Your spine is a complex structure of bones, joints, ligaments, discs and muscles, all of which can become irritated by improper posture (slumping at your desk for 8 hours?), imbalanced muscular strength, tight tissues and unsuspecting daily activities (all I did was tie my shoes!). And because of this complexity, it’s easy to get hurt. In fact, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimate that 80% of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their adult lives.
When it comes to treatment, there’s no one-stop shop; but increasingly, doctors, physical therapists and healthcare professionals are recommending yoga as initial treatment for back pain. In fact, in 2017 the American College of Physicians endorsed a new guideline outlining initial treatment for low back pain which includes exercise, mindfulness based stress reduction approaches and yoga over pharmacological interventions. Which means you can alleviate and even prevent back pain symptoms from the comfort of your own yoga mat; healing may be in your hands.
Yoga uses a double hitter approach to alleviate back pain: Breathing practices calm the nervous system and soothe your brain’s perception of pain; gentle stretches increase blood flow and hydration to injured tissues and strengthening poses help weak postural muscles do their job well again. “Yoga is a gentle way to explore different postures that help ease back pain. Simply moving your back in all different directions can help release tension and rebuild the protective muscles [around the spine] ” explains Erica Yeary, Yoga Medicine Therapeutic Specialist and Exercise Physiologist.
“Furthermore, the benefits of yoga go beyond the muscles to address the emotional aspect of pain. The connection to breath, slow movements, and gaining body awareness help alleviate stress related to back pain.”
Be mindful of the level of sensation you experience when using yoga to help alleviate pain. A little stretch is ok; pain that is sharp or shooting isn’t. You may need to stop, rest, and try something less intense.
And of course, breathe. Yoga Therapists recommend a yogic breathing exercise, called “3 Part Breathing to alleviate pain. (Practice with Lisa below)
Here is a complimentary Breathing Technique that promotes healing and 2 Suggested Yoga Classes, available “On Demand,” so you can practice at your own leisure and convenience.
Breathing Exercise: 3 Part Breathing
Three part breathing or “Complete Breath” helps tissues heal by releasing excess physical tension and reducing pain by calming brain pain receptors. Lay down on a blanket or pillow to prop up your back so you can access your diaphragm more easily. Visualize your breath being directed into 3 parts of your torso: your belly, chest and shoulders. In your inhale, consciously fill your body from bottom to top: belly, chest and shoulders. On your exhale, consciously empty your body from top to bottom, like you are pouring out a pitcher, completely releasing your attachment to pain and tension. Take 10 rounds total and end with this meditation intention: “I am open to full and complete healing. My tissues are safe and so am I.”
Visualize discomfort leaving your body with every exhale, stretch and strengthen with mindful awareness a few times a week, and these head-to -toe therapeutic yoga poses may keep your back healthy for the next few decades.
Release Low Back Tension (Yoga Therapeutics Class)
This is a 50 minute Yoga Therapeutics Class with Lisa Ash Drackert that relieves tension in your lower back by focusing on postural support. Class includes a short lecture on the Quadratus Lumborum muscle which supports and stabilizes the spine, myofascial release, and therapeutic stretches targeting your hips and low back.
Addressing Anterior Shoulder Carriage (Yoga Therapeutics)
This is a 50 minute Yoga Therapeutics Class with Lisa Ash Drackert addressing habitual anterior shoulder carriage. This is the perfect antidote to hours spent working at a computer, sitting or driving.
This class teaches Sama-Vritti Breathing technique which helps to calm the mind and induce the Relaxation Response consistent with a healthy parasympathetic nervous system tone.
Looking for additional “On Demand” Classes? These classes are perfect for your schedule and are purposeful for your body. See all your options on the Westport Yoga KC Website.