What is Yoga?Yoga is a low impact exercise that teaches you to focus on breathing while holding poses that stretch out the major muscle groups. Don't be fooled! Yoga can be a serious workout... which means if you are hurting, choose your yoga for back pain routine very carefully. The first yoga DVD I ever bought left me limping for 3 days and I didn't do it again for nearly a year.
How Yoga Helps Back PainYour back pain has several causes... first there is the actual alignment of your spine, then the muscles attached to the spine are affected, and that changes your posture. Add to that all the muscles that affect the spine even though they're not directly linked (like your hamstrings, the back of your thighs) and I hope you see that tight muscles are a major player in back pain.
Quite simply, yoga is the simplest way to stretch all those muscles. The poses will also make you stronger, and being strong protects you from further pain and injury. And as an added bonus, the flexibility and muscle balancing effect from yoga is great osteoarthritis prevention.
How to Do Yoga for Back PainStart slowly, and with a DVD or class that is designed for pain relief. I can't stress that enough. Intermediate or advanced yoga classes require a lot of strength and you can really hurt yourself if you jump in too quickly.
The poses that are best for back pain include child's pose, the forward bend, the wall plank, downward facing dog, pigeon pose, and legs against the wall.
The goal here is to start loosening up the hips, backs of the legs, and lower back muscles. Together, these make up much of what causes back pain.
What You Can Expect From Yoga,If you are a beginner, take it slowly, with poses designed to stretch more than strengthen (although many poses do both!). If you are sore the first time, you can expect it to take a few sessions before it feels great. It's worth continuing.
As your muscles start to loosen up, you can expect to:
- Move easier
- Have less pain
- Increase stamina for daily activities
- Be able to do more physical work in hobbies, your job, and housework
- Handle everyday stress better
- Breathe easier
Where Do You Start?If you are a beginner, I do recommend you take a class with a certified yoga instructor, and tell them you are doing yoga for back pain. They can tell you modifications that will ensure you don't further hurt yourself.
If that is just not possible (either you are hurt too badly or there isn't a class near you) you can start with home DVD's designed to help someone injured.
A yoga routine that gets consistently high reviews is Viniyoga Therapy for the Low Back, Sacrum, and Hips with Gary Kraftsow
This is a practical routine that focuses on one thing: getting you out of pain. There is enough information there for you to learn the basics, and to learn what each pose is designed to do. It's great for anyone who has never considered yoga and needs relief.
Another DVD that I've heard great things about is Yoga Therapy for Back Pain:
This is a gentle DVD with different routines depending on what ails you. There is one for sciatica, one for herniated discs, and so on. If you aren't sure what is wrong with your back, they even take you through some different conditions and explain them.
Eat Properly To Heal"You are what you eat." You've heard me say it before... if you are eating a lot of processed foods (boxed or canned foods) do yourself a favor and add more fresh, whole foods into your diet. Your cells are made up of the fuel you give your body. If your fuel comes out of a box, you will hurt more. If your cells are getting quality nutrition from whole foods, you will feel better. If you don't know where to start, read about the foods that help arthritis.
Also make sure you're getting plenty of water. Water flushes toxins out of your cells, and the pain pathway causes a build up of acids in your muscles.
I hope you are willing to give yoga for back pain a try!
If you're not ready for yoga yet, but know that you need to stretch, click here for my recommended back pain stretching exercise.
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