Sometimes the old adage ‘rest is best’ is the most appropriate way to allow your back to release after a trauma. However in many cases, movement is exactly what we need to keep our spine healthy, supple and pain free.
An inflexible spine or pelvis (as often as not, lower back pain emanates from the area of the pelvis/SI joint rather than simply the spine itself) may seem like it’s something that we just have to live with, but it can be painful, constant and can seriously affect our quality of life. We often assume its just something we need to learn to live with – not so!
If you’ve reached that ‘certain age’ and its just a little harder to pop your socks on or bend down to pick something up.
If your sport means that no matter how much ‘stretching’ you do – those glutes and hip flexors just won’t release
If it feels like your body simply isn’t as supportive as it may have been in your 20s and 30s
Or when you’ve spent way too long folded over a computer like a pretzel with no thought for ergonomics or posture.
What should you turn to in order to ease out tension and release pain?In short – what works to help us feel flexible strong and pain free – whatever our age.
- Yoga is one of the most effective tools for helping soothe low back pain.
Wait… before your head fills with images of incense and chanting let me assure you that there are many different types of yoga to choose from and whilst the benefits of any yoga practice aren’t limited to the physical, it is possible to find a yoga class or teacher that can offer all the benefits you are looking for, without the necessity to become vegetarian or meditate each morning. (For my part both work for me but hey that’s me – and I fully endorse choice!)
- What are the facts?
In terms of spinal health Yoga is proven to stretch, strengthen and release the muscles that support the back and spine – think paraspinal muscles that help bend your spine or transverse abdominis in the abdomen that helps support it. Yoga can even help release fascia in the hips relieving tension or pain in the lower back and groin.
The implication of a study published by Dr. Loren Fishman, a leading pioneer in the therapeutic applications of yoga for chronic physical and structural issues found that regular practice of a specific yoga pose was effective in reducing idiopathic scoliosis curves for both adolescent and adult patients an average of 40 percent.
Study conducted in conjunction with researchers Karen Sherman and Eric Groessl (leading researchers in the yoga therapy applications of yoga for back pain)
All sounds brilliant doesn’t it? But wait one more time… If you are thinking – I’ll just jump online, find a class and there you go job done – I urge caution. I’m not decrying any online practice but Yoga can be the best thing for your spine or the worst and in this case correct alignment is the difference between the two.
According to Harvard Publishing :
‘Unfortunately, yoga is also the source of many back related injuries… So the question is this: How can you protect an aching back from the therapy that has the power to soothe it?
Proper Form is especially important for people with back pain’
The main issue with yoga related back injuries is that people don’t follow proper form or speed. Imagine jerking your body lifting weights and doing fast reps instead of slow controlled movements or starting to learn to run by trying to complete a half marathon before you have run to the end of the road and back – the result of both is likely to be injury.
If you are using Yoga to address specific issues you need to learn to use your muscles to create a solid foundation for movement. In the case of the spine you need to learn to release and support, then follow the correct form that slowly lengthens and stretches the body. You may benefit from seeking a 1-2-1 yoga teacher who understands your personal issues and can either work with you purely on a 1-2-1 basis for faster results or give you initial help and instruction privately to give you the confidence to join the appropriate class.
- Why is it so difficult for us to find correct alignment and posture?
Our bodies always follow the path of least resistance no matter if sometimes that path is the route to injury. In practice, we need to activate our core muscles to consistently support the spine, feel the spine lengthening and hold until tension dissolves. The ability to find this correct alignment as we practice yoga soon follows us off the mat to better posture, strength and support in our daily movements resulting in more flexibility and less stiffness and pain.
Done properly Yoga remains one of the most effective ways of reducing pain, improving flexibility and keeping our spine younger for longer.
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Check with your GP if you are unsure if you should begin a yoga practice – certain conditions such as spinal fractures or herniated discs don’t respond well to yoga; explain your issues to your yoga teacher before class or find a class especially designed for back care. Small classes or 1-2-1 session are a really good way of ensuring you get the best results keeping your spine, back and pelvis flexible, healthy and pain free.
Generally, it’s not advisable to start a yoga program while you have acute neck or back pain. But once the first phase of healing—characterized by inflammation and pain—is over, yoga can prove a valuable tool in injury recovery.