You have probably heard how yoga can help with back pain. Yoga can do that however not every yoga class is going to help you with your back problems.
Here are some tips on how you can support your back health during a yoga class (and beyond):
- Firstly if you feel a sharp pain in any posture, come out of that posture. A sharp pain usually means you are aggravating a nerve, which is never a good idea. Go into a gentler variation of that pose or wait for the next one, maybe in child’s pose (unless this is the posture that causes you pain) and tell your yoga teacher that it is causing you pain.
- Even if your yoga teacher cues to have a “flat back”, we don’t actually want you to have a straight back. What we mean by flat back is keeping the natural S-curve of the spine, with a slight inward curve of the lower spine, a slight outward curve of the middle and upper spine and a slight inward curve of the neck. These curves are important for the optimal health of your spine. You might even want to remember this throughout your day especially when sitting at a desk.
- When in a forward bend, any forward bend standing or seated, bend your knees unless you can comfortably get your belly to rest on your thighs. If you are keeping your legs straight and your hamstrings and hips aren’t as open yet, you will start rounding your back. Most people spend the majority of their day working on a computer or driving and doing this their back probably rounds. Repeating this posture during your yoga class will aggravate those tired muscles even more.
- When you are getting up from a standing forward bend, use your core muscles (a slight pull of your navel towards the spine could be enough) and again, bend your knees. Standing up with a straight back can compress the front part of your spinal discs.
- You probably heard that having a strong core will help to prevent back pain. That is correct, however first the muscles need to be relaxed to then get strengthened. Starting a strength routine with very tight muscles can cause them to become even shorter and tighter and they might even start to spasm. Relaxing those muscles first will help to lengthen them first and then you can work on your core strength.
- When working on increasing your core strength don’t just focus on your abs, think of your core muscles as a cylinder and the core muscles to protect your inner organs. The main ones are the Transverse Abdominis and Obliques in the front and sides, in the back the Multifidus (the muscles along your spine), the bottom is the pelvic floor and the lid your diaphragm. I also add the psoas muscles to this, which are also known as hip flexors. If you work only your abdominal muscles, these will shorten and with weak back muscles they can actually cause you to hunch over and cause even more back pain.
Medication for back pain can give you almost instant relief from the pain however, they don’t address the underlying causes of your pain. This can end in a vicious downward spiral with the drugs you are taking becoming stronger and stronger over the years and your body still not getting what it actually needs. A dedicated yoga class can help you with building awareness, slowing down, releasing tension and building strength, which will help you rediscover your mobility and support an overall wellbeing.