For many individuals, back pain is a chronic condition. One of the best ways to keep lower back pain at bay is through proactive measures such as exercise, stretching, and attention to posture. In recent years, yoga has become an especially popular method for preventing bouts of chronic lower back pain. Hatha yoga, the most commonly practiced form of yoga, is a safe and gentle method for relaxing muscles in the back and abdomen, reducing pain in the hips, back, shoulders, and neck.
Are you looking for a long-term solution to your chronic lumbar pain? Read on to learn more about the benefits of practicing yoga for back pain.
Does Yoga Help Lower Back Pain?
Today’s modern yoga practices are generally based on hatha yoga, a traditional physical exercise method that originated as a part of the Hindu faith. The yoga exercises generally focus on asanas, the physical poses that are held as a part of the practice, along with a relaxed and methodical breathing technique known as pranayama. Each yoga pose is generally held for a short period of time, anywhere from a few seconds up to a minute in duration. In holding these poses, individuals simultaneously stretch and strengthen the muscles in their backs, shoulders, and necks. This training can therefore lead to increased flexibility, strength, and overall wellness. Chronic back pain is often lessened in the process.
There are a number of proven benefits to practicing yoga, many of which relate to overall back health. Yoga increases blood circulation throughout the body, healing damaged tissue more quickly and bringing healthy nutrients and blood flow to the lower back. The practice not only increases the rate of healing for most individuals, but also lowers the chance that a practitioner will experience a second injury or strain. By increasing one’s range of motion and improving flexibility, individuals will experience less back pain overall. Strengthened abdomen and back muscles will promote health, and relaxed breathing exercises may reduce the psychological suffering caused by chronic back pain. Simply put, yoga addresses a number of causes of lower back pain, and helps mend them through this single, simple practice.
What Back Conditions Can Be Treated via Yoga?
Though yoga is not a permanent cure for lumbar pain, the stretches involved in the practice can greatly reduce the soreness and stiffness associated with a number of chronic lower back pain conditions, including:
- general lower back/lumbar pain
- stress-related back pain
- sciatica/sciatic pain
- herniated discs in the lower back
- bulging discs
- hip pain
- neck pain
- shoulder pain
- and more…
Back Conditions That Should Not Be Treated via Yoga
Though hatha yoga is beneficial for those suffering from the majority of back pain conditions, some individuals suffering from very serious conditions should not practice yoga, or should consult a doctor before doing so. Worsening lumbar pain is one of a handful of risks of practicing yoga improperly with a chronic back condition.
* Patients with serious cases of cervical spine disease ought to avoid yoga poses that compress the spine. Headstands and other high-pressure exercises should be kept to an absolute minimum. This will prevent patients from increasing their spinal pain.
* Patients suffering from spinal stenosis ought to be cautious when practicing yoga. Individuals struggling with advanced stenosis ought to limit their range of motion so as not to harm their spines. Though these individuals can practice yoga in moderation, there are a handful of poses to avoid. Extreme back-bends, forward leaning, and any stretches that may twist or overextend the spine ought to be practiced cautiously or eliminated altogether.
5 Best Yoga Poses to Relieve Lower Back Pain
There are dozens of excellent yoga poses for lower back pain conditions. Consider trying out a few of these stretches, which are ideal for those suffering from pain in the lumbar region. For a more extensive catalog of yoga poses, consult a yoga instructor or search YouTube to find a set of stretches that works for you.
Here are five simple yoga positions that address the most common concerns of most lower back pain sufferers:
1.) Cat and Cow Pose
This excellent yoga pose is a great way to loosen the muscles in the lower back and ease spinal and lumbar tension. Individuals begin the pose by getting on all fours, with their hands placed on the floor squarely beneath their shoulders and their knees placed squarely under the hips. The stretch begins with the “cow.” As you inhale, push your abdomen outwards (towards the floor) while simultaneously pushing the shoulders back and lifting the head upwards. As you exhale, push your spine upwards, curving your head and shoulders inwards so that you can look at your navel. Repeat as necessary.
2.) Simple Seated Twist Pose
The simple seated twist, also known as the half seated twist or Ardha Matsyendrasana pose, is ideal for relieving back pain by stretching out the spinal column. This stretch is also especially beneficial for sciatica patients.
This pose begins in a seated position on the floor, with both legs resting flat in front of you. Bend your right leg at the knee and place your foot squarely on the floor on the outside of your left knee. Pull your knee towards you and lift your spine as you turn your upper body to the right. Open your right arm, setting your hand on the floor behind your pelvis. Turn your head and neck to the right as far as is comfortable, and hold this pose for a minute or two. As you breathe, focus on stretching out your spine and pulling it upwards with each breath. Repeat this pose on the opposite side as well for maximum stretching and muscle relaxation.
3.) Child’s Pose
This simple, relaxing yoga pose is attainable for nearly all back pain sufferers. Begin the pose by sitting with your knees on the floor, calves bent under each thigh. Your big toes should be touching, and your knees should be spread wide apart, making a “v” shape with your legs. From here, lean forward, crawling your hands out on the floor as far as you can reach. Relax and hold this pose, resting your head on the ground facing downwards or sideways. This pose is especially relaxing, and is one of the easiest and least stressful ways to stretch out the muscles in the back.
4.) Knees-to-Chest Pose
This straight-forward yoga pose begins with an individual lying on his or her back on the floor. Using the hands, the individual then draws his or her knees in towards the chest, making sure to keep the back and tailbone flat against the floor. This exercise is easy for yoga beginners, and does a great job stretching out the back and hamstrings.
5.) Downward-Facing Dog Pose
This classic yoga pose is ideal for stretching out the back and hamstrings while improve bloodflow throughout the body. Begin the pose by placing your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Tuck your toes underneath you and extend your legs, walking your feet backwards until you’re in a triangular-shaped position. If you’re flexible, you may be able to stand in this pose with fully extended hamstrings, placing your feet flat on the floor. If not, don’t worry; though a fully-extended position is desirable, most beginners have less-than-perfect form. By holding this pose for a short while, you will extend your back, leg, and shoulder muscles, improving your posture and reducing your back pain overall.
Yoga offers many tangible benefits to most patients suffering from lower back pain conditions. Unless your condition is particularly serious or advanced, you will likely experience increased relief from your back pain after a few weeks of yoga training. Talk with your doctor or a back pain specialist before beginning yoga practice. To ensure that you are performing the exercises properly, consider taking a beginners’ course with a local yoga instructor, or start by watching free tutorials online.
In short, yoga is an excellent way to improve your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Taking up yoga is one of the most reliable ways to reduce your lumbar pain and improve your quality of life for years to come.