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Yoga for Back Pain
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September 16, 2010 - 7:13 am
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Take Back Pain to the Mat - Yoga for a Healthy Back

By Mallory Holm

If you're like most Americans, you will experience nagging or acute lower back pain often in your lifetime. In the past, medical doctors were apt to send patient to the surgeon to alleviate back pain. Increasingly, however, doctors are aware of the benefits that yoga can provide to lessen back pain or at the least, allow patients to better deal with it.

If you've got back pain and your doctor okay's it, take it to the mat-try yoga. Yoga can help you strengthen your abdominals (weak abs can contribute to swayback and back pain), engage in slow, steady breath to bring down stress (which causes you to tighten and tense, tending to increase pain), boost circulation in the disks of the spine (to push out stale and bring in new disk fluid and blood, bringing in vital nutrients), and become aware of your posture (so that you can use the alignment seen in yoga poses to your everyday, work-a-day world and lessen strain on the back).

Remember to start gently and work your way slowly into deeper or more vigorous practice; give yoga a chance to help you heal.

Abdominals. Although traditional sit-ups and crunches may help you build your abdominals, many have tried them to no avail. The problem is that most do them incorrectly, using hip flexors or muscles in the head and neck upward, missing the abdominals entirely yet getting exhausted and frustrated in the process. Instead, to strengthen abs and take pressure off of your lower back, try upward facing boat pose or other asanas that strengthen ab muscles.

Breath. Many forms of yoga emphasize the breath and that movements should be linked to the breath. This not only ensures a fresh supply of oxygen when it's needed, but causes the mind to focus on the breath in a way that soothes and relieves stress. When stress goes down, your body, including muscles, joints, and tendons, can relax into the poses. Tightness, which can increase pain sensations, can be lessened in relaxation.

Circulation. Deep breathing and asanas like gentle twists can also massage the spine, pushing more nutrients from fresh spinal fluid and oxygenated blood in and stale fluids out of the disks of the spine, which may also lessen pain sensations. Over time, fresh nutrients supplied to the disks can encourage them to remain healthy and reduce the chance of pain episodes.

Posture. We all tend to slump at our desks and while watching television. When we bend to lift something, many of us curve our backs. These posture misalignments can compress the spine and sometimes trigger back pain, either from a sudden move or as a result of poor posture over time. By doing yoga, you will become aware of how your body should be aligned and increase your proprioception (the ability to know where your body and its parts are located in space). Then you can make corrections to apply what you know to be correct postures to your everyday life and lessen the chance of injury and pain.

You'll want to check with your doctor, but if she gives you the green light, take your back pain to the mat. Strengthen your abdominals, slow your breath to relax, boost circulation in the disks to help them get fit and stay healthy, and use yoga posture lessons to align your spine and lessen strain on the back. Start gently and slowly so yoga help you heal and say good bye to back pain.

Ms. Holm, with her husband Steve, is the owner of Seahorse Ranch and Vineyard, a premium boarding facility and retreat in Florahome, Florida adjacent to the Etoniah Creek State Forest and George's Lake. She is enrolled in yoga teacher training at Sara Torbett's Yoga Life Studio, Deerwood, Jacksonville, Florida and host of the East Meets West Neighmaste Yoga Retreat at Seahorse Ranch.


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November 30, 2010 - 3:45 pm
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Yoga for the Psoas Muscle - Relieving Low Back Pain
By David Procyshyn

The Psoas muscle, low back pain and stress are all intimately connected. Let me explain how.

What is the Psoas Muscle?

The Psoas is a deep muscle that reaches from the Lesser Trochanter (on the top, inside of the femur, or upper leg bone) to the front of five vertebrae - the bottom thoracic (T12) and the top four Lumbar Vertebrae (L1 - L4). It is most often, together with the Iliacus, called the Iliopsoas muscle, because of their common insertion and action.

The Iliopsoas crosses over the front of the pelvis as it travels from the lower back to the upper leg. It's quite easy to imagine what its action would be, then, considering its location. When it contracts, it anchors at the top (at the low back) and lifts the thigh straight up. It is therefore referred to as a 'Hip Flexor'.

The Iliopsoas is in fact the strongest hip flexor. The angle it has as it stretches over the pelvis allows for added leverage when it is contracting, creating more strength than if it were directly attached from one bone to the other.

The Iliopsoas is also the only muscle that connects to both the leg and to the spine, crossing over multiple joints. This can have both functional strengths and weaknesses. The strengths lie in its position, leverage and power. The weaknesses lie in the difficulty in keeping the lower back strong enough to support it. And the Iliopsoas is in constant demand, since it is the prime walking muscle.

The Psoas and Lower Back Pain

Because the psoas is attached to the vertebra of the lower back, repetitive movement can begin to pull the lower vertebrae forward, into an exaggerated lumbar curve (a curve that is slightly deeper than normal). If our core muscles, such as the Transversus Abdominus, Pelvic Floor and Obliques, are not strong enough to prevent this movement, we can begin to experience back pain.

In this case, stretching the psoas and strengthening core muscles is absolutely essential. Stretching the psoas is remarkably simple - it's best done when in a gentle lunge position.

Stretching the Psoas

Place one knee down and step the opposite foot forward - the further you step forward, the deeper the stretch will be. Then allow your body to shift forward, so your front knee bends a bit deeper and your hips shift forward. In this position, shifting your upper body back will deepen the pose even further.

Strengthening the Core

The best way to learn to strengthen your core properly is by going to someone who specializes in core strength or going to a beginner Pilates class. However, if these are not available to you, then you can watch the series of videos that I have in the Yoga Anatomy section on Core Activation. These videos take you through the steps required to activate your core properly, and to gain strength in your core muscles, which are so essential to creating a strong body and protecting your lower back.

Yoga and Stress

The Iliopsoas muscle is also known as a fight or flight muscle, meaning that it responds immediately in a stressful situation by contracting, to propel the body away from a dangerous situation, or by helping to pull the body into a semi-fetal position as a way of protecting it from harm.

Because of this, if you are experiencing a lot of stress in your life, the Iliopsoas may have the tendency to be hypercontracted, and if this lasts over long periods, it can begin to pull the lower vertebrae forward, tightening the whole area around the front of the pelvis and abdomen, and weakening the lower back.

Stress affects everyone differently, which also makes an effective coping strategy unique to each person. A great starting point is learning how to relax your body. Try one of our four Total Body Relaxations in our Meditations section. Each one guides you through relaxing one part of your body at a time. They are incredibly relaxing and effective.

The Benefits of a Healthy Iliopsoas Muscle

With an Iliopsoas muscle that is healthy, supple and dynamic, we experience strength, fluidity and pain-free movement rather than rigidity and discomfort. We have a core that is strong and adaptable and an abdominal area that is flexible - promoting healthy digestion and elimination. We move easier and without pain and this affects our overall well being in a very big way.

By David Procyshyn.


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December 27, 2010 - 8:53 pm
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Why Yoga Works To Cure Back Pain

By Al Case

I'm sorry, but Yoga cures people, and that is a fact...have you ever wondered why? I mean, I put an arbitrary disease in the title, it might be Back Pain or diabetes, or whatever, but whatever it is, when people start doing yoga, and especially Yogata, they start throwing pills away and feeling like they are twenty years old again. Let me tell you why this is so.

You assume a pose, maybe it's the mountain, or the dog looks down, or whatever, and it takes a certain amount of effort to stay in the pose. Your muscles shake, you break out in perspiration, and you make it through the posture. The first thing to consider is what you are doing by going through the yoga discipline.

As you continue to practice the posture gets more and more effortless. You actually start to relax, or achieve an effortless attitude within the body. In doing this you are becoming cognizant of the space of your body.

Space is the key of it all. The entire cosmos is nothing but space, and objects occupy space, and even have their own space. Now, here is the key to it all: you can be aware through space.

So you stop looking at your body as a solid object in which traps you, and start realizing that it is a space within which you can have life. You don't need senses to perceive, you can just see it directly. Of course, it may take time to realize this simple truth, but having read these words your progress should be much faster.

Now, moving through the space that is occupied and defined by your body is the awareness of you...the 'I am.' You are the point of perception, but to say it in that manner is just plain backwards. You see, you are not perceiving, you are the light.

Your awareness is light, and it illuminates the universe. This is why yoga works, and why, aside from strengthening the body to resist whatever disease you might encounter, you might actually just cure your disease strictly by the strength and brilliance of your awareness. You are you, that is at the heart of your awareness, and that is what Yoga is, and why and how it does what it does.

I don't care if you study Kripalu yoga, Svroopa Yoga, or whatever. I don't care if your postures are from Bikram or Viniyoga. You are the truth, and this thing called yoga is what joins you to the truth.

The logic of these words, how easy they are to understand, this is the truth of Yoga. Head on over over to Learn Yogata and know that I love you.


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January 8, 2011 - 2:35 pm
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Asanas for Back Pain

Yoga has been constructive in treating varied illnesses including back trouble. Most yoga exercises enable stretching and bracing of the back. However, there are some yoga poses (asanas)that are of bigger benefit for the back. Here are some of them.

The first one is the corpse pose (shavasana). It is the easiest yoga pose and is reasonably effective for sciatica patients. This pose is necessary for relaxation of the back. To make this pose you must lie straight on your back on even ground. You must place your arms parallel to the body with the legs flat and joined together. If you'd like you may also bend your knees from time to time. That isn't all; you should do some deep respiring too for relaxation. Breathe in and out slowly while lying down.

Another simple yoga pose you can practice for back trouble relief is the moggy stretch pose. Simply stand straight. Your back should be properly aligned and absolutely straight. Keep your hands below the shoulders and knees straight below the hips. Now gently look down. Your chin should be tucked in so that your gaze is at your navel. Now take a big breath and on exhalation delicately raise your back towards the ceiling. This yoga pose will help you ease out various symptoms of sciatica.

Another yoga pose that may considerably make a contribution in the level of back stiffness and provide sciatic pain alleviation, if practiced on daily basis is sage twist. Begin by lying down with back straight on the ground and legs extended in front. After that, bend your right knee and then cross it over your left leg. The right foot placed adjacently to your left leg should get in touch with the ground. Now, place your right elbow on your left knee. Touch right hip with your left hand and twist just over the shoulder.

Another simple but a touch challenging yoga pose that may help fight back stiffness is the fish pose. Lie down straight on the floor with your legs stretched out. Bend both your knees. Now forcefully place the elbows on the ground. Push your elbows against the ground making an attempt to lift your back as much as humanly possible. Make sure that you don't overexert yourself while practicing this pose. Come back to the standard position and relax for a couple of seconds and then practice again. It is recommended that you do at least four to 5 repetitions at first.

The above listed yoga poses can work wonders for your back and provide relief from the grueling back stiffness. Though you want to practice these poses on a day-to-day basis to draw maximum benefits


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January 11, 2011 - 5:42 pm
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Yoga Asana for Prevention of Potential Back Problems

Good posture means your vital organs are in the right position and can function at peak efficiency. Posture also helps contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system. Without good posture, you can't really be physically fit. How Yoga Helps Yoga assists in the creation of good posture by strengthening, aligning, and elongating your spine and the muscles around it.

Yoga also strengthens your abdominal muscles, which protects your back from strain. These poses teach each part of your body to carry its own weight instead of relying on other muscles to carry the load. The reward for good posture is increased energy and confidence. Yoga is able to help your posture in ways such as the following:

Yoga is able to strengthen the muscles that support the spine. This makes it easier for you to maintain good posture.

Yoga will improve your spine's flexibility and will allow you to maintain good posture by doing different movements such as the mountain and boat poses.

As far as the Mountain Pose goes, you should make a habit of doing it everywhere: while you are making supper, standing in line at the grocery store, waiting in line at the bank or wherever you happen to think about it. The longer you do this pose, the stronger you will make your abdominal and back muscles.

Yoga helps to improve the flexibility of your hamstrings, hips and shoulders, which allows you to maintain excellent posture without unnecessary strain.

Yoga will enhance the awareness of your body, so that you will be more cognizant of your posture during the day.

If you do supported backbends, these will stretch the thoracic muscles, which are your spine's stiffest part. In order to shorten and strengthen the muscles that support your midback practice doing the Locust Pose and the Cobra Pose. These poses are very effective in order to strengthen the long muscles running parallel to your spine in unison with the muscles that aid in supporting and positioning the shoulder blades. Therefore, you should make it a habit of practicing good posture as many times as you think of it during the day. You will gradually see an improvement in your back pain.


June 9, 2011 - 12:08 am
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The common and safest treatment for back pain is exercise. Such methods causes the blood to flow to the affected areas. The circulation of blood clears toxins and blockages from that area. The oxygenated blood hastens the healing and recovery of injured areas in the body. That is why many experts have studied the effectiveness of a yoga exercise in managing and curing pains in the body as well as the back.

Pain in the back is a normal experience. The severity of back pain varies though. Some are curable while others are manageable. Any person will know what he feels best to ease this discomfort. A variety of ways is available to ease that discomfort.

Several people prefer medicinal intakes to reduce the pain. Anti-inflammatory and pain medications are example of these. However, this method is effective when combined with bed rest.

Recent studies prove that yoga exercise can actually eliminate this pain and lessen the possibility of having one. One major study found that almost 60% of people who consulted a medical doctor for this condition had tried some sort of alternative therapy.

Yoga is a combination of breathing techniques, poses and meditation. The combination technique reduces lower this pain because poses align the bones. Maintaining an aligned bone will eliminate a yoga practitioner's tendency to have a back pain.

Yoga also reduces back pain for pregnant women because the poses help lessen the degree of pelvic tilt associated with pregnancy. A variety of specific yoga poses stretch the muscles and tissues associated with lower back, hips, and hamstrings.

Yoga does not only reduce pain but also increase strength, improve balance, and cultivate mental focus. Many physicians recommend yoga for people experiencing normal back issues. Patients with severe back pain may not be able to tolerate a normal yoga practice. A good yoga instructor during these situations is required.

Yoga can be practiced for many other ailments not just for back pain. If one has issues for the knee, leg, arms or other parts of the anatomy yoga has a place for it.

A common issue for knee trouble is that the thigh muscles are not supporting the tissues and ligaments around the knee so the knee becomes comes stressed and causes concern. Most bodies have an imbalance in the body, have you noticed how YOU walk? Do you walk at ten to two? Or are your feet more parallel? Is one foot pointing out more than the other? How is your alignment?


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January 26, 2013 - 8:52 pm
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How Yoga Can Help the Back

Back pain is a stressful and chronic problem for millions of people. Sitting all day at the office, only to come home and sit in front of the television with minimal movement to get dinner prepped and on the table and the kids in bed does not help to alleviate this problem. The gentle movement and stretching yoga can offer a person with chronic, or even infrequent, back pain can dramatically improve the overall quality of life they experience.

Just a few minutes each day of gentle movement can strengthen and help lubricate stiff joints and bones. Sitting at the office for six to eight hours can lead to stiff or sore lower backs. Poor posture only adds to this. Taking a few minutes each day to do forward folds in the chair, with your chest resting on your thighs will lengthen and stretch the lower back. Following this up by reaching the arms over the head and gently arching the back will warm the muscles and allow you to reset yourself in your chair without ever getting up. Movements like these, commonly known as office yoga, can do wonders for the health of your back at the end of a long workday.

Taking a gentle yoga class, such as a Hatha style class, can also help a person build the strength and flexibility they need to keep their body fit and healthy. One of the most beneficial aspects of attending a class is the ability to have an instructor-guided sequence of poses to move through, while allowing you to build your strength gradually over time.

Before getting out of bed in the morning or falling asleep at night also provides an excellent opportunity to increase the range of motion in the back. While lying in bed, simply bringing your knees to your chest and rocking side to side can help massage the muscles and increase blood flow. A simple and light twist, such as letting your bent left knee lay over your straight right leg, while keeping your shoulders on the bed, will allow you to open the small of the back and lengthen the muscles on either side of the spine.

Simple movements like these are great ways to start becoming more active and allowing yourself to be more mobile and with less pain in your daily life. A lifestyle change is not needed for these simple exercises, just a sheet of paper on the wall of your work space reminding you to take time to move. Taking advantage of the down time we all have in life will allow you to become more comfortable in your own body and decrease the pain experienced in the back while increasing the muscle tone and flexibility.


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October 2, 2013 - 12:15 am
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Yoga Techniques for Back Pain

At some point in our lives we will feel our body begin to betray us in some little or big way. From arthritis to broken bones we as humans have to find a way to deal with our aches in a healthy and positive way. For most people, as they age, their back begins to give them discomfort. That is totally common seeing as your back is one of the hardest working parts of your body. Looking past medication, pills and syringes, we can find relief in the ancient practice of yoga. A few minutes of the proper exercises every morning can impart relief that'll bring tears to your eyes. Listed below are three simple techniques for back pain, brought to you by yoga masters all over the world.

The first technique I would advise trying is the Wall Plank. It is disarmingly simple yet extremely effective. What you want to do is find a blank piece of wall and put yourself about arms length from it. You can use your fingertips to gauge the difference. Now place your hands flat against the surface, fingers splayed. At this point you should be supporting yourself against the wall. Now walk your upper body down the wall and towards the floor. Keep your spine straight but fold at the waist. You'll eventually reach an L shape. If this causes too much pain remember not to push yourself. Once you hit your L, hold it for 20 breaths and then go ahead and relax. Move on to your next technique.

The second technique is a staple in the inventory of any practitioner of yoga. Perform the Downward Facing Dog. Set your feet apart and then put your hands shoulder width apart as well. Now create the arch, but don't arch your spine too severely. Take another 10 breaths and move on.

The final technique for back pain relief is the Overhead Rubber Strap. Find either a belt or a rubber exercises strap, that should give when you pull it, and hold it above your head as high as you can. Now gripping both ends of the strap slowly pull them away from each other--make sure your palms are facing away from each other. The farther the stretch the better, you'll feel it in your back and shoulder blades. Repeat this multiple times and remember not to over stress yourself.

Back pain is something you've fought for a long time now and there is no reason to live with the pain. Starting with these three techniques you will find yourself in a world where relief is possible and all at your fingertips.

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