7 Ayurvedic Strategies To Alleviate Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is a very common and pervasive health complaint. As someone who suffered from it for several years, I've found many solutions from the time-tested medical tradition of Ayurveda, which is the sister science of yoga. Ayurveda is a remarkable system of healing from ancient India that is re-emerging now after many years of being suppressed by British rule of India.
I teach about the root causes of lower back, and other types, of pain based on an Ayurvedic perspective. The solutions below have worked wonders for me because they address the root causes of pain, which Ayurveda would attribute to excess of a fundamental constituent of the body called vata dosha.
There are three such fundamental constituents of the individual body — and the world around us — with each made up of a different combination of the five great elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. Pitta dosha is made of fire and water, and Kapha dosha is made of earth and water. Vata dosha is made of ether and air, and this is the dosha most commonly involved with lower back pain.
The following solutions reduce vata dosha, and thereby work wonders in reducing pain, particularly lower back pain. Here they are:
1. Stay warm.
One of the main qualities of vata dosha is that it's cold. That's why, whenever I used to wander around in the cold outdoors while growing up in Ohio, I used to notice that my pain would increase immediately, though I could not connect this cause of coldness and its effect of pain at that time. Because Vata is cold, the cold weather in Ohio increased the Vata in my body, resulting in an increase in lower back pain. You know how we always want to be warmly tucked away in our bed whenever we feel ill? An important part of this picture of comfort is the warmth factor, which also applies to pain relief.
2. Reduce your intake of very pungent spices.
Consuming extremely pungent spices in your food, such as red and green chilies and wasabi, can have a very drying effect on the body. Because dryness is another one of the main qualities of vata dosha, it gets increased with drying substances, and this can lead to constipation, as well as lower back pain1 due to stasis of the stools.
3. Eat warm foods.
Because of the principle that like increases like, consuming cold food and drinks causes an increase in vata dosha, which leads to pain. Coldness creates constriction and congestion in the body, while the appropriate amount of heat provides expansion and allows the stool-carrying channels in the body (called srotas) to stay open so that we can optimally eliminate our food. And healthy elimination equals less pain.
4. Practice Padahastasana.
Padahastasana (standing forward fold pose) is a great yoga pose for lower back pain in particular because it allows vata dosha to flow optimally throughout the body, eliminating the constriction of the stool-carrying channels that causes both constipation and lower back pain. Whenever Ayurveda clients suffer from lower back pain that is not due to muscular reasons, we recommend this pose as a way to help with elimination. I have personally noticed that when I have had difficulty eliminating and then have done so, my lower back pain has left my body at the same time as the stools have.
5. Oil your body.
My lower back pain has always intensified during stressful periods of my life. Ayurveda teaches how stress, exertion, depletion, and tiredness all increase vata dosha, and too much accumulated buildup of vata dosha leads to early aging, in addition to pain in various parts of the body, especially the lower back.
The skin, being the primary organ of vata dosha, can be compared to a leather bag. If this leather bag gets very dry, it will crack and can even completely break apart; the same bag, when oiled, however, is able to sustain itself. Oiling your body with warm sesame oil before taking a warm shower makes the skin healthy and strong, wards off aging, and reduces lower back pain.
6. Drink Bishop's weed seed tea.
Bishop's weed seeds (called Ajwain seeds in Hindi) can be found in virtually any Indian store and many health food stores. This Ayurvedic spice is highly beneficial for pain, as well as constipation, and can be safely taken by anyone not suffering from heat-related conditions. Any time I have lower back pain (usually during periods), I always boil Ajwain seeds in water and drink this tea. It provides instant pain relief.
7. Practice alternate nostril breathing.
Also called Anuloma Viloma, this Pranayama (breathing exercise) is the most beneficial breathing practice for balancing vata dosha. It greatly benefits lower back pain and other pain-related vata dosha conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and more.
In order to practice alternate nostril breathing, the cycle goes like this: Lift your right hand up toward your nose and close your right nostril. Inhale through your left nostril and then close the left nostril with your fingers. Then open the right nostril and exhale through this side. Inhale through the right nostril and then close this nostril. Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side. Feel free to practice this cycle for as long as you need.
Try the above tips today and you, too, can bid say goodbye for good to years of unnecessary lower back pain.
Ananta Ripa Ajmera is founder and CEO of The Ancient Way, an organization that carries forward the mission of her lineage ancestors, of health and spiritual freedom for all, and the author of THE WAY OF THE GODDESS: Daily Rituals to Awaken Your Inner Warrior and Discover Your True Self.
The Ancient Way offers a balance of modern day food, lifestyle and spirituality with a centuries' old proven way of life that is close to nature, the gems of Yoga and Ayurveda and the call of spirituality. Ananta also serves as Director of Ayurveda at THE WELL, a modern wellness club that brings together world-class doctors and master healers for a more balanced you.
She is also author of the award-winning book "The Ayurveda Way: 108 Practices from the World's Oldest Healing System for Better Sleep, Less Stress, Optimal Digestion and More." Ananta has taught Ayurveda and Yoga staff trainings at Stanford University, NYU, UNICEF, California Department of Public Health and ABC News - to name a few. She studied and practiced Ayurveda, Yoga, Vedanta and Vedic Psychology deeply in traditional Vedic spiritual lineages for 12 years. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Vogue, Yoga Journal and MindBodyGreen. You can book a complimentary 15-minute consultation with Ananta here.