Yoga for Back Pain

Yoga for Back Pain
Tagged with: back    pain    yoga

By Anne Asher, About.com Guide
Yoga and the Problem Back:
If you have a back problem, it’s best to get an okay from your doctor before trying yoga. Back pain is often the result of a biomechanical imbalance in spinal structures. Your doctor can advise you of: •any movements to avoid •the most productive level of challenge •safety modifications. •effects of interaction between your meds and exercise
What a Good Yoga Teacher Can Do: Once you have had this conversation with your doctor, tell your yoga teacher about it. A good teacher will be able to respond to your medical limitations with the use of props and modifications, allowing your experience with yoga to be safe, as well as beneficial. Unless you are a professional rehabilitation specialist yourself, it is imperative to find a qualified teacher. Do not try to teach yourself!
Balance is Key: Doing yoga cultivates a balance between the flexibility and strength of the muscles of the body, often the real culprit in back pain. Most people are tight in key areas affecting the spine, for example in the hips and shoulders. A system such as yoga, which releases the tension in the muscles, should improve back pain. While the emphasis is on stretching and flexibility, yoga also develops muscle strength.
Types of Yoga Suitable for Back Pain Sufferers: There are a variety of styles of yoga out there, ranging from gentle to vigorous. Also, some styles emphasize spirituality and emotions, while others, most notably hatha yoga, focus more on the physical postures. For persons with back pain, a hatha yoga style is a good place to start, particularly rest and restoration classes. Styles such as Kundalini, Ashtanga and Bikram are specialized and challenging — not a good choice for back pain sufferers. A rule of thumb is gentle is better.
Alignment and Body Awareness –The Hallmarks of Hatha Yoga: As a whole body system, yoga develops body awareness and places emphasis on alignment. This means that the whereabouts of each body part (feet, knees, hips, spine, shoulder, head) affect all the others. Like Pilates, yoga emphasizes core work although there is less abdominal strength development in yoga than in Pilates.
Don’t Try — Modify! An Introduction to Props: You may be wondering — will I be able to do yoga without creating more pain? Most yoga classes utilize props. Props help bring the pose to you, when tight or weak muscles cannot fully bring you into the pose.
Relax, Deeply: Yoga incorporates breathing techniques which can lead to stress relief as well as help you get through the challenge of the stretch. Often yoga classes have a spiritual basis, and may offer techniques and the environment to work on deeper levels of healing and resolution of pain. Interview the Prospective Yoga Teacher: Interviewing your prospective yoga teacher can help you determine which class is right for you. Probe to find out how skilled the teacher is with back and neck pain as well as the level of challenge to which the class is geared. Some yoga teachers are big on manual adjustments, including stretching. In most cases, adjustments are helpful, but you may need forgo them to avoid exacerbating your pain. Discuss this with the teacher before the class starts, to avoid an unwanted surprise.
Special Focus Yoga Classes: Many yoga studios offer special focus classes, for example: •prenatal yoga •yoga for MS •yoga for athletes
Find out if there are any classes geared especially for students with back pain. You may be in luck!! Conditions Helped by Yoga: By its very nature, yoga is well suited to address back problems such as those arising from postural alignment conditions. A small study published in the December 2005 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine found that yoga is more effective than traditional exercise or an educational book for improving function in patients with low back pain.
Examples of conditions particularly suitable for yoga include (but are not limited to):
•kyphosis •scoliosis •lordosis With modifications and a gentle, prudent approach, beginner yoga can benefit those with other conditions as well, for example (but not limited to): •stenosis •problems of the intervertebral disk. •nerve root problems Yoga for back pain can be quite a winner, but you must respect the limits placed on you by your pain. This necessarily involves listening to the body, a skill you will undoubtedly cultivate as a student of this ancient system.
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