Yoga has a unique attribute of stretching and strengthening both sides of the body equally. This virtue ensures proper body alignment and good posture which is essential for the well being of the spine. Nurturing the natural curvature of the spine avoids lower back pain.
Defect in spine posture through reckless lifestyle affects nervous system which leads to diseases.
By stretching and relaxation, yoga benefit the spine and minimizes tension in stress carrying muscles. When poses are held between 10 to 60 seconds, flexibility in muscles and joints are promoted.
When people with low back pain stretch hamstring muscles behind thighs, which expand motion in pelvis, stress is reduced in lower back and blood flow increases and enhances supply of nutrients and flushes out toxins, keeping the muscles and soft tissues well nourished.
While healing injured back muscles, yoga benefit the spine and speeds up recovery time and prevents re-injury. Yoga helps one to continue with regular activities and avoid disability. Interestingly while one practices Yoga, they are aware of the limitations of their body which in turn helps one to avoid harmful positions in their routine activities.
With Yoga poses one reduces perception of pain, a parameter which increases back pain. Since psychological and emotional factors influence pain, Yoga averts stress and negative emotions which cause back pain.
While performing Yoga, one makes major spine movements including Flexion (round the spine forward), Extension (round the spine backward), Rotation (twist the spine), Side bend or Lateral flexion and Axial extension (Vertically elongating the spine, which decompresses).
In our routine life, we fail to make full range of above mentioned movements which makes the spine gain stiffness. The breathing and relaxation techniques in Yoga are particularly beneficial after surgery and while recovery. It also enhances range of motion and core strength besides improving balance.
Yoga acts as a shock absorber and takes away the relevant stress that results from the movements and proves to be a shield for important nerves and nerve roots.
Not only does Yoga treat a health issue, but is also useful in preventing one.
Before elaborating on the benefits of Yoga, one must understand that despite bountiful benefits, Yoga can defeat its purpose and harm the back, when poses that should be avoided are practiced. Yoga thus should be practiced under proper supervision.
Yoga which comprises body posture, breathing and state of mind, before being practiced by back pain patient, requires diagnosis and approval from health professional before being practiced. In such cases Yoga program is modified so that benefits are optimized and aggravations of physical conditions are minimized.
Yoga poses which should be avoided includes forward folds, backbends and twists. Forward fold pose requires rounding the spine, which adds strain to muscles, tears ligaments or ruptures discs and increases risk of injury.
Backbend poses and other poses like bridge, wheel and cobra requires flexion of the spine which in turn results in pinched nerves and vertebrae muscle spasms and back sores. These poses besides camel pose, should be avoided especially in cases of spinal disc issues.
Twist thrusts pressure on spinal discs if not done accurately and should not be done if suffering from bulged discs.
Besides, while keeping natural curve in the spine, one must avoid over arch, over bend and dumping in weaker areas.
Child’s pose, cat/cow pose, downward facing dog pose, locust pose, upward facing dog pose, floor bow pose are few poses which are safe for the back with minimum risks of injury.
Child’s pose aligns spine, decompresses and removes pressure. Cat/cow pose improves mobility and relieves tension in lower back. While downward facing dog pose stretches hamstring and calves, upward facing dog pose expands chest and opens lungs so that muscles in spine, arm and shoulders are strengthened.
Of all backbend poses, locust pose has lowest risk of injury and strengthens back and core muscles. Floor bow also opens the chest and stretches the front part of the body back muscles are strengthened and posture is improved while dealing minor back pains effectually.
Iyengar Yoga, a form of Hatha Yoga, emphasises on precision and alignment of posture and breath control, with a view of improving strength, stability and mobility. The therapeutic Yoga is employed for a spectrum of treatments for different parts of the body, besides the spine.
Care is taken in the sequence of poses to ensure that they do not irritate the nerves, since these poses have elements which produce heat, stimulate, energize, activate, produce coolness, abate or relax. Iyengar Yoga has designed sequence, timing and intricacy which progresses the therapy.
Iyengar Yoga poses can be listed as half Uttanasana, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (variations I and II), Standing Marichyasana III, Utkatasana, Trikonasana, Parsvottanasana, Parivrtta Trikonasana, Chair Bharadvajasana, Chair Pasasana, Chair Malasana, Pavana Muktasana, Supta Padangusthasana I and II, Legs up the wall and Savasana (calves on the chair).