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Yoga is an ancient practice developed in India almost 6,000 years ago.
In the last decade, yoga has become increasingly popular in the West, and currently, about 15 million people in the U.S. practice yoga.
Generally in the U.S., yoga classes consist of a combination of physical exercises, breathing exercise and mediation.
Yoga has been used for thousands of years to promote health and prevent disease, and many people with back problems have found yoga to provide several benefits including:
• Relieving pain
• Increasing strength and flexibility
• Teaching relaxation and acceptance
In recent years researchers have become interested in studying the effects of yoga on treating disease, and the results are encouraging that yoga can be a useful part of the treatment plan for medical conditions as varied as heart disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, epilepsy, asthma, addiction and many neck and back problems.
People with back pain have to be extra careful when trying out exercise.
Yes, doing yoga to help your back may give relief, but establishing a practice that is safe and meaningful for your condition requires that you know more about how to do certain poses.
It also means that you should know when not to do a pose. Doing yoga cultivates a balance between the flexibility and strength of the muscles of the body, often the real culprit in back pain.
But there are many types of yoga, and if you have pain you must be careful which to choose. Also, there are precautions (modifying the asana) you can take to ensure a safe and productive experience with yoga for back pain.
The pelvic tilt is a classic therapeutic exercise used to stabilize body posture by developing and strengthening the core musculature.
The pelvic tilt can be found in yoga, pilates, physical therapy and other exercise systems. While there are variations on the pelvic tilt, the move for all is about the same.
I love the supported bridge pose because it increases the challenges presented by the pelvic tilt. This pose elevates and removes some of the floor support. Now the ab and back muscles have to go to work to support the body in the air.
The result? Stronger, smarter core muscles, which help develop a centered, easy alignment and good posture.
The hamstring muscles are those large muscles on the back of the leg. When they get tight, they can affect the entire low back making a flat low back posture. The reclined big toe pose addresses this postural problem with a gentle, enjoyable – remember to breathe! – stretch to the muscles.
Supine means lying on your back. The supine spinal twist, as the name suggest, gently twists your spine while you are lying on the floor. For people with back pain, twisting should be approached with caution.
Yoga incorporates breathing techniques that can lead to stress relief and help you get through the challenge as you come to your edge (a sign of discomfort) in any posture, standing, sitting, bending or twisting.
Talking with your prospective yoga teacher can help you determine which class is right for you. Probe and see how skilled the yoga teacher is with back and neck pain and learn how challenging the class is.
Some yoga teachers are big on manual adjustments, including stretching. In most cases, adjustments are helpful but you may need to forgo them to avoid aggravating your pain.
Discuss this with the yoga teacher before the class starts to avoid any unwanted surprise.
Dolly Moody is a professional Kripalu Yoga teacher in Panacea. She can be reached at (228) 380-0140.