While teaching a Vinyasa Yoga class Saturday morning, I noticed three of my students shifting around while in Savasana (aka corpse pose), the relaxation pose done at the end of class where you lie on your back and just breathe. Afterward I asked if they were uncomfortable, and they all complained of an aching lower back.
It seems like an oxymoron that a resting pose would be so unbearable, but Savasana causes many people discomfort, including me. I've discovered some tips to prevent the unsettling back pain, so if you suffer during Savasana, give these a try. One might do the trick, or you might need to incorporate a few in your next yoga class.
- Skip inversions like shoulderstand. I know this pose tends to be a must-do at the end of a class, but since it's challenging for your neck and spine to extend in this manner, it's a common cause of pain during or after the pose. If you don't want to miss out on inversions altogether, lie on your back and extend your legs in the air while keeping your pelvis on the floor. If you absolutely can't give up shoulderstand, be sure to do Fish as a counterpose, which will help release your neck and lower back.
- Do modified backbends. Pressing yourself into a full backbend requires upper-body strength, but most of all you need a flexible spine. Compressing your vertebrae into a tunnel shape may be too much for your spine and back muscles, so do an easier version like Half Wheel or Camel with one hand on your foot at a time.
Learn more tips so you can say "ahhh" in Savasana instead of "owww."
- No matter the variation, follow backbends with a forward bend such as Butterfly, my fave Seated Wide-Legged Straddle, or lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. You may also prevent lower back pain by releasing your spine with this gentle Eagle Spinal Twist.
- Do some ab work. It may not be considered yoga, but right before Savasana, engage your abs by doing crunches or Scissor Abs. It will allow your lower back to relax when lying flat. If you feel weird strength training in a yoga class, do the pose shown above that's part of the closing sequence in Ashtanga Yoga. It's known as Lifted Lotus and is a killer move for working your core. If you can't fold your legs into lotus, just cross your knees instead.
- Do a variation of Savasana. If lying down with your legs extended is uncomfortable, bend your knees and place the soles of your feet together in Butterfly. If this position still hurts, place your legs up a wall.
- Use props. Place rolled-up mats, blankets, or towels under your knees when you lie flat to encourage your lower back to press into the floor. This will help create length in your lower back to alleviate any tension.
What's most important though is listening to your body. If trying all these suggestions still doesn't relieve your lower back pain, get advice from an experienced yoga instructor or see your doctor to make sure there's no underlying issue or injury causing your pain.