Nearly 65 million Americans suffer from back pain — a number that represents about 8% of the adult population. It’s also the sixth most costly condition in the country, leading to billions of dollars in treatment expenses annually. While there are certain conditions that require surgical or other invasive procedures, there are also powerful tools that individuals can use to address many conditions themselves. This blog post will share some of the exercises that can help!
Before getting into the practices, let’s ask ourselves an important question: why is back pain so prevalent in western cultures?
Well, part of this has to do with evolutionary biology. Not only do humans live longer than most other mammals, but our body structure isn’t exactly optimal for handling prolonged exposure to gravitational forces. Basically, being in an upright position for several decades is a constant fight against the earth’s energy. Obviously, there isn’t much we can do about this.
The other reason for back pain is much more manageable. In the west, it’s very common to spend long hours sitting in a chair without adequate movement. This causes undue stress on many parts of your body, including the vertebrates in your back. Over time, this leads to stiffness and pain, which in turn leads to a further reduction in movement. This cycle builds on itself, taking you further and further away from being able to enjoy a healthy spine.
Luckily, some of the most effective practices for relieving back pain are ones that you can do all on your own. In Qi Gong, we seek to use the body’s natural healing power to restore flexibility, strength, and vitality throughout all parts of ourselves. Not only does this lead to a more positive experience of our physical beings, but also a reduction of stress and a more positive emotional state.
Below, we’re going to share three simple exercises you can use to relieve lower back pain. Following the descriptions, we’ll also include a video of Lee demonstrating the practices. We hope you enjoy this routine!
Knocking on the door of life: This first exercise is called knocking on the door of life and is a great way to increase flexibility and activate the energy in the body. Start by standing with your legs shoulder-width apart and rotate from your hips and your waist. As you rotate to the left, allow your right hand to swing across the midline of your body and tap on your lower abdomen, which we refer to as the Lower Tan Tien. With your right hand, just let it tap your lower back directly behind your navel on your spine.
In Chinese, this point on your back is called Ming Men, which we refer to as The Door of Life. In addition to the flexibility that is gained through the moving practice, tapping on this point awakens the body’s innate energy for healing and vitality.
Continue doing this practice for one to two minutes.
Spinal Cord Breathing: Next, we’re going to transition into an exercise called Spinal Cord Breathing. With your feet still shoulder-width apart, position your hands by your shoulders. As you inhale, start to arch your back and look up. Your tailbone should be extended back so your back makes a nice arch. Don’t overstretch; just do the practice to whatever extent feels good to you. You should feel a nice stretch without causing pain.
When you exhale, bring your head and chest forward so your chin comes towards your chest. Also, bring your tailbone forward and squeeze your abdominals. This position is the opposite of arching your back — it should feel like you’re curling up in a ball while still standing on your feet.
Continue doing this exercise for one to two minutes. On your inhale, extend your body and arch your back. On your exhale, curl forward and tuck your tailbone. This is an excellent practice for loosening up your back, increasing flexibility, and reducing the pain caused by stagnation.
Dog Wags the Tail: The last exercise we’re going to do for now is called Dog Wags the Tail. This practice is a bit similar to spinal cord breathing except that instead of moving front to back you’re going to move laterally from side to side.
For example, you’re going to move or “wag” your tailbone to the right while your abdomen goes to the left and your upper body goes to the right. It may sound a little complicated but just try to imagine what Spinal Cord Breathing would be like if you were going side to side.
You should feel this exercise throughout your whole spine from your tailbone up through your neck. This is another wonderful practice for freeing up tension so you can release pain and enjoy greater flexibility and comfort.
Here’s the video routine you can practice:
In addition to practicing these exercises, it’s very important to remember to work on your posture and not sit too long in the same position. If you’re hunched over your computer for hours at a time it’s easy to build tension and stagnation in your back and other parts of your body.
If you sometimes forget to take work breaks, one thing you can do is set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stop, stretch, and walk around every hour or so. Not only will this help your back, but it’s also a great way to let go of stress and increase concentration. Many studies show that taking frequent breaks can increase productivity and focus.
Qi Gong for Low Back Legacy Program
If you’re interested in learning more exercises to strengthen or heal your lower back, be sure to check out Lee’s Low Back Legacy Program.
This program is very affordable and offers several wonderful practices to help you open, stretch, and increase the circulation of Qi in the lower back. Click on the banner below to learn more and start practicing today.
By Ian Drogin