
Thread the Needle – leg to one side: In table top, straighten your right leg out to the side, grounding down into the outside blade of your right foot. Inhale and twist open to the left reaching your fingertips to the sky. Exhale and slide your left arm underneath your right arm with your palm facing up. Let your left shoulder come all the way down to the mat. Rest your left ear and cheek on the mat, then gaze toward your right. Adjust your position so you do not strain your neck or shoulder. Let your upper back broaden. Soften and relax your lower back. Allow all of the tension in your shoulders, arms, and neck to drain away. Hold for up to one minute. To release, press through your right hand and gently slide your left hand out. Return to table top and repeat on the other side.
Sphinx: Lie on your belly, legs side by side. Reach actively through your toes to the wall behind you. As you move into this yoga pose, be sure to continue lengthening your tail toward your heels to protect your lower back. Your buttocks should be firm but not clenched. Set your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms on the floor parallel to each other. Inhale and lift your upper torso and head away from the floor into a mild backbend. Bring awareness to your lower belly, the area just above the pubic bone and below the navel. Lightly draw it away from the floor to create a dome that rounds up toward your lower back. This belly lift supports and distributes the curvature of your backbend more evenly along the length of the spine, soothing your lower back and awakening your upper back. Stay for five to 10 breaths, then exhale and slowly release your belly and lower your torso and head to the floor.
Standing Forward Fold: Exhale as you bend forward at the hips, knees bent, lengthening the front of your torso over your legs. Bend your elbows and hold on to each elbow with the opposite hand. Let the crown of your head hang down. Bring your weight forward into the balls of your feet, as you lift your tailbone towards the ceiling. Slightly lift and lengthen your torso with each inhalation. Release deeper into the pose with each exhalation. Let your head hang. Hold the pose for up to one minute.
Yogi Squat: Begin on feet, crouched down with tailbone between ankles and hands in prayer at chest. Continue to press hands firmly together while at the same time pressing elbows against inner thighs. Hold and breathe for 30 seconds.
Seated Twist (Marichyasana C): Start with your legs straight in front of you, bend your right knee so it’s flat on the floor close to your body. Inhale to sit tall and place your right hand behind you to support you. As you exhale, twist to bring your left elbow across your body so it hooks on the outside of your right knee. If your elbow doesn’t reach, you can bring your arm across your shin and grasp your thigh with your left hand. Remember to keep pressing your right foot down into the earth, and sit tall with your spine straight and shoulders down. Tuck the chin in and look down at your right shoulder.
Knee Hug – on back: From the supine rest position engage your centre to draw both knees in to the chest, placing the hands on the front of the shins just below the knee. Round into the lower back allowing the pelvis to lift off the mat. Gently rock the legs from side to side massaging into the lower back.
Dynamic Shoulder Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hip-width apart. Extend your arms along the floor, palms flat. Inhale as you lift your hips toward the ceiling, engaging your glutes. Keep your thighs and feet parallel, as you find spinal extension and a gentle stretch for the hip flexors. Exhale, rolling your spine back down to the earth, vertebrae by vertebrae. Repeat lifting the hips as you inhale, and lowering the hips as you exhale.
Reclining Pigeon: Begin by laying on your back with the legs extended out and the arms alongside the body. Bend the knees and place the soles of the feet on the earth. Then make a figure four with the legs by crossing the right ankle over the top of the right knee. Flex the right toes and lift the left foot off the ground. Thread the right arm through the opening of the legs and bring the left arm to the outside of the left leg. Clasp either the left shin or hamstring with both hands. The back and head remain flat on the earth. Draw the left shin in towards the body as you press the right knee away from you. To exit the pose, release the clasp and bring both soles of the feet to the earth. Repeat on the opposite side.
Lying Twist: Lie on your back with your knees drawing into your chest. With shoulder blades square on the floor, arms out wide, exhale and lower your knees over to one side. Hold for 30 seconds. Inhale to bring the knees back to centre. Repeat on the other side.
Full Body Stretch: Lying on your back, inhale to reach your arms over head and stretch your legs out straight. Exhale to bring your arms back down by your sides and relax into Savasana.
Louise FitzRoy is the Principal of Activ Life, a leading health and wellness company based in the Cayman Islands. If you enjoyed this article you may also like: Favourite nighttime yoga pose and Best yoga poses to relieve sciatic pain.