Lower back pain? Yoga might be the treatment for you
If you work at a desk all day, are on your feet a lot, commute long distances or are required to carry heavy loads—like young children—chances are that your lower back complains from time to time. Sometimes our daily repetitive activities cause chronic, recurring pain.
You might have tried over-the-counter painkillers, soaked in Epsom salts, used heating pads and more. But most of these therapies offer only short-term relief from discomfort and low back pain.
Understanding your risk factors
Aside from underlying diseases, there are several risk factors that can increase your chances of low back pain, including the following:
- Age: low back pain typically shows up between the ages of 30 and 50.
- Activity level: low back pain is more common in people who are less active — gravity has a direct impact on the lumbar region and can cause strain in the lower back when we sit for long periods.
- Pregnancy: carrying a 6 to 10-pound human, without the ability to use the abdominal muscles, causes the muscles in our lower back to take over supporting the spine and its movements.
- Weight gain: puts stress on the low back
- Work-related activities: standing for long periods, lifting heavy objects and pushing or pulling all day can have a negative impact on your back.
How yoga can ease back pain
Yoga has been touted for its ability to improve and maintain back health. Because yoga postures require direct movement of the spine, yoga — when practiced regularly — can help improve the functionality, mobility and strength of the spine and surrounding areas. When we give our bodies an experience that counters the effects of sitting too much or being on our feet all day, we allow our bodies to release any tension built up from our daily activities.
Through a regular yoga practice, we are, in a way, resetting our body so that it can continue to serve us in the many ways we ask it to.
Studies over the last decade have shown many hopeful outcomes of a regular yoga practice. The results vary from reducing to completely eliminating back pain, and many study participants even reduced their use of pain medication. A recent study also suggested that a regular yoga practice may be useful as a treatment option for people with chronic lower back pain and found that yoga was as effective as physical therapy for treating moderate to severe chronic low back pain.
If you are experiencing low back pain and are looking for relief, there are some simple yoga poses that you can do in the comfort of your home. As a yoga teacher, I also suggest that you find a gentle yoga class in your vicinity and practice at least two to three times a week for long-term relief or reduction of low back pain.
The breathing in a yoga practice is just as important as the movement itself. When you incorporate correct breathing and can coordinate the breath with the movement, healing occurs beyond the physical level. Your mind connects with your body and you are able to develop awareness as you go about your day. This awareness can keep you from overworking your low back by choosing a safer way to move, and can even remind you to get up and stretch when you have been sitting for too long. This is what we in the yoga world call “Yoga off the mat.”
Yoga poses for lower back pain
Here are some poses that you can practice daily for relief from low back pain. (Disclaimer: Not all yoga postures are appropriate for everybody. If you feel pain in any movement, then the posture may not be right for you.)
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