chronic lower back painBy Faye Martins

What can Yoga do for chronic lower back pain? Residents of the developed world are doing plenty of things our ancestors of only a few thousand years ago never would have dreamed of doing. Among other things, the modern world has us sitting far more than our body was designed for. We sit at desks, on couches, we sit to drive, and we sit to eat. All this sitting has created a number of health problems unique to modern society. People of the modern developed world are fatter than ever before, engage in less physical activity than ever before and, as a result of all this sitting, lack of exercise and extra weight, they have weaker backs that are much more prone to lower back pain.

Chronic lower back pain and recovery from back injuries are some of the top reasons that students show up at a yoga class. What kinds of yoga poses are ideal for lower back pain? Here’s a closer look at how yoga can help the lower back.


First, Understand a Little Anatomy

Between each vertebra of the spine is a spongy cushion known as the disc. Think of the disc as being like a gel pack. Apply too much pressure to the disc and it will rupture. Apply too much pressure to the front of the disc and it bulges towards the rear. Apply too much pressure to the rear of the disc and it bulges towards the front.

Meanwhile, swollen discs can press on a nerve, causing severe pain. Ligaments supporting the spine can be strained, pulled, or can press against a disc. All of these occurrences lead to chronic lower back pain.

Next, Think About How the Back is Used

In our day-and-age, most people constantly lean forward. People lean forward to type, to eat, to pick up a child, to do yard work, and even to drive. All this repetitive bending forward strains the muscles and discs within the lower back.

Furthermore, the repeated motion of leaning forward actually strains the hamstrings over time. The tighter the hamstrings get, the more the body calls upon the muscles of the lower back to control the forward motion. The abs, too, get a workout when we bend forward; they get stronger while the back becomes over-stretched.


Now, Apply Yoga for Chronic Back Pain

When forward bends are over-emphasized in a yoga class, a student’s back can become worse, rather than better. Instead, help students through poses that stretch their hamstrings and open up their hips. As these muscles relax and strengthen, they will take some of the pressure off the lower back.

How can Yoga Teachers Help Chronic Back Pain?

Yoga instructors have the knowledge to design specialized lesson plans. Studios, fitness centers, and schools should have workshops that specialize in taking care of the back.  Instructors can guide students through poses that help the strained and tight back to relax. Yoga teachers can design sequences that help to decompress the spine. As instructors, we teach prevention and methods for dealing with pre-existing injuries. With that said, yoga instructors need to contact the the corporate sector about methods for improving employee back health.

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