As a specialized yoga teacher and yoga therapist, my job is to help people heal themselves through the art and science of yoga. This includes postures, breathing, emotional support and stress reduction. I have witnessed miracles on the mat and in the classroom. The successes I have seen are not unusual. Teachers of yoga of any style see their students’ lives improve on every level with disciplined practice.
Thankfully, many studies supporting yoga’s efficacy are springing up on a regular basis. Dr. Loren Fishman and Ellen Saltonsall are researching sciatica, osteoarthritis and back pain. Their studies are ongoing and very motivating.
Back pain is no longer for just the over 50 set. I often see younger students nearly crippled by poor office ergonomics and bad exercise habits. Often these are weekend warriors who spend the other 70 hours a week chained to their desks and cell phones. Back pain is the No. 2 stay-at-home issue for workers after the common cold.
Raymond’s back pain
Raymond (not his real name) is a 29-year-old Internet executive and an avid weekend snowboarder. He flies internationally and sits through dozens of daily meetings. When I met him, he’d had back pain since graduating college. His back can seize up anywhere along his 24 precious vertebrae, but most often clinches in the lower back by mid-day.
His spasm can quickly spiral into debilitation as the spastic back muscles tighten, interfering with the proper function of the breathing muscles. When a body doesn’t breathe well, it stifles the body’s healing responses. The stress of the pain and the poor breathing is a loop that leads to even more stress, muscular freezing and spasms.
On an even deeper level, when those muscles turn into concrete, they also lock up the membranous dura mater that surrounds the spinal cord, essentially reducing efficient nerve flow to the limbs. This is one of the many reasons why pain in the back grabs our full attention: All of our nerves are recruited to remind the body how much it hurts!
Ray’s back pain persisted daily, but once he found a Yoga Tune Up® class near work, he started using his lunch hour to reset his spinal musculature using a combination of deep core and hip work that reduced the compression on his spine caused from sitting in his office chair.
Ray does not get back pain anymore, and can enjoy his weekend and his week as long as he maintains his yoga practice. Stay tuned for next week – I’ll share some of the Yoga Tune Up® poses Ray practices to keep his back supple and healthy!
Learn about our Therapy Balls Program for your back.
Read about deprogramming chronic pain.
Watch our free 5 minute video for back pain relief.
[reprinted with kind permission from GaiamLife.]
This is so true, movement is medicine. I sit all day at work as well, my low back gets very stiff if I don’t get up and move every 1/2 hour. As soon as I just even do a few stretches I can feel the difference. Thanks for sharing.
Beautiful connection between the lived reality of young professionals and the emergence of chronic pain in “unexpected” demographics. I especially appreciated the description of the vicious cycle between impaired breathing and the constriction of the dura mater and pain! With the grabbing of the spinal nerves, this seems like a function of getting our attention that something must shift, but is there a similar healing functionality of impaired breathing?
I experienced upper back pain and tightness that was exacerbated by my hearty yoga practice and my years of running on pavement. I began using YTU balls to peel away layers of adhered tissue deep in my rhomboids, levator scapula and trapezius muscles. At first I felt even more tension and stress as I coaxed the tissue into submission. Now I take the balls to class and roll out before every sun salutation. There is no way I can go through a two or three day period without this important relief. I can feel the tension creep up and I can easily manipulate it out of my system. I have experimented with only rolling out accessory muscles up and downtown of my epicenter of pain and this too creates relief in even the tightest muscles. Thanks for your post about Ray. I can’t wait to do splat truck on my mat and lean into a ytu ball!
[…] Can Yoga Really Help Back Pain? […]
Yoga healed my back!!!
Four years ago, I suffered a very bad back pain. The pain started from the lower region of my neck to my upper shoulder. mid-back, and to lower back. In another word, I had pain all over my back and it felt my back had frozen up and with any motions of movements, it would hurt!!! It would hurt when I used computer and my upper arms would feel very soar. It hurts when I lied on the bed. I couldn’t stand straight. For one year, I sought chiropractor and massage for help. It alleviated a little but the pain would continue if I didn’t continue the treatments and the treatments begun to be costy. At last, I decided to try yoga to help myself and with persistent 5 times a week of Bikram yoga, I healed. At same time, it cured my depression and helped me to quite smoking.
My experience mirrors Ray’s. Before starting a weekly, then daily, yoga practice, I often found myself with mild back discomfort (and collapsed shoulders I couldn’t seem to raise high enough. Sitting at a desk all day (and sometimes night) was debilitating, and made my own weekend warrior exploits hard. Yoga has eliminated pain and brought strength, flexibility, and postural awareness.
I’ve actually directed people to this blog…people with back pain who think the best thing to do is not move! Back pain sufferers are resistant to this work, but, giving them information like this helps get the ball rolling. then, we go slow to get them back on track
LOOKING FORWARD TO NEXT’S WEEK’S BLOG–THE YTU POSES THAT RAY PRACTIVES TO KEEP HIS BACK SUPPLE AND HEALTHY!