We're all guilty of doing things during the day that contribute to neck, shoulder, and back pain, whether it's sitting for hours on end, slouching over a phone, or laying in an awkward position while watching Netflix. When you're feeling achy, sometimes the last thing you want to do is move, but there's one yoga pose that helps ease my lower back pain every time, enough so that I do it just about every day.
I first practiced the legs-up-the-wall pose about seven years ago, when I took my first yoga class. It quickly became my go-to move for the end of the class, when everyone gets into a resting (or Savasana) pose. I'd just move my mat to the wall. I loved how in tune with my breath I became when laying like this, and I still do the pose with one hand on my heart and one on my stomach, where I can feel every inhale and exhale. When I underwent 200 hours of training to become a yoga teacher myself, I learned just how beneficial this position is.
To do the pose, you simply lay on your back with your hips against the wall and your legs stretched out overhead. This position helps stretch the hamstrings and back of the legs, while allowing gravity to drain excess fluid from the lower body, which can reduce post-workout soreness and even swelling. (When I suffered a knee injury that lingered for what felt like months, legs-up-the-wall helped ease the swelling every time.) Experts even believe it can help with period cramps, by relieving pressure in the hips and lower spine.
The best thing about this pose is that it requires very little flexibility and can easily be modified. While a wall or other structure to lean your legs against is encouraged, you can do the pose anywhere: lying on your bed, on a mat, on a towel, or on a padded floor at the gym — whatever feels best for your lower back and hips. You can bend your knees, if that's more comfortable, or bring the soles of your feet together and open your knees wide. Or, keep your legs straight and let them fall down the wall into a wide-legged pose. Place a blanket under your hips, if you find that helpful, or even over your chest if you're feeling anxious.
Once you're comfortable, close your eyes, relax your muscles, and let your breath rise and fall. You can stay in this pose as long as you like! Finish the stretch by bending your knees and letting them both fall to one side and then the other (called a spinal twist), before sitting up. I love to do this pose first thing in the morning to start my day or just before bed to help relax my muscles for sleep.