Monday, January 30, 2012

How Yoga Works: Relieving Back Pain

There are many claims about yoga, and one of my favorite quotes about yoga is: "Yoga works; it just does."My experience bears this out. But, to be sure, it is not a satisfying answer. I always like to know how something works, and so I'll attempt to answer these sorts of questions in this blog series, How Yoga Works.

Recently, the New Zealand Herald published an article on a study showing that yoga helps to alleviate back pain. The article doesn't describe many specifics about the study - such as which style of yoga was practiced, which may have impacted the study's results - but I can describe my experience of teaching students with different sorts of back pain.

At the most basic level, the common cause of back pain is repetitive movement - or, more specifically, repetitive lack of movement. In our modern culture we spend a lot of time sitting. You might take a moment now to notice how you are sitting.

If you are like me, you will notice that you are crunched forward, back rounding. If you are very much like me, you might notice that you are also curved over to one side or another - I curve toward the left and typically lean on my left arm. It's a rather ridiculous contortion!

When I am in this position for hours on end, this is what happens: the back muscles become overstretched and weak due to lack of use. When I then try to do something out of the ordinary - such as lift a bag of groceries - this weakness becomes immediately apparent: it's easy to pull my back, leading to pain. But, what is even more common, and less immediately clear, is the slow onset of discomfort over time, until the discomfort becomes chronic, and that becomes pain.

So, the real fix for this is not necessarily finding an ergonomic balance for the workspace. That can help a great deal. But what makes a real and lasting difference is bringing back the strength to the back and torso muscles. And in this, stretch cultivates flexibility in the spine as well.

In our yoga practice, various movements are sequenced to strengthen the torso and back. Most people immediately think of "core work" or variations on crunches or sit-ups, as well as backbends. Yes, these are beneficial and included. But there are other postures in the sequence that facilitate the process of creating a strong back and flexible spine.

One of the things that people overlook is everything around the spine - hips and shoulders - and how they affect the ability to align the spine. The first goal, then, isn't backbending, but the basics of back lengthening and opening the hips and shoulders.

One of my favorite postures for working these elements is Warrior I (virabhadrasana I). It comes just about one-third of the way through our power yoga sequence taught here at Healium, which emphasizes hip opening, shoulder release and spine lengthening. The work of the core is strong - without the "rounding" nature of crunches or other specific core work which may only exacerbate the rounding of the spine and thereby the origin of the back pain. The strength of the back muscles - particularly the spinal erectors, the rope-like muscles on either side of the spine - is developed through the lifting of the upper body away from the floor, out of the hips. The shoulders are then externally rotated, opening them up at the neck as well as moving them deeply into the thoracic spine by drawing the shoulder blades down the back.

Thus, Warrior I creates a long, balanced spine, which will help us develop strength that creates flexibility and prepares us for deeper core work and back bends - all of which work together to prevent back pain.

1 comment:

joecoles222 said...

Are you sick of feeling twice your age?

Are you achy, tired and stiff? Or has your job made you chair-shaped?

Are you tired of dragging through your day — or of dosing yourself with industrialstrength coffee just so you can focus?

If that sounds familiar, I’m here to tell you there’s hope.

I was on a fast-track to burnout too — and I was a competitive athlete! But yoga changed all that for me. And it will work for you too.

Yoga will completely transform your life by doing 3 crucial things:

Shutting off chronic pain that robs you of energy and makes even simple routine tasks a trial.

Increasing your flexibility without spending hours and hours of boring stretching.

Turning back the clock on aging and making you feeling younger — by a decade — in just 4 weeks.

For more info please click on the following link: How To Yoga at Home?

Thanks again