Last week we discussed the general causes of low-back pain, and we described one posture for the maintenance of back health. We elaborated on the step-by-step process of performing a modified cobra posture. It is important to clarify that a modified cobra posture was recommended only as one tool among different tools in the tool-kit of maintaining a healthy back. The modified cobra posture was NOT suggested as an antidote for back pain. This is because there are many types of back pain and the modified cobra posture is contraindicated in certain types of back pain.
For example, if the low-back pain is due to an anterior extrusion of the low-back vertebral disk, or if it is due to strain of anterior vertebral ligaments (rare), then by performing the modified cobra posture one might increase the disk extrusion and aggrevate back pain. Another back condition that contraindicates the performance of the modified cobra posture is spondylolisthesis. Because, in this condition a vertebra of the lumbar spine is congenitaly slipped forward and a modified cobra posture might intensify this slippage and enhance back pain. Pain from spinal stenosis may also be aggrevated by the modified cobra posture. However, the modified cobra posture is one among a group of back extension postures that does relieve low-back pain of particular type.
Again, emphasizing maintenance of back health, in this article we will discuss the modified locust posture. For the modified locust posture, lie on your stomach on a yoga mat. The forehead is down on the mat. Keep feet together and toes pointed. Keep arms to the side of the body. With this as the starting posture we begin the modified locust posture.
Gently raise the pelvic girdle up and off the mat and slip both palms under the pelvic girdle with palms facing down. Note that in order to get to place the palms under the pelvic girdle one might have to crunch the trunk a bit. Now, inhale deep and as you exhale raise either the right or the left leg off the floor. Pressure is exerted on the palms in order to gain the leverage to raise the leg off the floor. The knee joint of the raised leg should be as straight as you can comfortably keep. Once this leg is up in the air continue to inhale and exhale five times. Then as you inhale bring the leg down to the mat gently, at which point you relax your hands, and turn your head to one side. This entire process can be performed with the other leg.
How high should the leg be raised? In the initial days of practice, a few inches off the mat is sufficient. Then as your practice becomes proficient, and the para-spinal muscles gain strength, motor coordination and tone, you will be able to raise your leg way up. The muscles of the buttocks, low-back and the trunk are all strengthened. This posture along with the cobra posture are antidotes for trunk flexor tightness that if unattented to, will, in the long run cause a stooped posture, that will impair respiratory, cardiac, and digestive efficiency, not to mention neck deformities that might impair mechanics of swallowing.
As mentioned previously low-back pain is of varied types and a specialist might be able to differentiate and prescribe exercises and postures that would be particular to a specific low-back pain.
Nandu Menon is a Physical Therapist, a Yoga Teacher and author. He practices at Concord Yoga and Physical Therapy where he specializes in decormpession therapy. This article is an excerpt from his upcoming book on Yoga Therapy.