Serious back pain can be debilitating. It often stops you from participating in the activities you love, makes you wary of going on long car journeys, play with your children or grandchildren, go to a movie or play, … It can affect your sleep and much of your life. Back pain troubles young and old: whereas for instance a herniated disc tends to manifest among younger people, arthritis mostly creeps up later in life. Back pain can have a wide variety of causes, such as bad posture, an accident, lifting, repeated bending, wear and tear, inactivity.
While a conventional yoga class can help release muscle tightness, it can actually make serious back pain considerably worse. Yoga therapy for back pain, on the other hand, adapts the poses to suit the particular back condition. The first task of a yoga therapist is to avoid movements that exacerbate the pain. This is based on knowledge about the cause of back pain but also depends on the individual. The second task is to teach the beneficial poses, those that can soothe tight muscles and strengthen weaker areas. Finally, a yoga therapist will include yoga techniques that relax the mind.
Many people believe they are not good at balancing. Why should you be good at standing on one leg anyway when daily tasks don’t really require this for any length of time? Isn’t it just something people need to do in gym classes and quirky yoga lessons? Rather on the contrary, so many skills are developed or fine-tuned when we balance, that steadiness on one leg is actually very important to keep practising. The different skills that are required, such as strength, agility, awareness of the body in space, stability and concentration, tend to deteriorate with age, and if we never practise balancing on one leg, we may feel increasingly unstable on two! If you believe you can’t balance easily, take this opportunity to challenge yourself and improve, because you can and you may even come to love it…
If you experience dull and heavy pain in your lower back, one likely cause is tight and weak muscles: lower back muscles tighten and weaken as a result of inactivity and bad posture. Even stress or emotional problems can cause back muscles to tighten. Tightness in the lower back may eventually lead to serious joint derangements and is important to address. A tight and weak back responds well to gentle yoga stretches and to the calming effect of concentrating on the movements and breathing. Big stretches or forceful strengthening may put already tight muscles into spasm and more excruciating pain, so it is best to start with gentle stretching. The second video clip from my “yoga for abdominal strengthening” sessions demonstrates some yoga movements for lower back pain relief: a great way to give those lower back muscles some TLC.
Strengthening core muscles can be essential and yet quite hard to do when you have back pain. You may have heard that toned abdominal muscles support the lower back but how do you even start ‘toning’ when most movements hurt? My video clip demonstrates how to strengthen one set of abdominal muscles, the rectus abdominis, while keeping the back and neck relaxed on the floor. So when you have a moment at home, make yourself comfortable on a surface like a yoga mat or carpet, and let me talk you through these safe abdominal exercises for back pain relief.