Back pain is more common than you may think. Researchers estimate that more than 80% of the United States population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Yoga for back pain provides a cost-effective and holistic treatment option. In fact, many studies have shown the impact a yoga program can have on chronic low back pain, as well as conditions affecting the back such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, kyphosis, and fibromyalgia. Studies have consistently concluded that yoga:
- is an acceptable and safe pain intervention
- can be recommended as a therapy for patients with chronic low back pain
- can be an effective pain management tool for a wide variety of health concerns
And why not? It can help to:
- loosen your stiff muscles
- increase your oxygen flow
- release stress
- align your spine
- lower your blood pressure
- improve your posture and balance
- increase your overall strength
Combine that package of benefits with the mental clarity it can bring and its ability to help you lose weight, and you see that yoga packs a valuable punch.
Ask the Expert: Advice on Yoga for Back Pain
If you struggle with back pain, you’ve probably had a variety of people give you unwarranted advice about how to stop it. Many of these options can be invasive, addictive or downright expensive. However, that’s not necessarily the case with yoga. Many free online videos are available. In addition, yoga focuses on shifting your body and mind away from pain, helping to soothe your body and spirit.
“At the most basic level, yoga allows people to connect more deeply with their body and develop a sense of the underlying cause of what’s going wrong,” said Dr. Loren Fishman, author of several books on the therapeutic use of yoga for healthy aging and a pioneer in the use of yoga therapy. “Once you quiet down enough to sense whatever it is that you’re doing wrong, be it bad biomechanics, poor lifestyle habits, chronic stress, or whatever, you can undo those habits, and things tend to clear up.”
“Back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions often result from unconscious habits,” Fishman said. “We may sit in a chair at work every day that makes us slump. Or we may be carrying things with bad biomechanics, which is often the cause of musculoskeletal difficulties and even herniated discs. So, once you learn to undo those and unwind the soft tissues, you can see great results.”
Strike a pose!
Your yoga instructor may suggest these moves for maximum back pain relief! These yoga poses will help you stretch and strengthen the muscles of your back.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and place your hands on your yoga mat. Lift your heels off the ground to create a square angle between your feet and legs. Your body should be in the shape of a “V”. Keep your back and legs extended and straight. If you’re a beginner, it’s fine to bend your knees a bit. Push your toes into the floor, and lengthen your spine and neck, rather than try to hold them up awkwardly. Breathe deeply and continue to lengthen your spine as neck as well as your legs. Hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths or longer if you are comfortable.
Lie on your stomach with your forehead resting on the floor. Place your hands on either side of your ribcage. Draw your legs together, pressing the tops of your feet into the floor. Reach back through your toes, lengthen your legs and press evenly through your hands as you draw your elbows close to your ribcage. Using the strength of your back, lift your chest and head, sliding your shoulder blades down your back. Take 5 to 10 deep breaths before gently releasing to the floor and lifting your head.
Kneel on the floor with your hands and knees together. Exhale and lean forward into your thighs, placing your arms out in front of you. Reach forward with your back and lengthen your spine. Let your forehead rest on the floor if you can. You can rest your head on a yoga block to allow for full relaxation. Hold this pose for a minimum of one minute.
Begin by standing straight and spreading your feet out wider than your shoulders. Turn your right foot out 90 degrees and your left foot in 15 degrees. Align the center of your right heel with the center of the arch of your left foot. Ensure that your feet are flat on the ground and your body weight is equally balanced on both the feet. Inhale deeply. As you exhale, bend your body down from your hips. Keep your waist straight and put your left hand in the air while your right hand comes down to the floor.
Keep both of your arms in a straight line. Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle or the floor outside of your right foot. Stretch your left arm toward the ceiling in line with the tops of your shoulders. Keep your head in a neutral position or turn it to the left, eyes gazing softly at your left palm. Your pelvis and chest should be wide open. Keep taking in long deep breaths. With each exhale, relax your body more and more. Repeat the same on the other side.
From all-fours, bring your right knee behind your right wrist with your lower leg at a diagonal toward your left hip. Now, square off your hips toward the ground. Bend forward. Widen your elbows and place one hand on top of the other, using them as a pillow for your forehead. Finally, hold 2-3 minutes and then switch to your left side for 2-3 minutes.
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