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.

Low Back Pain is not just for the over 50 set anymore.

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.]

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Tracy Wagner

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.

Liz Maynard

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?

Holli Rabishaw

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… Read more »

What Plane Do You Move In? | Yoga Tune Up

[…] Can Yoga Really Help Back Pain? […]

Wendy Tsai

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… Read more »


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.

Brigitta Dau

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

melanie sloane