I am getting ready to teach a workshop all about yoga and your back. And it got me thinking…why is yoga so good for our back? I know it relieves back pain because I have experienced it first-hand. I was diagnosed with scoliosis when I was a young child. It wasn’t severe enough to wear a back brace or get surgery but I was always in pain. I knew I needed to do something for myself and found yoga many years later. After just a few classes I found relief in my back.
But why does it help? In my very first newsletter I talked about postural alignment. I believe most back pain is caused by poor posture. Unfortunately our lifestyle has led us to sit on a chair and slouch forward for most of the time we are awake. Everything we do is a forward action and often we bend from our waist which puts a lot of pressure on our spine, spinal muscles, and organs. I read an interesting quote the other day that said…”shoes our to our feet what chairs our to our pelvic floor.” Makes so much sense, shoes cause most of our feet problems and chairs cause our pelvic problems which causes most of our back pain. In fact, in the East back pain is virtually non-existent because they sit on the floor.
Yoga is instrumental in limiting back pain because the poses facilitate the lengthening and the strengthening of the spinal muscles. More specifically, strengthening the legs frees the spine, stretching and strengthening the psoas muscle facilitates better postural alignment because it balances the torso, lengthening the spine prevents further uneven curvature , stretching the muscles surrounding the shoulders prevents rounding of the thoracic spine, and the breath brings balance to the lungs and stretches the intercostal muscles to balance the rib cage.The muscles that are weak strengthen and the muscles that are tight lengthen. All of these actions decrease pain and create more alignment in the body. Better alignment with gravity allows us to stand and sit with less effort.