Have you ever bent over topick up something and suddenly there goes your back? If you have then you're not alone. Back pain affects up to 90% of Americans at some point in their lives. Once you have back pain it can be hard to shake. Interestingly, 85% of people with back pain show no specific cause on examination. In his book Healing Back Pain, Dr.John Sarno labels the
physiologic alteration in certain muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments that
lead to pain as Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). In the Chicagoland area Dr.
William Boblick from Oak Park, IL says that 50 percent of the patients he sees
on a day to day basis are seeing him for back pain. For these patients back
pain is all too real. Most people treat the symptoms of the pain without
dealing with the root causes. Many end up in surgery. Yoga offers a proven
formula for dealing with back pain that doesn't require pills or surgery. Yoga
brings balance between flexibility and strength in the body as well as teaching
a means to release tension caused by stress.
It is a well-known medical fact that when we tense up mentally, we tense up physically. In a stressful world tension is chronic. This prolonged tension causes muscles to remain in contracted positions. Issues are habitually deposited in tissues until adhesions form creating short inflexible muscles and asymmetrical cross body torsion that leads to pain. Opposing muscles grow functionally weak because they cannot overcome the tension. As a result most people are tight in key areas affecting the spine such as the hamstrings, hips and shoulders. In
addition, weak core muscles allow the spine to be pulled in abnormal directions
putting pressure on pain sensitive nerves.
Yoga poses that creat emobility around the hips, stretch the hamstrings and increase core strength are the prescription for relieving back pain. More importantly, learning to relax through Yoga practices such as meditation or breathing exercises (pranayama) will reduce the chronic stress that leads to back pain. Yoga also teaches mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of becoming aware of how you react to stress and how tension is deposited in your body. With this knowledge you can decrease stress and avoid depositing tension in your body.
The first step is a mindfulrelaxation exercise. Sit in a comfortable position quietly observing your
breath. Let the mind stay present and away from things that feel pressing or
stressful. Bring the mind back to the breath anytime it wanders. Begin to scan
your body from toes to head noting areas that may be tense or painful. Don't
judge or label these, just note them. Pay particular attention to the hips,
neck and jaw. Stay a moment where ever you feel tension. Imagine these tense
spots melting as your breath flows over them. Next practice yoga poses to
counter the classic causes of back pain. (Use the accompanying photos as your
guide.) Remember that back pain is the result of an accumulation of life
events. One cannot reverse time in one practice session. Be patient and do
these practices regularly and you will see results.
Lying hamstring stretch. Lie on your back. Bend one knee and draw it into your chest. If this doesn't feel like it is stretching your hamstring then straighten your leg and pull from your calf. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and switch sides. Make sure that the hips stay even and grounded to the floor. Do this two times on each side.
Lying hip stretch. Lie on your back. Cross one ankle over the other thigh. Reach through the hole between the legs and grab your knee. keeping your hips even, pull the legs toward your
chest. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds then switch sides. Do this two times
on each side.
Bridge Pose. Lie on your back
feet flat on the floor. Tilt your pelvis toward your face and then slowly lift
your hips as high as they will go into the air. Walk your shoulder blades
together to relieve the neck. Hold for 20 second and repeat two more times.
This pose builds strength around the lower spine and hips.
strengthening. Start with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your
hips. Holding the lower stomach firm raise your right leg and your left arm.
(You may do this only with your leg if the pressure is too much-add the arm
later.) Make sure that the hips are even and that one hip doesn't ride up into
the air. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side. Do both sides three
Lying twist. Lie on your back
fee flat on the floor. Flatten you shoulders against the floor and keep the right
shoulder grounded as you gently lower your knees to the left (You may use your
left hand on the right knee to deepen the stretch). Hold this position for 30
seconds and then raise your knees and gently lower them to the right while
keeping the left shoulder grounded.