precautions for back painBy Bhavan Kumar

How should teachers handle precautions for back pain? Each student who has back pain is different, because no two injuries and students are exactly the same. This is something every instructor should have learned in foundational yoga teacher training. Although I have outlined precautions and prevention guidelines below; these would be considered typical. As Paul would often say, “Back pain threshold and the exact cause of it are unique.” Below this paragraph is a handout that you can use to educate your students.

ABC News reported in 2009 that Yoga training improves mood and ability to function in people with back pain. This study, done by the National Institute of Health, found that patients who used a combination of Yoga and traditional therapy did better than those who received treatment alone. Because almost all Americans have at least one episode of lower back pain, the ailment costs the country more than $34 billion every year.


Nevertheless, doing the wrong asanas or doing them incorrectly can create additional pain and injuries. The key to success lies in knowing the cause of your back pain and finding a Yoga instructor who knows how to use asana as a therapeutic tool. Depending on the individual, particular postures may not be recommended.

Important factors to consider are age, health, flexibility, balance and strength. Because different styles of Yoga vary in intensity and technique, finding the right class can be confusing. Gentle or restorative Yoga is becoming more common for people with limitations. Therapeutic Yoga classes are also good choices. Therapeutic and restorative classes focus on holding gentle poses, using props and safely making adaptations to asanas.

Precautions for Preventing Back Pain in Everyday Activities

• Don’t bend at the waist and round off the spine when lifting objects. Use the knees instead.

• Don’t forcefully twist the spine; turn the entire body.

• Don’t lift heavy objects.

• When you have to lift, hold objects near the body to distribute weight.

• Avoid excessive or strenuous activity.

• Keep the body aligned.

Benefits of Yogic Methodology for the Back

• Relaxes muscles, increases flexibility, and prevents strain

• Builds strength and endurance

• Supports alignment, good posture, and coordination

• Increases awareness of body’s strengths and limitations

Ten Common Poses that may be Contraindicated for Back Pain

• Camel Pose

• Cobra Pose

• Corpse Pose

• Bound Angle Pose

• Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose

• Standing Forward Bend

• Intense Side Stretch Pose

• Reclining Hero Pose

• Bow Pose

• Handstands

Each of the above mentioned postures might not cause pain to your back, but if you decide to try them use caution, be gentle, see how you feel, never force and be prepared to modify. As with everything else, the use of Yoga for back pain requires moderation and caution. While studies clearly show that asana practice helps, choosing the right poses and doing them correctly is crucial. The best way to do this is to find a Yoga instructor who knows how to choose the asanas you need and adapt them to your needs.

Side Note for Teachers: Precautions for back pain should be covered on student application forms. Teachers should state general precautions at the beginning of each class. Do not give medical advice, but do make sure your students know they should consult a health care professional before attending Yoga sessions.

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