“Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide”[1]

Back pain affects 8 out of 10 people at some point in their lives[2], and on average health care expenditures for individuals with back pain have been estimated to be about 60% higher than those without.[3] In overall dollar terms, Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain.[4]

Those are impressive statistics.  As a super active, life-long athlete and professional yoga teacher, I never thought I’d be part of those statistics, but I am.

My process looked like this: Denial, anger, acceptance, resolve, hopelessness, more anger, blah blah blah.  You get the idea. At one point I had spent a few thousand dollars on various doctors and body workers.  Despair began to gnaw at me.  It seemed nothing was working.

It wasn’t until I rededicated myself to the full scope of a consistent Yoga Tune Up® practice that I was finally able to move normally again. My own (ongoing) recovery journey has its own Sankalpa and it sounds like this:

  • I accept that I’ve got “a few back things going on”
  • I am über-conscientious and unremitting in my posture: I sit differently, I stand and walk differently, I sleep differently and yes, I practice yoga and exercise differently.

Because of the looming threat of pain and because I don’t wish to take medications or undergo surgery, I am never “off.”  I am never slumped over in my chair at my computer. I am determined to restructure my body to be better, stronger and more stable. Those who know me see the changes; it’s working.

I’m not claiming to be as nimble as I used to be and I’m not saying that my back doesn’t still hurt sometimes, because it does.  However, now I can kick a soccer ball and referee my son’s games.   I am thrilled to finally feel solid enough to resume commuting around New York City by bike.  I can also take yoga classes again, but here’s the kicker:  I limit my range of motion.  These days when I exercise or practice yoga my primary goal is to “do no harm.” That means no more nose-to-knee straight leg forward bends, no more full wheels and no more ego-driven twists. My motivation to “drop back” or wrap my leg around my neck is long gone.  This type of movement just doesn’t serve my body well at this point in my life.

You know what’s so great about this blog?  My pain story is not so unique.  Over the last several years, I have participated in, assisted and taught many different YTU classes, privates, workshops, immersions and teacher trainings. There’s a whole bunch of super smart people who are tuning themselves back into balance and normalcy with this practice.  I’m a big fan. The entire YTU practice is indispensable but Jill’s Self Massage for Lower Back video (posted below) is one of my all-time favorite quickies for an aching back at the end of a long day.

What’s yours?

Watch our Quickfix video for upper back pain.

Watch our Quickfix video for lower back pain.

Learn about our Therapy Ball Programs


[1] The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, The Lancet, published Dec 13, 2012

[2] Medline Plus. Back Pain. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/backpain.html.

[3] Mehra M, Hill K, Nicholl D, Schadrack J. “The burden of chronic low back pain with and without a neuropathic component: a healthcare resource use and cost analysis.” J Med Econ. 2011 Dec 5.

[4] Project Briefs: Back Pain Patient Outcomes Assessment Team (BOAT). In MEDTEP Update, Vol. 1 Issue 1, Agency for Health Care Policy and Research

Dinneen Viggiano

An experienced Therapeutic Movement & Back Pain Specialist with 18 years’ experience, Dinneen offers classes, workshops, trainings and online programming to optimize nutrition, improve mobility and Retrain Back Pain®. As a Senior Teacher Trainer for Tune Up Fitness® & Roll Model® Method, Dinneen travels the globe leading professional trainings. She is also a NeuroKinetic & CranioSacral Therapist and a Certified Health and Nutrition Counselor. www.dinneenviggiano.com

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Jess Blake

Thank you for sharing your story. I have also experienced that merry go round of emotions (denial, frustration, etc.) regarding my own pain during a SI joint injury. There was a level of embarrassment, shame and even disbelief mixed in there as well -how could I get so hurt doing the practice that I loved? I realized that I had been abusing the practice, like a drug. I was taking too many of the same poses, repeatedly. And sometimes, I would go for the hard stuff too soon and without the appropriate understanding of my own internal structures and limitations.… Read more »

Greg

Dinneen, I completely agree with your post. You made 2 points that really stood out to me. First of all, I am a firm believer in a holistic approach, and YTU is awesome for improving, if not alleviating pain. In today’s world, we have become accustomed to having a pill fix any ailment that presents itself. Many don’t realize that most pharmaceuticals are processed through your liver. So, you may be taken care of a problem now, but you may also be creating another hefty problem you will be dealing with in the future. The other point that stood out… Read more »

Julieann

Thank you so much for sharing your story. This is exactly why I have come for YTU training. Not only to help in my self healing but to share with others. I have a degenerative L5 and for years battled with sciatica with my yoga practiced I have helped to strengthen my back around L5 and have had almost no more sciatica. I work with a pain clinic teaching patients yoga. I am really hoping that YTU training can help me offer this patients more in my classes.

Katelynn Corman

I have also suffered from little to extreme back pain over my lifetime and have had that similar experience where I’ve had to make conscious decisions to stand different, sleep different, exercise different (no more full wheel!), and add the self-care techniques to keep the “issues out of my tissues” (as Jill Miller says), including the YTU low back sequence. I still love it!

Caitlin Casella

Thank you for including your recovery Sankalpa here. As I’m presently going through the YTU level 1 training and uncovering some “problem” areas of pain and dysfunction, I’m finding it tremendously useful to feed my body words of encouragement. It’s helpful as practitioners and as teachers to use words of friendliness and curiosity as apposed to critique and shame. Your Sankalpa, “I accept that I’ve got “a few back things going on” is an honest and straightforward way to address what might feel like difficult limitations and become empowered to do only what serves you. Thanks Dinneen!

Regina

I too have had low back issues. So bad I did go to the doctor but, this was definitely not the run of the mill doctor. He was the first one to suggest yoga and sent me to yoga. At first this was great to make my back feel better but I never felt good in shavasana at the end of practice. I always had a nagging ache. Then I too discovered Yoga tune up ball. Now I have another great item to add in to my low back treatment and to share with others. I also did the same… Read more »

Jocelyn

Thank you for this post. It’s a great reminder to practice good posture when we’re off our mats, and to not push ourselves to the nth degree when we are on the mat. The YTU therapy ball massage techniques in the video really do help.

Stefanie Eris

It’s so important for master teachers like you to give everyone permission to take a modification and remove the ego from the situation. Your insights about constant awareness of your form throughout everyday life with no time “off” is key. No matter how aware we may be on the mat, what matter is what we’re doing the other 23 hours of the day. Thank you for sharing your story, and for helping so many people find their way to healing through your own.

Ekaterina

Thanks for the sharing your story, Dinneen. It’s great point. Back up and start to listen to your body

Susannah Nelson

Dinneen, I can empathise with your journey of back pain varying from denial, anger, hopelessness,etc and appreciate you sharing what works for you ie,” It wasn’t until I rededicated myself to the full scope of a consistent Yoga Tune Up® practice that I was finally able to move normally again. My own (ongoing) recovery journey has its own Sankalpa and it sounds like this: I accept that I’ve got “a few back things going on” I am über-conscientious and unremitting in my posture: I sit differently, I stand and walk differently, I sleep differently and yes, I practice yoga and… Read more »

Charmaine Garry

Awesome message! I have always practiced “do no harm” with my clients. Now I am doing no harm to myself and restoring my body. Having a wonderful time with Dinneen in YTU Level 1 training.

Paula Bishop

I sat on the floor for a week in the YTU Level 1 training. Usually, just one hour is a recipe for disaster with my back, let alone one day or week. Consistent rolling throughout the week, coupled with the morning movement and stretches, made it possible for me to survive. My experience reinforced for me that I need to consistently incorporate the lower back massage into my day.

Also your mantra of “do no harm” is brilliant. Every yogi should take that advice to heart. There’s no glory in having an injury caused by pushing your body beyond its limits.

AnnMerle Feldman

Amanda Tripp echoes Dineen’s comments in my recent teacher training when she talked about what you’re doing the other 23 hours when you’re not actively responding physically to your back pain. I completely agree. I have learned how to strengthen all the muscles that support my low back: hips, adductors, core. But it is equally important to observe, or witness, one’s self in life. When do I get stressed out? When do I hold myself tightly? How long have I been sitting? What contortions am I subjecting myself, too. The solution, after learning how to strengthen and care for my… Read more »

Kate Colette

This was perfect for a day where I fatigued out of my usual neutral(ish) alignment…..and into lower back back. I’ve just spent two minutes on the balls following that routine and I’m feeling so much better. Thank you!

Lisa Salvucci

I love how you write about limiting your range of motion in yoga. I too, have learned to do the same. It’s a day to day work in progress. And that is the reason I love YTU and our community. If you are involved in movement (and who doesn’t move), learning about your body and it’s blindspots, is truly the way to learn how to live better in your body.

Annaliese Godderz

Dinneen! One of the biggest take-aways from training with you was definitely the understanding that poise is a 24/7 commitment. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, we need to stay in tune with our bodies. This is just as important as maintaining a flat spine when demonstrating in front of a class (I’m working so hard on this one) and sitting upright on the subway. Personally, when I think about poise as a full time commitment I mentally check in with myself all day and back-off or protect my body more and more. Thank you.

Cat Murcek

Dinneen, thank you so much for sharing your story of chronic pain and for the great advice! I, too, have been struggling with pain that comes and goes over the last 6 years, and I’m excited to be able to add YTU therapies to my pain management arsenal. I loved this QL work when we did that in class the other day, but found it so painful I had to go do it at the wall! I think that in a twisted way, our pain is a gift because it helps us have a deeper understanding of our bodies and… Read more »

Maggie

Thanks Dineen. I have felt similarly as a Licensed Massage Therapist regarding having hip pain that I couldn’t make go away. Massage, acupuncture, yoga, strength training and rolfing over the years have all contributed slowly to improving the pain, but I was embarrassed that I couldn’t figure it out, and to have to tell my clients for fear, I guess that I’d be letting them down or changing their perception of me. Well, that’s all ego, and luckily I’ve let a lot of that self abuse go and am on a journey towards a pain free hip..and if it sticks… Read more »

Chadd

I put this low back YTU therapy ball lower back routine into my candlelight class and it was universally praised. I was like a massage god! Of course, I gave credit where credit was due. To Jill. And I also uttered the words, “Take your Yoga Tune Up® balls out of the tote.” Felt good to say out loud. Such sweet relief for the back.

Jean Eng

The idea of not being “off” is a great reminder to keep my awareness of my body in everyday life. I’ve never really had great range of motion or flexibility, but practicing Yoga Tune Up have been the best lessons in body awareness I could have asked for.

Tara Kachroo

Wonderful post. I have also had to back off of many things because of relentless pain and it is a resolve to be committed to self care, consistant practice and lots of rolling that is helping me achieve it.

Colleen Alber

Did you write this just for me?! 🙂 Hot off my YTU level 1 training, I’m now also trying to be relentless in my posture and bring balance into my body instead of deeper forward bends. Its going to take a lot of getting used to. It was actually pretty scary to really “see” myself and what a mess I’ve made of my body. The video was great…watched it and then tried it immediately. I wish I could just spend my days tuning up my body!

Anne

So wonderful to hear voices of moderation in the movement world encouraging taking care of our bodies and working to “do no harm” – not trying to “look” a certain way in a poses that may or may not improve our body’s wellbeing.

Jenni

I so support your decision to back off those deeper pose variations and to honor your body by moving in ranges which are healthy for your tissues. Thankfully this trend is starting to grow broader within the yoga community, in large part to the wonderful system of YTU!

Jessica

Really appreciate you sharing your story. It’s not easy to be always “on,” but your example of healing through the combination of intention and attention is inspiring and empowering! (Confession: I am writing this with a laptop on my lap while lying with my therapy balls under my lumbar erector spinae muscles.)

Sonja

Thank you, for sharing your story, and writing this post. It reminds me to be a bit more mindful in my own practice. Self massage for the lower back felt amazing after a day sitting in lecture. 🙂

Tanell

It is really hard reprogramming yourself to never be “off.” I just finished my YTU TT and I am being as aware as possible of how I move and sit. It is hard work, but I hope that I will settle in to a new normal soon so I might be as shining as an example to my students as Jill was at our training!

Veronica Dinehart

I too have back pain. I have had surgery but I refuse to take pain medication and/or reinjure my back. Consequently, the yoga tune up therapy balls have been life savers.

Katy Forline

I love the your comment “do no harm”. It is encouraging to me that you are a highly admired YTU teacher and yet carry with you the awareness of “back things going on”. So many people, including me, have or will have at some point in their lives back issues. Rather than giving up, we can serve as motivators and living examples of the ability to stay mobile within our healthy limits.

Abigail Stevenson

I have scoliosis, and I tend to get a lot of lower back pain. The cross fibering massage on the lower back felt AMAZING! To me, it felt intense when I first came into the pose but as I laid there for a while I felt a lot of relief. Thank you for sharing this, Dinneen!

Anjuli

Dear Dinneen, thank you so much for sharing this post. I began using yoga tune up therapy balls for my back — a fellow yogi recommended it to me. I found that my lower back — especially around the sacrum area — hurt constantly. I write a lot at a computer, which means I spend hours sitting in bad posture. I tried changing chairs, the angle of my computer, but the pain didn’t go away. I became more conscious while practicing yoga –gentler, kinder — but I needed to give that area of my body a little more love. So… Read more »

Pooja

Hi Dinneen, I was looking into lower back pain for possible ball sequences to release that area and found your post! This is awesome. Given the perspective that I have now on my journey to becoming a yoga teacher, I’ve found the balance of physical practice and philosophical practice espoused by the yogis I’ve met to be truly on point. The physical practice without the philosophical balance becomes meaningless, in my opinion, and this post reminds me how, even when we’re dealing with something as visceral as back pain, we’re dealing fundamentally with humans…people, and although pain sucks and no… Read more »

Rob

My favorite low back release with YTU balls is just to plant plus balls on the PSIS and really grind them up against the wall. Feel free to push hard with the legs. You can do the usual static hold, go back and forth, or start making circles around your PSIS’s (Both directions please). Such freedom from just one spot!

Julie Ann

As a physical therapist. I treat patients who half back pain approximately half of my day. Unfortunately, most of my patients are very unaware of their own position in space and have no clue what proprioception is. Additionally, I attribute most of my patient’s back pain to postural deficits. Ladies and gentlemen, educate your students on posture and how to “check in” during the day so they can begin to care for themselves!

Carley Beck

I love this article. I was fortunate enough to be a high level athlete, from triathlons to collegiate basketball and even junior olympic volleyball. I also have my skydiving solo license and have started my yoga teacher training. Needless to say, I am a highly physical and mobility dependent individual – it’s literally my life. I thought it was so exciting to hear someone share their story with low back pain (which of course, is unfortunate and a plague of many of our lives) because the statistics dont lie, but we do – to ourselves. We depend on our bodies… Read more »

Gina Decker

I love cross fibering the low back, it is one of those delicious massage moves. I do love a good back massage but this one I can give to myself almost everyday. The slower the better. My back is very healthy and I would like to keep that way.

Blake Rogers

This video is great i will be incorporating this into my daily home practice with the YTU balls i now have a tool to warm up the body and get loos before i do any activity may it be Yoga, cross fit, or jiu jitsu. I know from experience that a lower back injury can drive movement junky’s like our selves crazy. Thanks for sharing

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Paula B

Last year, when we first moved into our house after a lifetime of condo living, I was not yet used to functioning up and down steps. right before Thanksgiving I was rushing to get things ready and slipped down the steps. In order to protect the fall on my sacrum, i held onto the rail and landed my right Quadratus Lumborum on the edge of the step!!!! Ouch! Needless to say, my holidays were not as fun as I expected. It took me a few months to be able to walk straight again and many visits to doctors and practitioners… Read more »

Michelle Dalbec

Dinneen – Thanks for sharing your humanness. I think so many times students see their yoga teachers a perfect, no complications, no problems, no worries, no illness, and we are human after all. The more students I interact with the more back pain I see in our society, and with the practice of yoga, thru the YTU lens I am able to help so many people banish the back pain. The therapy balls are affordable, accessible, and easy to use for all as tool to self care.

Tracy Hodgeman

dinneen, thank you for this article. it mirrors my own experience as a yogi and as a teacher and as someone in a 40-something body who is having to face facts about how their body is changing. i love your sankalpas. may we all have the grace to accept our changes and adapt as needed, and the wisdom to “retire” poses when necessary.

Macala

I love the do no harm message. Ytu is a mind reset to our culture to achieve, conquer and acquire. Sometimes the slower you go the faster you arrive!! Sankalpas are powerful and life changing reminders!!!

Kimberly Lou

It is super challenging to remain conscious about keeping great posture… But the rewards are so great. Thanks for reminding me to be vigilent in my practice.

By the way… When did wrapping ones legs behind their head ever serve anyone anyway 🙂

Barbara Treves

The timing of my reading this blog is perfect as my husband has been suffering from lower back pain and into the hip region for awhile now. It has even started to effect the way he walks. I have been doing Pilates with him, which has helped alot however he is a devoted yogi and continues to do the full poses. Perhaps he would consider backing down a bit once he reads how backing off some poses helped Dinneen with her back pain.

Debi

So many people have low back pain for all kinds of reasons. I can’t wait to use this in class. It’s nice to have students do feel good movement at the end if class. Teaches self care.

Elise Gibney

Thank you for this post! Your focus on smart movement choices instead of overly ambitious movements are so right on. This is something I struggle with as I move into my forties and try to remember every day. YTU has been integral to my healing as well.

Oliana

Dinneen, thanks for bringing awareness to this topic. No one should be living with pain or numb it with pills. As you state, there are better ways to deal with it, and first is being proactive and becoming your own care-taker. YTU gives us such great tools to understanding and treating our symptoms and all with great results and always at hand.

Pat Donaher

This is such a critically important topic. Pain is not inevitable, and we have power to change our bodies for the better without just running to a doctor. Like many folks I have occasional low back pain, and I now reach for YTU balls instead of Advil. It’s empowering to know that I can create change from the inside out.

elizabethW

So much good stuff here! I love your accountability and unrelenting commitment to healing. Taking responsibility for your own self care is such an important step in healing any kind of chronic pain. So grateful you are leading the charge as a pain survivor/over-comer and as a teacher.

Diane Walters

Have had a dull ache in my lower back for a few days so this blog was perfect for me. Cannot wait to try the self massage for lower back with my YTU balls! I liked what you said about your primary motive being “do no harm”. It is so important to leave the ego at the door and be kind to yourself. It is not always easy to find the balance between going to the edge and overdoing it. Unfortunately I had to learn with a back injury that resulted in a few weeks without yoga.