YOGA TO RELIEVE BACK PAIN 10:45AM TODAY BASICS
FEBRUARY 24TH, 2010: Good morning friends! I am subbing for Mara at 10:45am Basics and will teach a class focused on something I know personally all too well....Back pain. When I was hit by the car this was the biggest souvenir I had. I tried everything to feel better! I would have paid any amount of money, gone anywhere in the world, done anything if you could help me make my back pain be less loud! Finally, I found yoga. And happily as I practice yoga every day in all these years since the accident I am back pain free. This is not a short term fix. This is a lifestyle choice where you have to make the commitment to work harder than your pain and try some yoga poses and breathing for every day of freedom. Join me to learn more! Here is a great article to read...Love the day, Silvia
Back pain is an on-going problem for the majority of adults in most industrialized countries. Low back injuries usually heal within weeks, but long term healing is often more difficult to achieve. Rehabilitative exercise is often the key to developing a strong healthy back. And, according to a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga is more effective for the treatment of back pain than traditional exercise.
Why is Yoga an Effective Way to Treat Back Pain?
1) Yoga helps increase strength in very specific muscle groups and works to strengthen all major muscle groups that support the spine.
2) The stretching postures in yoga increase blood flow to the tissues that support the spine, improving the health of the intervertebral discs and muscles along the spine.
3) Yoga increases flexibility in your shoulders and hips, which decreases demands on your back, and yoga increases flexibility of the muscles in your back and along your spine, allowing your spine to rotate properly.
4) Yoga's focus on breathing and connecting breath with movement improves body awareness, making you more conscious of movements that may contribute to back pain.
5) The "spine lengthening" poses in yoga promote good posture and proper alignment of the vertebrae. When the spine lengthens, it naturally moves towards correct alignment. Having proper posture ensures that you are not placing undue stress upon your back.
Understanding Your Back
To take care of your back or to heal it, you must understand it. Back problems do not occur in a vacuum. The spine is not an isolated body part.
The mechanical function of your spine is affected by the alignment, flexibility & strength of many parts of your body including:
- Foot, knee, leg alignment
- Muscle strength of legs, buttocks, back and abdominal wall
- Abdominal protrusion (as with pregnancy, or a beer belly)
- Hip flexibility
- Position of the pelvis (tilted forward, back or to the side)
- Shape and flexibility of the lumbar (lower back) spinal curve
- Shape and flexibility of the thoracic (upper back) spinal curve
- Shape of the cervical (neck) spinal curve
- Shoulder carriage and mobility
- Position of the head in relation to the shoulders
The state of your back is also influenced by:
- Your genetic heritage, Your home, work, transportation, play, community, Your emotional state
- Nutrition, body weight and fat distribution, Prescription and recreational drugs
Key Poses That Heal:
- 1. Standing Hip Circles - Loosens low back and hips, Strengthens back
- 2. Squatting – Opens the pelvis, Stretches hips and lower back, Tones abs, Stretches feet
- 3. Kneeling Low Lunge –Stretches hip flexors, Relieves low back pain, Stretches thigh muscles
- 4. Cat/Puppy – Increases suppleness of spine, Stretches muscles of the back & neck, Improves posture
- 5. Child’s Pose - Relaxes the back & neck, Stretches the spine, Provides a gentle massage to abdominal organs
- 6. Cobra – Strengthens the back, Tones the buttocks, Stretches the chest and abdomen, Increases circulation
- 7. Knee to Chest – Stretches Lower Back
- 8. Spinal Twist – Strengthens abdominal muscles, stretches hips
- 9. Bridge (And Pelvic Tilts) - Looses muscles of the low back, Strengthens abs
Spinal Anatomy and Function
The spine is a series of interlocking spool-shaped bones called vertebrae, supported by a complex system of muscles and ligaments. The hollow spinal canal protects the nerve tissue of the spinal cord.
The arms, legs, chest all attach to the spine, via the shoulder girdle, pelvis and ribs. The weight of the head is perched on the end of the spine. Therefore, the spine affects and is affected by every movement your body makes. For example, if your head is not properly balanced, the natural curve of the neck becomes distorted. If the arms or legs don’t have full range of motion, the spine must compensate by extra bending and twisting.
Inter-vertebral discs are thick pads of cartilage that separate adjacent vertebrae. The discs serve as shock absorbers and allow for greater motion between vertebrae, and they distribute weight over a large surface when the spine bends. When discs degenerate, this weight becomes concentrated on the edges of the vertebrae, resulting in bone spurs. Discs have no blood supply of their own and are dependent on sponge action for attracting and absorbing nutrients from adjacent tissues. During non-weight bearing rest, discs expand as they soak up fluid. In weight-bearing activity, this fluid is squeezed back into the adjacent soft tissue, to be replaced by fresh fluid during the next rest period. If these normal healing mechanisms are inhibited by poor posture and loss of flexibility, the discs become thin, brittle and easily injured. This condition, called degenerative disc disease, can lead to bulging or herniated discs. The movement principles of yoga – “spreading” (creating space in an area), “soaking” (deep breathing during the stretch) and “squeezing” (compressing fluids out of an area) – use the physiology of the disc to help in healing.
Muscles that Act on the Spine
Running parallel to your spine are the erector spinae muscles, deep muscles of the back that support the spine in the upright position. The erector spinae rotate the spine, bend it backward and sideways, and influence posture by helping create and maintain the proper spinal curves. If the erector spinae are too tight, they contribute to swayback. If they are too stretched out, they contribute to a flat back. If they are overworked, they can go into painful spasms. Yoga helps maintain back health by both stretching and strengthening the erector spinae.
The lower back is also significantly influenced by three sets of muscles that attach to the pelvis or the lumbar vertebrae: the hip flexors (which raise the thigh toward the chest), the abdominals, and the hamstrings (long muscles on the back of the thigh). These muscles can create a forward or backward tilt to the pelvis, leading to an increase or decrease in the lumbar curve. For example, because hip flexors attach to the front of the pelvis, tight hip flexors will tilt the pelvis forward, creating sway back. Tight hamstrings will tilt it backwards, creating a flat back. Weak abdominal muscles will allow the pelvis to drop forward and will fail to support the lumbar spine from the front.
Each of your joints is controlled by at least two sets of muscles: the flexors (which bend the joint) and the extensors, which straighten it. In addition, a number of joints have rotator muscles that twist, turn, or rotate the bones. Good posture can only exist when the flexors, extensors and rotators are in proper balance. But often the muscles acting upon a joint are out of balance. For example, the flexors may be tighter or shorter than the extensors, so that the joint can not be fully straightened; or the muscles that rotate the joint in one direction may be stronger than those that rotate it the other way. These unequal forces make the joint weaker and more vulnerable.
Many people with back or neck pain suffer from imbalances of the flexors, extensors and rotators of the spine, arms and legs. With an intelligent program of stretching and strengthening (as with yoga) the muscle groups can be brought back into balance.
YOGA TO RELIEVE BACK PAIN AND DISCOMFORT
OCTOBER 27, 2009: Our Basics class tonight was dedicated to learning about the long-term healing that yoga provides for folks suffering from back pain which statistically could be as high as 80% of Americans. I have a more complete handout that was distributed just email me firstname.lastname@example.org if you want the whole thing. Otherwise here were the poses we focused on and practiced. Enjoy! Silvia
The Benefits of Key Poses That Heal Back Pain:
1. Standing Hip Circles - Loosens low back and hips, Strengthens back
2. Squatting – Opens the pelvis, Stretches hips and lower back, Tones abs, Stretches feet
3. Kneeling Low Lunge –Stretches hip flexors, Relieves low back pain, Stretches thigh muscles
4. Cat/Puppy – Increases suppleness of spine, Stretches muscles of the back & neck, Improves posture
5. Child’s Pose - Relaxes the back & neck, Stretches the spine, Provides a gentle massage to abdominal organs
6. Cobra – Strengthens the back, Tones the buttocks, Stretches the chest and abdomen, Increases circulation
7. Knee to Chest – Stretches Lower Back
8. Spinal Twist – Strengthens abdominal muscles, stretches hips
9. Bridge (And Pelvic Tilts) - Looses muscles of the low back, Strengthens abs
PRECISION AND GENTLENESS FOR BACK PAIN
JULY 18TH, 2009: Good morning! So today I passed out a handout with the suggested foot alignment for all standing poses. We started by really talking about the detail and precision as well as precise modifications for all fundamental standing poses like Pyramid, Lunge, Warrior B, Triangle pose and Wide Standing Pose. With that said I wanted to make the point that if we only emphasize technical precision we can get overly self-critical, perfectionistic and even downright militant. The yoga practice can be used in an unhealthy way becoming way too constrictive and goal-oriented. So as we focus on the elegant principles of alignment we also emphasize gentleness. Otherwise the yoga can be a means to create more stress in our already stressful lives.
Our physical focus today was the psychological triggers of back pain. In the book The Mind Body Connection by Dr John Sarno he argues the cause of back pain is usually entirely psychological. He says back muscles go into spasm and cause pain because of mental tension and that if you can get to the root cause of the tension the pain will disappear. With yoga we can heal back pain by calming down our overactive stress response system. The greatest tool we have to do this is the breath which is why we link breath with movement leading to muscle relaxation and mental quiet. A personal favorite breathing mantra to practice in and out of class is this:
Breathing in, I am aware I am breathing in
Breathing out, I am aware I am breathing out
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I calm my mind.
Practicing slow deep breaths triggers the "relaxation response" the antidote to flight or flight response. The focus on all three parts of the lungs (especially deep abdominal focus on exhalations) helps bring in more oxygen. And the wave like undulation of deep inhales and exhales gently massage the spinal column which brings nutrients to our spinal disks.
The poses we practice today were specific to stretch all major muscle groups around the hip joints including adductors, quads, rotators, and hamstrings. What happens is that when our Hip rotators are tight they hold the pelvis too much and the force of movement transfers up to the low back putting strain from there on up the spine. It hurts! We held poses working on precision but then we also put a simple routine together you could practice at home for 5 minutes per day at a one breath per movement ratio, letting go of perfection. This way we improved overall circulation that brings nutrients to the intervertebral disks while removing toxins. The thing is that disks don't have an independent blood supply therefore they depend on movement of the surrounding structure to aid in the delivery of nutrients. Movement causes the disks to be compressed which squeezes out stale disk fluid and then to expand bringing in fresh supply. Judith Lasater says, “In the majority of cases back pain can be prevented. The majority have to do with how we use our bodies." We don’t hurt anymore!
Altogether we used this practice to learn how to manage addressing our mental and physical tensions so we could find stillness and gentleness by the end. The whole class intended to help us get to the final pose of Savasana where in the words of Eckhart Tolle in his power Practicing the Power of Now we experienced a feeling of letting go. I hope you find this background on healing back pain helpful and healing. Love the day! Silvia
When you surrender to what is
and so become fully present,
the past ceases to have any power.
Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you,
An unfathomable sense of peace.
And within that peace, there is great joy.
And within that joy, there is love.
ALLOWING THROUGH POSITIVE EXPECTATIONS
This philosophy of positive expectation is fundamental to yogic and spiritual teachings. Our attitude has the power to heal. And what attitude we have about life says a lot about whether we are expecting the worst or the best from life. Are you focused on your dreams or on your limitations? This means that we take some level of responsibility to co-create with the universe the best life. There are elements than of:
- Positive Expectation
- Allowing Life to Happen
Today say to yourself:
“I can be the creator of my life, I give myself permission to be happy, I will engage in fun, I will be playful, I will listen with total attention to my experience, I will relish each sensation, I will love every minute of being with myself today! When we set this tone for our day for our life we no longer see life as something being done to us but rather life is being done FOR US. This belief is based in self-love that attracts love from the universe. It’s about loving life! If you are in love with life then you expect the best. In the Alchemist its written “When you are in love, things make even more sense, When you are loved, there’s no need at all to understand what’s happening, because everything happens within you.” THAT’S THE ALLOWING.
I understand maintaining a positive expectation is not easy. I have like yourself given in to the pain, self-doubt and hopelessness. I learned the hard way that didn’t help. But I won’t kid you, to remain upbeat in the face of life’s challenges requires enormous strength of character. Good news is that we all have it. From there, all we have to do is work harder than our pain.
How? Well Shakti Gawain says it like this, “When we create something, we always create it first in a thought form. If we are basically positive in attitude, expecting and envisioning pleasure, satisfaction and happiness, we will attract and create people, situations, and events which conform to our positive expectations.” Keep your attitude focused on positive expectations and what you tell yourself will change how others see you and how the world responds to you. This allowing brings you the calm that comes with knowing all we have to do is have positive intention, the universe will take care of all the details. Love you all! Silvia
Love after Love
The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the others welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life. ~Derek Walcott
THE POWER OF HEALING
JULY 28TH, 2008: In the Yoga Sutras HEALING is written about as: A process of rejoining; A rejoining body to heart; A rejoining of spirit to consciousness.
What does HEALING mean to you? What it means to me is a letting go of hurt or angry feelings, an absence of conflict, relief from pain, and a belief in miracles – that things WILL GET BETTER. Too often folks get bogged down in thinking they are alone and stuck in the pain forever, or as Author Alice Walker says “we are being consumed with our suffering.” But we don’t have to be. Yoga gives us that opportunity to realize the healing for ourselves, to self-comfort. Even right now take 5 breaths and use your thoughts to keep your energy on healing whether it be directed at physical or emotional healing or both. Then replace any and all despairing thoughts with the mantra ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
This will go far to remind us that miracles are happening all the time…St Thomas Aquinas writes “MIRACLES ARE SIGNS NOT TO THEM THAT BELIEVE, BUT TO THEM THAT DISBELIEVE." I love that. So please help me change the world a down dog at a time….heal your heart and from there help promote the belief in miracles every day in every way! Say to yourself I believe anything is possible!