Build core stability and protect your spine with these do-anywhere moves from SilverSneakers instructor Dina Sexton.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you deal with back pain. And you’re in good company.
Nearly 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, according to a Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science review. It’s a stat that doesn’t surprise Dina Sexton, a SilverSneakers LIVE Yoga Flow instructor based in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.
In 2010, Sexton ruptured a disc in the lower part of her spine while waterskiing. Life as she knew it came to a “screeching halt,” she says. “I had a hard time and wondered if I was ever going to teach again.”
Fortunately, with dedicated physical therapy—and a passion for yoga—she was able to come back stronger than ever.
“Improving back health and doing yoga are often all about the core,” Sexton says. By stretching and strengthening the muscles of your core—including your abs, hips, and back—you build a strong yet mobile structure around your spine. That scaffolding braces each vertebra, takes excess pressure off of your discs, and helps you move with better alignment.
Here, Sexton shares three yoga poses that helped her bounce back from injury, prevent pain, and get back to doing the things she loves.
Yoga Pose #1: Cat-Cow
Cat-cow combines two feel-good back stretches into one relaxing flow. The result: massaged muscles and reduced tension, Sexton says.
How to do it: Start on all fours with your hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Slowly round your back up toward the ceiling (like a cat) while tucking your chin toward your tailbone. Then reverse the movement by arching your back (think about a cow) while lifting your hips and head. Do 10 reps total (five with back rounded, five with back arched).
Form tip: Focus on raising your head and tailbone to get into the cow position rather than dumping into your lower back. If you have trouble with floor-based exercises, try the standing cat-cow.
Yoga Pose #2: Chair
Chair pose is known for strengthening the muscles in your legs and butt, but it’s also great for fortifying the back, Sexton says.
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, making sure your knees and hips are facing forward. Engage your belly.
Sit back, bending your knees and lowering your hips as if you are hovering over a chair. Keeping your weight in your heels, reach your arms forward for counterbalance. Hold here for three to five slow, deep breaths, then press through your feet to return to standing.
Form tip: Try to keep your back in one straight line throughout this pose. If your lower back starts to arch, tilt your tailbone down toward the floor. This will feel much more comfortable!
Yoga Pose #3: Warrior Two
A true “power move,” as Sexton calls it, warrior two builds strength in the hips, core, and back—and promotes healthy, confident posture.
How to do it: Begin in a staggered stance, with your left foot forward and right foot back. Turn your left toes out so they’re pointing straight ahead. Bend your left knee about 90 degrees, keeping your knee above your ankle and heel. Keep the outer edge of your right (back) foot firmly on the floor. Engage your belly.
Extend your arms out at your sides with your palms facing down, and gaze out over the middle fingertips of your left hand. Breathe here for three to five slow, deep breaths, then gently return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
Form tip: To really engage your core and reduce any stress on your lower back, tuck your tailbone slightly. Think about eliminating any curve in your lower back, and imagine there’s a string pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling.
Want to Take Yoga with Us?
SilverSneakers LIVE offers two yoga classes so you can find one that is right for you. SilverSneakers Yoga is a beginner class that uses a chair for both seated and standing poses. Yoga Flow is an advanced option that uses a mat and includes floor exercises. RSVP or check your eligibility for SilverSneakers LIVE here.
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