Taking Care of Your “Backbone”
We go through the middle years of life stressing our “backbone”. There are many responsibilities that require stamina in our metaphorical backbone– work, raising children, being active in the community, and taking care of aging parents to name a few.
It’s also a time when we may be engaged in repetitive movements (computer work, sports, and work- or hobby-related activities) that stress our real backbone or spine! The wear and tear of the middle years often surface as stiffness, pain, and spinal pathology.
No matter what your age or stage in life, yoga has positive benefits for the spine. Yoga helps the spine by:
• Improving strength and flexibility in the muscles that support the spine
• Developing healthier patterns of movement
• Improving posture with the goal of reducing or preventing low back, upper back, and neck pain
• Cultivating awareness of what helps and what hurts the spine.
Not all yoga is the same. “Early data has shown that yoga, specifically Viniyoga, can be as effective as regular physical therapy for back pain. Combining yoga with other treatments for low back pain is likely to yield even greater results, and yoga therapy should be considered a great tool for spine problems in general,” according to Dr. Andrew Beaumont, PhD, MD, Neurosurgeon.
A preventative or therapeutic approach to yoga typically includes:
- Breath-centered movement in and out of some simple yoga postures (not necessarily the advanced or pretzel poses!)
- Staying in specific postures to create a deeper impact on the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles)
- Specific sequencing of postures for safety as well as impact
- Adaptation of the postures for your needs
- Breath techniques to help you access your core muscles as well as to reduce stress that may cause muscle tension
- Deep relaxation for release of tightness, pain control, and decompression of the spine.
Prenatal yoga classes include approaches adapted for the common spine and posture concerns seen in pregnancy such as low back pain, sciatica, and upper back and neck tension.
Find a yoga teacher or yoga therapist who understands how to develop, teach and adapt yoga classes for the spine. If you are new to yoga and have back pain or a spinal condition, find a therapeutic, gentle, or beginner class that can accommodate your needs. If you’re motivated to practice at home, consider working with a yoga therapist one-on-one for a practice designed for your specific condition or needs.
Our spine or “backbone” is important to our overall health, productivity and enjoyment of life. Take care of yours with a little bit of daily yoga!