Dr. Meggie Smith
By Visiting Author:
Yoli Maya Yeh, M.A. RYT
Yoga presents us with many ways to manage chronic low back pain, to strengthen weak parts of our core (a large part of your body the extends from your collarbones to your pubic bone in front and your neck to your tailbone on your back) and to train our body awareness—an integral aspect of self-healing. On the other hand misalignment in yoga poses can contribute to existing back problem or even create new ones! As storage vessels we human beings are constantly retaining our stress often keeping it in favorite places in the body such as the jaw, shoulders, hips and glutes, somewhere in the back (upper, lower, all of the above!) or elsewhere like the joints. Yoga’s science cleanses the places we like to store our stress while at the same time strengthening areas of weakness, as well as harmonizing mind and body through breath, movement and relaxation. Here are a few tips for maximizing your yoga practice to support your best back heath:
1. Make it a habit to bend your knees in any forward bends standing, seated or otherwise. Forward bends can aggravate low back pain and sciatica but by bending the knees your muscles relax into the pose rather then pull on the bones, ligaments and tendons. It’s possible this may not keep your forward bends pain-free. If so consult a yoga therapist for additional modifications.
2. Take an approach to yoga stretching where you warm up the joints with Pawanmuktasana or Sukshama Vyama (joint purification practices) FIRST. By releasing the joints rather then jumping into stretching larger muscle groups (kind-of painful!) you are telling your body to allow the muscles to release. In this approach you do less damage to tissues and build strength and joint health.
3. Try out stretches that release the low back like back bends from the belly (Baby Cobra, ½ Locust, & Sphinx) and knees to chest from the back.
4. Don’t skip relaxation at the end of yoga! It’s in this space that your body processes all the stimulus and input you gave it in the yoga practice. Sometimes there is extra low back pain when laying in Savasana (Corpse Pose). Try placing a rolled blanket, bolster or blocks under the knees to lessen the curve in your low back in order to relax deeply.