Yoga for Back Pain Relief : Therapeutic Yoga

Posted by on Jan 28, 2016 in Yoga Practice Tips | 0 comments

Yoga for Back Pain Relief : Therapeutic Yoga

How did I end up with this pain? Will it ever go away?  What can I do to enhance the healing process?  These are questions more than 50% of visitors to doctors ask when suffering from back pain. As a hard working, busy, active person you may have already asked those questions because you have experienced back pain yourself.  One solution to help enhance relief from back pain is Therapeutic Yoga.

When it comes to long term relief an older yet still valid 1987 survey, conducted by Klein & Sobel* and published in Medical Self Care Magazine, yoga ranked at number one.  The survey of 492 chronic back pain sufferers used several modalities based on long term prolonged relief, short term relief, and no relief.  The top four modalities offering long term relief were as follows: Yoga Therapy 96%; Psychiatry 86%; Physical Therapy 65%; Acupuncture 36%. How does that help you?  Let’s explore back pain: the causes, and how Therapeutic Yoga can enhance a long-term solution to relief.

The causes of back pain fall into four general categories: (1) Accidents or injuries, including repetitive motion injuries; (2) Poor posture and body mechanics, including prolonged sitting and other working conditions; (3) Stress, whether real or imagined, resulting in both specific and general muscular tension with varying intensity; (4) Disease processes, including physiological responses from asthma, high blood pressure, and nerve or joint pain from conditions such as M.S. or Fibro-myalgia.

Yoga is both a science and an art. Although yoga is not a panacea, it does offer relief, self-empowerment, and even healing for those individuals who are fortunate enough to find a good Yoga Teacher or Yoga Therapist. One of yoga’s greatest gifts is the way the practice slows us down and helps us to be in touch with what’s going on inside. Through the practice of yoga we develop a fundamental attitude for healing, that of Ahimsa (non-violence or kindness).

When we extend our limbs in a pose we meet the resistance of our stiff muscles. In the beginning we judge all pain as negative, fearing we may re-injure ourselves. However, all sensations of discomfort are not negative. Meeting the resistance within us physically and mentally is the doorway to releasing our healing potential.

The formula for releasing pain and resistance with kindness is a simple one. When you come up against your resistance in a pose; (1) Stop–don’t resist or push through; (2) Suspend judgment; (3) Breathe; (4) Wait, and observe what changes. In this way the healing potential within you is enabled to flow more freely, and you have an opportunity to exercise discernment in what to stretch and how much, rather than react.

Body mechanics and proper alignment also play an important role in healing back pain. Regardless of how our back pain arises, there will be muscles that are short, tight, or even in spasm, and muscles that are long, weak, or overworked. As we correct these imbalances with an appropriate Therapeutic Yoga sequence, we are correcting and re-aligning our posture. This is done by aligning one joint with another to create stability along with greater range of motion. As students learn and maintain proper alignment, joint stresses are released and body mechanics become more efficient. The risk of re-injury is reduced as we create a balance of strength and flexibility, making alignment an essential part of the healing process.

I invite you to try this simple Closed Twist in a Chair / Bharadvajasana to find some ease right now! Before twisting, check to see if the chair seat is the right height for your body by placing one or two blankets folded on the chair seat until, when sitting, your hip joints are slightly higher than your knee joints. Inhale and lift your side chest to lift your ribs and spine, and as you exhale turn from your lower belly to begin facing your ribs to the back of the chair. Remember: twisting is lifting. Lift your skeleton up to decompress the space between each vertebra before turning. Never force a twist, breathe in to lift, breathe out to twist. Honor the resistance in your body and continue to deepen your breath– exhale longer than you inhale to calm yourself and give the muscles a chance to release.

Pose for text 2 clipped copy

Letitia shows chair twist with blankets.

If you are interested in more information about Yoga for Back Pain, come to my February 19 and 20 seminar at One center Yoga, 120 Coxe Ave in asheville. Or, purchase a copy of my new book Healing Our Backs with YogaTM!

To Good Health and Peace. Thanks for reading!


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