Back pain is a big topic, with many people, if not everyone exepriencing back discomfort in one way, shape or form at some point in their life. I'm not a anatomy expert, therapist, or clinician but from a yoga teachers perspective I can share some insight into our precious spine. A healthy and well functioning back is so crucial for our overall health and wellbeing. So whether you suffer with back pain or not, it is worth while getting to know you're back better.
First thing I would like to demystify. Often people get in touch with yoga teachers, off the back of their doctor recommending going to a yoga class to "fix" their pain issues. Yes, yoga is great and yes, yoga can help with spinal health. However, if you are one of these individuals and your new to yoga, be aware every yoga class and teacher is different and not every class will be suitable for you. This actually concerns me, because Yoga gets recommenced as though its universal class that helps with everything, without knowing the different types available. If you need a therapeutic approach for example, a fast, strong, advanced class ( thinking of vinyasa, ashtanga, power yoga) may cause you more harm than good. So, word of advise, do a little research first, or opt for a private session.
Onto the good stuff: HOW does yoga support the maintenance and healing of your spine?
We explore a variety of movement: flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation, axial extension. If you are not familiar with the terminology... forward, backward, side bend, twist and lengthen upward. The more movement patterns we can establish in the body, the more we are rewarded by gaining a variety of ways in which we can move, decreasing the risk of injury.
Some classes will look to create stability where we are mobile (lumbar and cervical/ lower back and neck) and create mobility where we are stable, lacking in range of movement (thoracic). Creating a more balanced and functional spine. Our mobile areas can be vulnerable as we can use them to take all our movement. Stable areas can cause restriction and refer the movement to our vulnerable points. A good Yoga teacher will know the value of developing strength and mobility as well as flexibility.
Dynamic movements: flowing in and out, repeating movement, encourages the spine to release synovial fluid, which lubricates the spine.
We develop more self awareness. Awareness of our body in space, awareness of our posture, awareness of sensations which can give us the heads up if somethings not right. As we develop more self awareness, we may begin to be able to identify what we do in our day-to-day lives that are not good for us. Eg. slouching, hunching over computers, not moving regularly enough and correct these issue. This is where our Yoga practice continues off the mat!
BREATHE! Breathing consciously into certain areas of the body can help unlock tension and allow for more range in movement. And visa versa, a functional healthy spine will allow you to breath more efficiently, giving you a ton of benefits. If we breathe well we live well. Using the breath as we move the spine, is a very therapeutic practice as it calms our nervous system and allows us to relax.
There we are, some key 'take-home' notes for you. The Spine and Yoga is a HUGE HUGE HUGEEE topic, with lots of books and literature wrote on the subject. This short blog just gives you a teeny weeny bit of insight on the topic, hopefully striking up curiosity to want to learn more, explore yoga and to realise the dynamic relationship our spinal health has to our overall health. I hope you have enjoyed reading and if you are interested in learning more or would like a private yoga session, please do get in touch! Namaste