14 Jun Yoga For a Healthy Back: Can You Heal Back Pain Through Yoga?
Yoga practice can have a transformative effect on back problems: it allows the body to gain range of movement and flexibility
The back or spine is a powerful part of the human anatomy. It’s what enables you to stand upright; it unites your upper and lower body, and roots you to the earth. It is also one of the most common areas where people experience chronic pain and discomfort.
Doing yoga for the back will help one understand body pain and heal it through gentle exercise. We talk to Dilip Pilai, who has practiced yoga for decades, focusing on alignment-based yoga practice as a tool for well-being and healthy living. He has conducted classes and workshops on healthy back care and healing back pain through yoga.
“When I ask my students to stretch, reach, or open their bodies, I remind them not to push their bodies beyond what they can comfortably and safely do,” says Dilip. “Instead, I encourage them to create a dialogue with their bodies in order to understand how far they can move into a pose, and how much stronger and more flexible they are becoming each time they are returning to a pose they have practiced before.”
Your back body
Your spine is one of the most physically important and symbolically powerful areas in your body. It is, after all, the column of support that holds you upright and connects your mind to your body. But let’s face it, in modern life, we hardly treat this complex area with the respect it deserves. We sit for hours at a time, collapsing onto the couch at the end of the day, and accept stress as part of daily life. Many of us work too hard, worry too much, and can barely find the time to visit a doctor to get a diagnosis.
In many cases the back is the most neglected area of the contemporary body, but the good news is that yoga is a healing path that can help relieve chronic back pain and build consistent back health.
Backcare Yoga classes are meant to meet you wherever you are in your journey toward health. If you have never practiced yoga before, classes are a good source of clear and accessible instruction to get you started. If you are an experienced yoga practitioner but are wrestling with back issues, you will find ways to bring what you know about yoga to your back and progress into an even fuller, deeper practice. Most of all, Backcare Yoga classes are meant to be an open dialogue with your body and what it’s trying to tell you about how to self-heal.
How Yoga can help
Scientists discovered what yoga practitioners have known for centuries – yoga can calm and open the body allowing it to release stress and pain. Yoga is – together with meditation and mindfulness techniques – one of the three main components of the biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn’s pioneering work with stress, pain and illness.
Study after study hypothesizes that your nervous system is directly affected by yoga practice. A randomized controlled trial conducted in Boston gave a twelve-week yoga course, including deep relaxation, yoga postures, and breathing techniques to a group of people suffering from chronic back pain. Nearly 75 percent of participants reported a reduction of their pain; only 27 percent of the control group that didn’t practice yoga reported similar improvement. Additionally, the participants who did the yoga programme decreased their use of pain medications, reporting no usage of opiate analgesic medications by the end of the programme.
The importance of the breath
How does pranayama, or yogic breathing, work on your nervous system? Pranayama can be a particularly healing practice that can soothe both your hurting body and stressed mind. The mindful flow or breath not only relieves muscle tightness, it also sends your heart relaxing messages through long and deep exhalations.
Furthermore, in Ocean Breath or Ujjayi Pranayama, even and elongated inhalations and exhalations are used to balance the Sympathetic Nervous System, which controls your body’s fight-or-flight response to stress. When you make your exhalations longer than your inhalations, you stimulate the Parasympathetic Nervous System more deeply, eliciting the relaxation response.
“On the physical level, the ability to open up is one of the true gifts of yoga,” says Dilip. “I hope I can inspire my students to practice so that they will find renewed openness and strength in their own body.”
Source: Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back by Liz Owen and Holly Lebowitz Rossi
Join Backcare Yoga at Flex Studio every Wednesday at 1:00pm at One Island South with Dilip Pilai.
For optimal results to alleviate body pain, pair your practice with Yamuna Body Rolling and Pilates to release and strengthen your muscles respectively. For severe pain, please consult your physician before joining a group class. Read Dilip’s full bio and schedule at flexhk.com/yoga/dilip