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April 27, 2015
Firstly, most Yoga instructors are not medical doctors. Therefore, a student, with a back condition, should have his or her doctor's "seal of approval," before attending Yoga classes.
About herniated discs in the Lumbar region, or any other area of the spine: No two of them are alike. There is no "one size fits all" approach. That is why your hear all of the differing opinions.
Over the years, I have seen different postures work for a similar condition. For example: If a student has a herniated L-5 disc, does it protrude on the right, left, forward, back, or somewhere in between? Each direction makes a difference.
Add to this, that a student will state they have a back problem referred to by a variety of similar terms, such as: Herniated disc, Bulging disc, Ruptured disc, Slipped disc, Collapsed disc, Disc protrusion or Disc degeneration.
Therefore, better communication between Yoga teachers or Yoga therapsits and the medical community would help. It is good to network with medical professionals in your area, if possible. At least, you will not be getting second hand information.
With the wiring of the nerves, running through the spine, a herniated disc could be very painful or remain completely unnoticed for years.
On top of this, pain thresholds are very different between people. Some people can only handle a little pain, while others seem to be unaffected by pain. There is no way to generalize about an asana prescription, without seeing and working with the student.
When we physically work with students to find out what is painful, what gives relief, and how we can help. The guiding measurement is pain. Pain is like an iceberg - you want to steer your Yoga students away from it. It will do them no good to attempt to push through their pain.
We help with pain management and we help students discover movement or posture which relieves pain. My advice for Yoga teachers is learn all you can, but proceed with caution, no matter what you have read or heard.
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