Yoga For More Than Flexibility
Sometimes when we treat patients with back issues, we recommend they take up yoga. And, quite often, when we make this suggestion, the patient looks at us as though we’ve grown another head or we’re talking in tongues.
Too often, yoga is only associated with extra-limber, thin people who somehow manage to twist themselves into positions you might only see from a circus contortionist. In reality, though, yoga can be performed by anyone, at any age, with any level of experience. The key to yoga isn’t getting into those wild positions; it’s about practicing at the level you feel comfortable with, both physically and mentally. And the results of at least one study has suggested that practicing yoga can lead to reduced pain (and thus a lower reliance on pain medication).
September is National Yoga Month, so we thought it was a good idea to discuss how yoga can actually help you improve your back health. As always, we highly recommend consulting with a professional before you undertake any new fitness regimes.
Is Yoga Actually Good For Your Back?
The answer to this question is a little tricky, but of course, if you are experiencing severe pain in your back for whatever reason, you should probably not attempt to do yoga. That said, yoga is about breathing and stretching, and there are a number of poses that you can go through, even if your back isn’t in the best shape. For example, the child’s pose, where you rest your body on your knees and shins with arms stretched out in front of you, is a simple back stretch you can do just about anywhere at any time. Similarly, poses like cat/cow and the bridge pose can help strengthen abdominal muscles, which in turn eases the work the back muscles need to do.
Are There Poses That Can Make Back Problems Worse?
Absolutely. Like any physical activity, patients need to be cautious about how they proceed. Some poses, such as folds, twists, shoulder stands, and others, can put a large amount of pressure on the back and exacerbate previous injuries.
The good news is that you don’t have to do them! No yoga instructor is ever going to give you grief or make you do something you’re not comfortable (and if they do, find a new one). That said, if you’re feeling up to it and want a challenge, let your instructor know of your issues and ask them to work with you to either find an alternative pose or to build up to the more challenging ones.
Should Older Patients Do Yoga?
Of course, this always depends on an individual’s health. As people age, their muscle mass naturally declines as does their bone density. As a result, they may have a greater risk when doing yoga. It’s not uncommon for people over the age of 65 to experience more injuries when doing physical activities like yoga, and one particular study found people in this age group to be far more susceptible to injury. However, some yoga studios and gyms offer classes that are specifically designed for older people.
What Are Some Easy Poses For People With Bad Backs?
We mentioned child’s pose, cat/cow, and bridge pose above, but there are a wide variety of poses that are relatively easy and can do wonders for your back. These include:
- Downward Facing Dog
- Knees to Chest Pose
- Reclined Pigeon Pose
- Reclined Supine Twist
As mentioned, consult with a professional yoga instructor and explain your back issues before actually doing a practice. They can make suggestions on what poses to do and give you some tips for ensuring you do them safely!
If you are experiencing regular back pain, we can help.
Please call Pain and Spine Specialists in Maryland at 301.703.8767, or 724-603-3560 in Pennsylvania to schedule a consultation or use the contact form on our website to send us a message.