The solid structure of the spine relies on the many muscles of the back to hold the spine in an upright position. To keep the spine in a good postural position we need the correct muscles to be strong enough to support the spine well thereby taking pressure off the spinal vertebrae and discs and creating space along the length of the spine. If the muscles are weak, then gently exercising them to improve their strength is important to improve support to the spine, with the aim of reducing pain and further episodes of back pain.
Movement of the spine, for example during exercise, also provides nutrients to the spinal discs and the other tissues in the back keeping the muscles, discs, ligaments and joints healthy.
Ideal back exercises strengthen the back and front muscles of the body and should allow you to work within your comfortable range of movement i.e. with control. Yoga can be an ideal way of doing this – a typical Yoga class will encourage you to be aware of your movement, to work with care and to avoid pain.
If you are thinking about attending a Yoga class then it’s a good idea to enquire with the teacher about whether the class will be right for you. There are many types of Yoga available ranging from the gentle, relaxing type to the seriously sweaty.
Yoga classes that are strenuous, sweaty workouts are not the ideal starting point for a bad back! Better to look for a class where movement is gradual and controlled and you can avoid certain things if you need to. DO tell the Yoga teacher about your back so that they can advise you on what to do and what not to do in the class. DON’T feel you have to do everything especially any movement that doesn’t feel right for you. It’s worth remembering that in a general Yoga class some postures will be good for your back but some won’t be and if you aren’t feeling the benefit from the class overall, then stop attending and think about another class.
Better still, look for a specialised Yoga class for back care with a teacher who is trained in Yoga postures to improve your back health – especially if you have experienced back problems over a significant time. Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs is a 12 week course designed to help low back pain and long term low back care. It was developed when the University of York conducted a research study looking at Yoga and its effectiveness in low back care and function (our ability to do various tasks). There were significant improvements in back function through the Yoga course that were maintained over time and the research found that the Yoga used in the study is a safe form of exercise for those with low back pain.
As a Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs teacher I see many improvements in people attending the course. Better posture, improved movement, stronger muscles and more confidence in their backs and their movement. Best of all many attendees report that their back pain lessens, stops entirely or reduces in severity and frequency, even though they may have had back pain for years. The Yoga is gradual and progressive through the course and designed with safety in mind. It focuses on all the Yoga postures that will help, avoiding those riskier postures that you may end up doing in a regular Yoga class. Although the Yoga is gentle, it is most definitely effective – one student told me that by the second half of the course, the back pain that he suffered with in bed every night, had completely gone and at the end of the course, he measured an inch taller than at the start of the course! A definite improvement in support for the spine.
If you are interested in finding out more about looking after your back using Yoga, look at www.yogaforbacks.co.uk There is also a list of teachers running courses nationwide.
For Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs courses in the Amersham, Chesham and Beaconsfield area, contact Barbara Dancer at firstname.lastname@example.org for details of forthcoming courses.