Somatic Exercises for the Lower Back

Relieve low-back pain with gentle somatic exercises.
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Somatic exercises for the lower back are a series of gentle movements intended to relieve chronic pain that has not responded well to other therapies. Somatic movements aim to reverse sensory-motor problems and re-train the brain to perceive muscle movement differently. Think of it as rebooting a computer to its factory settings. The brain is the seat of movement and muscle memory. By clearing the hard drive of tension and pain, you can help relieve low-back pain. Always wear loose, comfortable clothing to avoid creating any constrictions as you work through somatic exercises.

Assume the Right Position

    Always begin your exercises with the affected side, the area that is most painful to you. If you are experiencing pain in the right side of the low back, for example, lie on your stomach and turn your head toward the right. Bring your right arm up so you can comfortably place your right thumb on your right nostril. Relax your left arm by your side on the mat, floor or bed. Rotate the right hip and knee so that you can place the bottom of your right foot against the side of your left knee. Make a gentle curve with your torso, toward the right.

Make Slow Movements with Awareness

    Bring your attention to your straightened left leg. Carefully roll the knee so it is square with floor, bed or mat and raise the leg just an inch or two. Release it down. Press heel of the right foot against the left knee to help raise it again.

Stay Fluid, Don't Force Movements

    Softly tuck or pull the right hip toward your belly as you lengthen and raise the left leg. Imagine you are trying to touch the wall behind you with your left toes for this subtle stretch. Hold the position for a few seconds and slowly release the leg down. Switch sides and repeat the exercises on the left side.

Develop an Awareness of Your Body in Motion

    Bring awareness to areas in the back that are painful and tense by lying on the floor, mat or bed, with your toes slightly turned away from your body, and your arms relaxed about a foot away from your sides, palms up. Bend your knees and place your feet flatly on the floor hip-width apart. Take a deep breath and let it fill your belly; don’t suck your stomach in for the breath. Exhale and inhale for several breaths.

Finish with a Soft Landing

    On the next exhale, bring your hips forward so your pelvis tilts up slightly and the small of your back flattens against the floor. Inhale. Create a small gap between your back and the floor by tilting your pelvis toward your feet, gently arching the low back. Drop back to the floor slowly on your next inhale, allowing the breath to fill the belly fully. With each movement try to bring your attention to how you are feeling between your neck and tailbone. Repeat this pattern slowly, 10 to 15 times, never forcing the breath or movement.

Keep in Mind and Body

    The tenets of somatic exercises for the low back include making gentle internal movement of the affected muscles during exercise, moving with awareness, slowly and gently, always maintaining patience as you work through tension and pain.

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