Sunday, February 24, 2008

Yoga for your Aching Back

Whether it’s age, cold, driving, bad posture, back pain has been the biggest stunt to my running lately. It hasn’t stopped me from running; it’s just made warm-up a little “eek,” “ooh-ooh” and “oww.”

For a few pained runs, it took about a half-mile for my back to warm up and chill out. But what a price to pay! So, on Friday, it was time for something completely different.

I went back to my injury-treatment staple: yoga. What was I waiting for? The pain lived mainly in my low back—almost like a double sciatic pain, but not as painful. And it mostly occurs when I first start running. While I get some sitting pain (my back isn’t fond of sitting still, evidently), it’s the impact in running that really miffs my back.

So, it was time for cat series 3 and cat series 5. These vinyasa cat-pose flows make for stellar spinal warm-ups. I try to focus on my lower back, but if my mid-back feels achy, I lay my focus in those positions and interweave my breath. Works like a dream.

Cat Series 3: Begin in extended child’s pose with your hands and arms reaching, stretching out in front of you. Inhale and push up through cat pose (back arching) and then exhale, flowing into upward dog. Inhale at the top of upward dog and really feel the stretch in your back, keeping your core strong. Then exhale, lowering your forehead to the floor, and push through the back, raise your feet into half-locust. Inhale on your way up through upward dog, stretch your back, exhaling, into cat pose, and then push back into extended child’s pose.

I repeat this exercise five times, intensifying the breath with each flow.

This video of cat series 3 gives a good demo of the flow. I prefer to raise my legs into a low half-locust (as described above) for my lower-back warming, but modify the flow for your purposes.

Cat Series 5: From extended child’s pose, inhale, engage your spine and move onto your forearms in cat bow (back is bowed in cat stretch). Exhale and push through your legs into modified downward dog (downward dog with your forearms on the mat), reaching your heels toward the mat. If it’s too much for you, extend your arms into normal downward dog. Engage your lower back and back of your legs in this stretch. Then inhale, bring your knees back toward the mat through cat pose (onto your forearms with your back). Bow your back into cat bow (the first ‘bow’ has a long o; second as a short o sound), exhale, and then pose through cat pose into extended child’s pose.

I generally do this exercise five times as well, but I will repeat it until my back feels just skippy.

The following video demonstrates cat series 5, but does not extended into child’s pose between flows. Again, modify for your purposes.

So, after completing a couple of cat series flows (if you become a fan, more Kate Potter flow videos are available), I headed into the sludgefest known as Friday morning. It wasn’t too cold outside, and, while it was still snowing, it didn’t make for bad running weather at all.

Too bad the weather wasn’t the issue.

Running in 3-4 inches of thick slush just doesn’t make for a good run. It’s kind of like running through sand, but without the sun, warmth and wavy water. The only thing wavy here was my balance—maybe my confidence too—as I slipped and slid for a whole 25-minute run.

Twenty-five minutes? Well, it felt like an eternity.

I didn’t even have a concept of how far I ran because my normal, measurable routes were impossible to travel and I ended up circling the same set of three parking lots and two streets that were remotely traversable. Yick! And I realized after 20 minutes that my legs were hurting in my places they normally aren’t phased, so my stride must be all off. For another five minutes I tried to focus on running with a good stride, using the right parts of my legs and getting an actual workout. But alas, I failed. I just couldn’t get the footing, the traction, the non-sludge-covered ground to help me run.

Instead, I went inside and did some intense aerobics, which, with the awkward running style, made for some pretty sore legs on Saturday. It’s been really sunny the past two days, and I hope the coming week makes for some quality running days… I’m running out of time!


Landon said...

Slush is the main reason I prefer running in winter vs. spring. I can handle single-degree temps but wet feet get me down like nothing else.

Jim said...

I hope your back is doing better. What a bummer.

The 311 Boys Mom said...

Excellent advice! I"ve been going to a Chiropractor. I used to do Yoga, but its been years. . . . I WILL be trying these when I get home!

Good lookin out!

The Salty One said...

I just discovered cat's pose. LOVE it for the lower back! And downward facing dog is awesome for the calves.

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