Yoga for Low Back Pain

Lower back pain is one of the most common physical ailments that plagues our western society. Low back pain is characterized by acute or dull aching pain in the lower back and can be considered chronic if it lasts for more than 3 months. Low back pain is one of the leading causes of activity limitation and work absence. Yoga works to strengthen and lengthen the lower back muscles to help decrease the pain in the low back, naturally. 

  1. Bridge


This pose is great for passively stretching the lower back. The body and muscles that surround the low back work in combination with the block (or pillow) to hold the lower back in the air. The lower back then has a chance to relax, allowing lengthening through the muscles and release of the tension that resides here. 


Arrive in this posture by lying on your back with the knees in the air and the feet planted, bring the arms alongside the body with palms facing down, take a big inhale to fill up the belly, exhale pressing each vertebrae in the spine against the ground, begin to float the hips up by pressing into the feet and the palms, slide the block or pillow underneath the sacrum (space right between the hips above the tailbone) and relax. 

  1. Malasana or “Yogi Squat”


This pose works on opening and strengthening all of the areas that surround the lower back, as well as strengthening the lower back itself. Malasana offers a peek into how much our hips and core affect our lower back. Malasana offers a great deal of support and TLC for the low back by strengthening the core and lower back, lengthening the lower back, and beginning to open the hips.


Start with placing a block, or a low seated chair slightly behind you. Bring the feet out wider than the hips and the toes out a little wider than the heels. Slowly sit the hips back onto the block or chair (you may use a table or chair to hold onto as you lower and your heels might lift a bit and this is ok), bring the arms to the inside of the legs (if they are not on a table or chair) and maybe press the palms together or place them on the ground, lengthen the spine by pressing into the crown of the head, engage the core by drawing the belly button up and in, rest in this posture and let the work happen! 

  1. Supine Twist 


Twisting through the low back can be one of the most therapeutic movements some can do for the spine, but depending on injuries or how tight you are this could be miserable. By supporting the knee and making the twist significantly lighter, this pose can become enjoyable and relaxing for all. This pose stretches out the back muscles and the glutes and provides a natural realignment for the spine. 


Set yourself up for this posture by stacking up some pillows and blankets on either side of you and lie down on your back. Begin by drawing one leg out long on the ground and the other knee in towards your chest, slowly allow that knee to fall over to the opposite side, let the arms come out wide or into a goal post shape to ensure both shoulders stay planted, and allow yourself to relax.  

  1. Supported Savasana


Allow yourself and your spine some time dedicated to relaxation and release. A large part of back pain is due to a large amount of stress, so dedicating time each day to decompress could have significant benefits for the spine. Lie down, clear the mind, focus on the breath, and relax. Lying down with no support can be extremely uncomfortable if you have pain in the low back, so set yourself up with lots of support. 


Take a blanket with a small roll at the base for the neck underneath the head, a large pillow under the knees, and maybe even a rolled up blanket under the ankles for a little extra support. Turn on some relaxing music, close your eyes, and enjoy this brief moment of peace. 

  1. Forward Fold 


Tight legs can be part of the problem when considering all of the things that may be causing low back pain. If your legs are tight and your low back is tight how can you properly do a forward fold? The answer is simple: a bend in the knees and engagement in your core. Keep a big bend in the knees to support the low back and as long as the back stays long, the legs will get a deep stretch. Engage the core to ensure the back has the support to stay long and straight. 


Bring the feet out a little bit wider than the hips, keep the feet parallel to each other or turn the toes inward slightly. Bring the hands to the hips, draw the belly button up and in, take a bend in the knees and slowly begin to fold in. Once you are folded, release the arms from the hips and grab a hold of opposite elbows, keep a big bend in the knees, allow the weight of the head to draw your upper body forward and decompress the spine and low back. Keep the belly button drawn up and in to support the low back. 

Yoga for Good Posture

Good posture is defined as a neutral spine. Looking at the front or back of the spine the 33 vertebrae that exist there should appear completely vertical. 

“Mountain Pose” is a great place to start when viewing posture. Start by looking at yourself from the side in a mirror, check in with the curves that you see in your spine, (if you see no curves, congratulations, you are done!) for the majority of the population, this is where the work starts. Start from the bottom and begin working your way up. Check in with your feet, notice the distance between them, how they are planted on the ground, and how far in front of you or behind you they are. Try to bring the feet so that they are hips distance apart and stacked right under the hips, check in and be sure they are parallel to one another and not turned out. Next, begin evenly distributing weight between the two feet, rock yourself forward and back, from side to side, eventually landing in the middle of each foot where you have a full 360 weight distribution between the feet. Next, check in with the knees: there should be a micro bend through your knees so that they are right over the top of the foot. Whenever standing ensure this bend is there so there is even blood flow through the body and that the knees are never locked. The hips should be at neutral, and not the typical anterior tilt that we often see. (see below) You can arrive at this place by tucking the tailbone and pulling the belly button up and in to engage the low belly. Keep the head and neck at neutral and breathe normally into the belly and rib cage. 

The best exercise that can be done to improve posture are core strengthening exercises because standing straight up requires some core engagement. You can strengthen your core with many exercises, but here are a few examples. 

Boat Pose

Come to a comfortable seat, bring the feet out in front of you, planted on the ground, hips distance apart, knees straight up in the air at about 45 degrees. Begin by lifting up into the crown of the head and lengthening the spine, ground down into each sit bone, reach the arms out long in front of you, lift up into the chest slightly, and engage the core and hold. To increase difficulty, slowly begin to lift one foot up off the ground without moving the spine, alternate feet holding each for about 5 seconds. 


Come to the hands and the knees, walk the knees back so they are slightly behind the hips, lower down onto the forearms, keep the hips and shoulders in an even line, round out slightly through the upper back and engage the core. Hold this for about a minute, and to increase difficulty first come up onto the hands, maybe you stop here, if you want to continue on dig into the toes to lift the knees up. 

Chair Pose 

Bring the back up against the wall, step the feet out so you are able to slide the hips down the wall and bring the hips even with the knees without allowing the knees to extend over the toes, engage the core and stay here for about one minute, for more intensity bring the arms straight up above the head. To increase intensity, do all of this without the support of the wall.

The Benefits of Yoga for Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is defined as any pain that exists in the body for more than 3 months. An estimated 50-75 million Americans live with chronic pain, and if you’re one of these you may be feeling like you have tried everything and are beginning to feel, or maybe you already are feeling hopeless. There may be something that can help you with the chronic pain you’ve suffered from for some time. Yoga can have a significant effect on not only the physical pain you experience in your body, but in the pain response you experience in your mind. A regular, relaxing yoga practice (such as restorative) teaches the body and mind to rest in a place of safety rather than emergency. This reduces the pain response in the mind and the body. 

Specifically, relaxation has been shown to be extremely beneficial for chronic pain by converting the pain/stress response in the body and mind to growth, repair, and other self-nurturing processes. Relaxation promotes healing and freedom from a great deal of pain. Restorative yoga, specifically, combines the use of many props and gentle poses held for about 10 minutes allowing the body to completely relax and drop even the deepest layers of tension. You will feel no strengthening and hardly any stretch when practicing restorative yoga because, while these are great things and are necessary in life, these are forms of tension being held in the body. 

Using a deep breathing exercise can also promote quite a bit of relaxation in the body and can be done easily from home. Deep breathing can be practiced a thousand different ways, but here is one in particular that can help with the pain response: lay down on your back and place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Begin to bring your awareness to your breath and try to move your breath into the hand that is on your belly. Focus on imagining any place in your body where you may be experiencing pain and imagine the pain leaving your body with each exhale. If this feels too uncomfortable and you find that you are focusing on the pain, move your awareness from the area that is painful to a more comfortable area in the body and try to move back and forth from each area as you move through the discomfort. This will train your brain to intentionally shift your focus from the pain while still being present in the body. 

Chronic pain can affect those who experience it deeply and there are many ways to cope with it, if this is something you experience don’t give up quite yet, there still may be an answer out there for you.

Finding Inspiration in Moments of Stagnation

Create a Healthy Routine

The number one thing that I believe helps me to stay sane and inspired in a time with no certainty, or structure, is to create a schedule for myself. This does not have to be rigid by any means, but can be something as simple as waking up and taking a shower, moving into meditation (or something to feed the soul), and then cooking a meal, etc. Creating a health routine allows you time to sit and be creative, it helps to balance the chemicals in your brain preventing depression (and therefore keeping you inspired), and it allows time for sleep (one of the most vital things for our brain function and creativity!)


Create, create, create! I mean that’s what this is all about right? Set aside some time to create. Whatever that looks like for you, maybe it’s writing a blog post(!), journaling, coloring, painting, making music, crafting, building, cooking, the possibilities are truly endless. This inspires me more than anything! Cooking is one thing in particular that gives me a huge boost of inspiration. I enjoy spending time going through what I have in my fridge and pantry, even when I’m running low on food, and making what I can. The creative juices just start flowing. Inspiration is waiting to be found in the most simple things, you only need to look for it.

Get Outside 

This is another thing that can seem so simple and yet can be so inspiring. Leave the phone at home, grab your friend or pet, and hit the sidewalk (or if you’re lucky like me, the trail!) Checking out nature, hear the birds sing, see all the little critters and colors, and enjoy the life you were given. There are few things more inspiring than a simple mindful walk or hike.

Find Time to Sit in Silence 

Time spent in silence is vital for the brain and controlling the mind. One of the biggest inspiration killers in my personal life is anxiety. Spending time in silence to tune into the breath and gain control over the mind, is necessary to keep inspiration flowing. Make time in your, likely not very busy day at the moment, to sit and be with yourself. Get in tune with who you are without all the mind chatter, and this well help you find what it is you really want to spend your time doing and creating!

Trataka Meditation

What is Trataka or Candle Flame Meditation?

Trataka meditation is probably one of the simplest forms of meditation I have ever practiced, and yields some of the greatest results I have personally seen. To practice: Find a small candle and bring it to eye level (about 12-24 inches from the face) and gaze into the flame. The first and maybe second time you practice this close your eyes and allow yourself to take in the images as soon as you blink. As you practice this more, allow yourself to gaze into the flame even after you blink. Once your eyes begin to water and burn a little bit, close your eyes and take in the imagery. When you open your eyes turn the gaze to a living plant or flower, or maybe a wall around you, but not immediately back to the flame.

Why practice this? 

This practice is important, and for me personally it is pivotal for opening the pineal gland or third eye. This practice provides a feeling of bliss, improved sight, a relaxed state of mind, enhanced and clearer thinking, and a deeper knowledge of self and one’s own thoughts.

How does this work? 

The light and heat emitted from the candle flame generates energy in the brain and pineal glad as it is taken in by the eyes.

Practicing Nadi Shodhana before beginning

Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing greatly enhances the effectiveness of this meditation by balancing the opposite sides of the brain, and the intake of breath through each nostril. This breathing technique is particularly beneficial for this time of year as we become quickly imbalanced with the change of seasons, and congested with the various illnesses and allergies circulating. So how is this done? Arrive in a comfortable seated position, placing the left hand on the left knee in chin mudra (see below), the right hand will come into vishnu mudra (see below). Close the right nostril with the right thumb and breath in through the left nostril, close the left nostril with the right ring finger and breath out through the right nostril. Breath in through the right nostril, seal the right nostril with the right thumb and breath out through the left nostril. This is one cycle. Repeat this for about 10 cycles.

Chin Mudra: Pinkie, ring, and middle finger are extended, and the tip of the thumb is touching the tip of the index
Vishnu Mudra: The index and middle finger are out towards the third eye or tucked towards the palm, pinkie finger out or tucked in towards the palm, and the ring finger and thumb extended prepared to close each nostril.

Yoga for Digestion

Postures for Digestion

Malasana: this is by far one of my personal favorites for digestion because it really makes the most sense. This posture is also probably the most widely of these used by non-yogis. In fact, some toilets outside the U.S. are built so that you are practically forced to do this posture while using the bathroom. This posture works so well because it creates a kind of streamline effect for the digestive organs, bringing everything into alignment allowing for better waste elimination.

The pose: take your feet and plant them a little bit wider than hips distance apart, take your toes out a little wider than your heels, and squat down. Simple as that! If you have tight hips this is going to be a challenge and you may want to take some sort of support underneath your seat. If you’re feeling fancy you can bring the hands into prayer and press into the knees to open them up a little more. Wherever you are feel the crown of the head press up into the sky to keep the integrity in the spine.

Maricyasana Variations (pictured above): I love this pose because it almost feels like a little massage on my belly and I’m sure you can see why. This pose quite literally gives your internal digestive organs a massage and “shakes off” the lining of the intestines allowing built up waste to pass through. You can’t go wrong with this one for long term benefits to your digestive tract.

The pose: come into just about any seated position you fancy, I’ve provided 3 variations here: *for the purpose of this blog I’ll explain one side

1. a traditional cross-legged seated pose,

2. draw the left heel towards the right sit bone bringing the left knee in line with the tail bone and take the right leg and cross the right ankle over the left knee drawing the right knee up toward the sky (pictured above),

3. extend the left leg out long and draw the right knee in so that the right heel is in line with the right sit bone.

Whatever you choose make sure both sit bones stay planted and lift the arms over head planting the right hand along the spine and reaching the left arm over head hooking the left elbow on the right knee, or the left hand on right thigh if you are in a standard seat, and twist from the midline. Then, take the other side.

Legs up the Wall: this is a wonderful posture for digestion because it increases blood flow and fluid circulation in the intestines stimulating digestion

The pose: find a wall, scoot your butt up next to the wall, and let your legs extend up the wall. If this feels uncomfortable for any reason start propping yourself up, you can take a block, a pillow, or a blanket under the hips and any of these props along the body or under the head for a little extra support.

Wind Removing Pose: Do I need to say more?

The pose: lay on your back and hug your knees into your chest, so easy right? The perfect way to end a practice and that’s why I’ve put it last. Try it and in no time you’ll see how it got it’s name.

Pranayama (Breath Work) for Digestion

Kapalbhati: this breath is amazing for the digestive tract because it (like some of the poses) gives it a little massage and “shakes off” the gunk trapped on the walls of the intestines.

The breath: sit in a comfortable position with a strong spine, inhale passively and exhale forcefully drawing the belly button back towards the spine. Do this breath about 10 times and stop if you begin to feel light headed

The Heart Chakra

Anahata, the heart chakra, is the fourth of the primary chakras and is located (you guessed it!) at the center of the heart, near the sternum. Anahata is Sanskrit for, “unhurt, unstruck, or unbeaten” and “unlimited, infinite sound,” just as love is infinite, so is anahata. In order to truly feel divine love we first must open up the heart chakra. 

The Basics:

Anahata is represented by the color green, the seed syllable of the heart chakra is the mantra, “yam,” and is represented by a lotus flower with 12 petals with a hexagram center. The color green signifies life, nature, and the divine connectedness between all living beings. The 12 petals of the lotus are said to represent the divine qualities of the heart: bliss, peace, harmony, love, understanding, empathy, clarity, purity, unity, compassion, kindness, and forgiveness. The hexagram center, containing two opposing triangles, is said to symbolize the center of all of the chakras. This refers to the fact that one triangle is pointing up towards the three more spiritual chakras, and the other triangle pointing down towards the three more physical chakras. The hexagram is the meeting point of the flow of human consciousness upwards towards the spiritual and downwards toward the physical world, the integration of all existence, male and female, sun and moon, everything meets at the heart center.

In Balance:

When Anahata is in balance, everything can seem wonderful. Colors shine brighter, relationships become easier and smoother, the world becomes a more beautiful place. We are filled with forgiveness, compassion, and understanding when our heart chakra is open and in balance. True self-acceptance and love come easy, we are able to show up for ourselves and others, and unconditional loves come naturally in all of our relationships.


Anahata can provide an experience of joy and delight, but it can become easily out of balance if the mind and consciousness are not kept in balance. Misleading thoughts, feelings, fixed ideas, and complexes can affect us physically and arise in the Anahata chakra. You know that tight feeling that you feel in your chest when hard emotions are arising in the body and mind? That’s the imbalance I’m talking about in Anahata. When out of balance you may start to feel overly defensive, closed off, jealous, codependent, or unworthy of love.

Anahata is the seat of love, and because of this it is no wonder why the heart is regarded as the symbol of love. As Valentine’s Day is upon us, there is no more fitting topic. The heart chakra invites us to love, to love ourselves and others, to act with compassion, and to do so unconditionally. When our heart opens up to divine love, the possibilities are limitless.

Heart Chakra Affirmations:

I send love to everyone I know; all hearts are open to receive my love.

I accept that pain is an essential part of my growth and development.

I love myself for me and the potential within me.

All past hurt I release into the hands of love.

I am grateful for all the love that is in my life.

Other people deserve my compassion.

The love I feel for myself and others is unconditional.

Love will set me free. Others love the best that they can.

Downward Dog into Forward Fold

Arriving in Downward Facing Dog

Come into downward facing dog by stepping the feet back away from the hands creating an upside down “V” shape with the body as pictured above.

The Hands: Take your gaze up to your hands and make sure all of the edges of your palm are firmly pressed into the mat or earth and make sure the tips of your fingers are firmly pressed in so that the fingertips begin to turn white. Check in with wrists and make sure that they are supported by the hand, if the wrists begin to feel tender, press a little firmer into your hands to relieve some of the pressure.

The Shoulders, Back, and Abdomen: Begin to feel your head tilt downward so that the gaze is in between the knees or the thighs. Feel your belly button begin to reach up and in towards the diapraghm engaging uddiyana bandha. Feel the sit bones reach up towards the sky as the pelvis presses away from the rib cage. Feel the heart press in towards the thighs, your hands pressing in to ensure you are not dumping into your shoulders, if the shoulders begin to round forward in a cat-like posture take a slight bend in the knees to support the spine.

The Legs and Feet: Your feet should be about hip distance apart, begin to feel your strength in your legs as your heels start to magnatize towards the earth (they do not need to touch.) Feel the pads of the feet beneath the big toe and pinky toe ground into the earth, and feel all ten toes pressing into the mat with a little bit of space in between each.

Moving from Doward Facing Dog into a Forward Fold

Exhale to take a big bend in the knees and feel the thighs press in towards the abdomen, inhale to come up onto the toes, exhale and feel the upper and lower core engage. Inhale to gaze up in between the hands signalling to the legs where they are headed, exhale using the core to reach the right foot up in between in between the hands, exhale, and then on your next inhale reach the left foot up in between the hands to meet the right. Inhale taking the hands to the thighs, shins, blocks, or the ground and half lift reaching out through the crown of the head and the tailbone. Exhale taking a slight bend the knees, fold in as you feel the belly button reach up and in, and the sits bones reach up towards the sky.

Home Practice

I am hoping that throughout this current social and economic climate I can provide you with a reprieve. I am sharing some tools to add to your toolbox so that you can care for yourself during this time of uncertainty. I am also hoping to provide you with some healthy ways to spend your plethora of down time!

Asana Practice

I have mentioned this first because it is the most obvious, the most available, and the most well known. Asana is the sanskrit word for “pose” or “posture” and this is the physical practice that you likely immediately think of when you think of yoga. There is no shortage of online classes (free or donation-based) available to you at this time. I am personally offering free online classes via ZOOM on Saturday’s at 10am MST (code 437 249 6637). Youtube also has never ending classes amongst many other platforms. If you are struggling to find asana classes please reach out to me and I will do my best to point you in the direction of one that will suit your needs!


Pranayama is the sanskrit word for “breath control” and is another tool for calming and focusing the mind. Odds are if you’ve practiced a yoga asana practice, you’ve practiced a pranayama. This is another practice available with endless resources, you can find many youtube videos with different pranayama exercises for different ailments. My go to pranayama practice lately has been nadi shodana or alternate nostril breath, I explained this breath technique in depth in my last blog post.


Meditation has been by far one of the most beneficial practices for me in terms of my mental health and getting through hard times. It is so easy in these times to tune into the world and start to feel anxious, because the world is a very anxious place right now (and for good reason!), but as we know this is not a healthy response. Spend some time sitting down with yourself, it doesn’t have to be complicated, arrive in a comfortable seated position and focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your nose. If you have trouble focusing you can mentally say inhale as you inhale and exhale as you exhale, or count 1 on the inhale and 2 on the exhale, as your mind wonders (because it will) just draw the attention back to the breath. So simple and so powerful!


Mantra, or chanting, is an excellent way to open up your throat chakra, ground down, and bring positive energy into your life. This, like the other practices I have mentioned in this post, does not have to be complicated. This can be as simple as sitting down and chanting the universal vibration of, “OM” three or so times. This can be very powerful for calming the mind when the thoughts start to run rampant. Lately, my personal favorite mantra has been, “OM Namaha Shivaya” which directly translates to “OM greetings to the auspicious one (Shiva)” and this has been important to me lately because Shiva is the God of transformation and I am personally feeling like transformation is something the world and myself desperately need(s) right now.

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is another amazing practice for calming the mind and body. Yoga Nidra is a practice of moving through each part of the body and relaxing it with the mind, sometimes followed by a guided mediation, this is the ultimate mindfulness practice and a great cure for anxiety. I have been using a YouTube video for this that has been amazing and I highly recommend for times when you are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, or anxious: 

I hope so much that these practices help you during this odd time and that each of us can use this time for personal and spiritual growth. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me during this time if there is any way that I can support you or with any questions you may have, I am here for YOU!

Let’s Talk about Bandhas!

What are bandhas?

The word bandha means to “hold,” “tighten,” or “lock.” Bandhas are energy locks that are created in the body through minor movements made externally and internally. Bandhas are meant to facilitate energy, stability and strength in the body. Bandhas prevent the release of prana (vital energy) through points at each end of, and in, the body by the blocking the flow, redirecting it, and forcing it to flow or accumulate in the body.

3 Bandhas

There are 3 major bandhas that are used in regular yogic practices like asana and pranayama, and if you have taken a yoga class you have probably heard them described or maybe even mentioned. 

1. Mula Bandha

Mula bandha is the lower most bandha located at the perineum and is coined the “anal lock” or “root lock.” To create the feeling of mula bandha sit down in a comfortable seated position, tuck the tailbone towards the pelvic bone, tuck the pelvic bone towards the tailbone (opposing the tailbone but still tucking the tailbone,) and begin to feel the sits bones draw towards one another. This should draw all your attention and muscles towards a center point and create your mula bandha. This bandha is most beneficial when trying to accomplish the more challenging balance postures like headstands and handstands. Mula bandha is beneficial in facilitating and “locking” prana in the body because it is the very base of the body

2. Uddiyana Bandha

Uddiyana bandha is located right below the belly button, and for this reason is coined the “abdominal lock.” Uddiyana bandha has also been coined “upward lifting lock” and the reason for this is that it is activated by pulling that space right below the belly button up and in, almost as if you could draw your belly button up between your lungs and into your diaphragm, creating that upward lift. This bandha is particularly beneficial when hopping forward from downward facing dog into a forward fold, and is responsible for the “float” that happens in this movement that you may have experienced or seen happen. Benefits from this bandha include massaging the internal organs, assisting in digestion and circulation of blood, and assisting in deepening of the breath.

3. Jalandhara Bandha

Jalandhara bandha is the higher most bandha and is located and the base of the neck and for this reason it is coined the “throat lock.” To create the feeling of jalandhara bandha tilt the head forward slightly as if you are holding an apple in between your chin and your clavicle and begin constricting the throat. Sometimes it is hard to tell if you are activating this bandha, but you will know you have got it when you can feel yourself swallow quite a bit more intensely. This bandha is most beneficial when working with various breathing exercises, or pranyamas, by opening up the circulatory and respiratory systems, and for opening up the throat chakra. Much like Mula bandha, Jalandhara bandha is beneficial in facilitating and “locking” prana in the body because it is the very top of the body.

Maha Bandha: The “great lock” is the activation of all three of these bandhas together.