By Kimaya Singh
As any chiropractor will tell you, improper posture or spinal injuries can create a host of seemingly unrelated physical issues. For example, misaligned cervical vertebrae might be related to headaches and sore throats while problems in the lumbar region of the spine could also lead to tingling in the feet or to persistent knee pain. Basically, the back and neck have a lot of responsibilities; they support lifting and carrying, walking and running, turning and sitting still and any other type of physical activity a person is involved in. The majority of the population suffers from or will suffer from moderate to severe back pain, and many with weak or chronic back injuries use yoga to build strength and flexibility and improve symptom management.
Yoga for Back Pain
Yoga is one of the few strength building or fitness activities that can claim respect for the spine and all it does. In fact, rather than putting stress on it like weightlifting does or putting it at a high risk for injury like many dynamic sports do, physical forms of Yoga practice tend to stretch out weak and tight back muscles, align the spine and build core strength to improve overall back health.
Deep relaxation poses like the corpse pose or the child's pose are particularly effective in relaxing the neck, shoulders and lower back, areas of the body that many adults never experience a full release of tension in. Other poses like the cobra pose or the cat pose stretch the spine and neck and strengthen the muscles associated with these areas. This combination of tension-release and strength building can completely eliminate back pain in some people and prevent further aggravation of old injuries in others.
Teaching Yoga to Prevent Back Injuries in Classes
It is clear, however, that though yoga is an effective practice for improving spinal alignment, core strength and back pain symptoms, some yogis have experienced back injuries that are related to their yoga practice.
There are several scenarios within a yoga session where back injuries tend to occur more frequently, and instructors should be extra vigilant during these occasions to ensure their students come away injury-free.
1. Students are at risk for injury when practicing poses they have not mastered yet. Yoga teachers should keep an eye on pose technique and provide corrective feedback as often as needed.
2. Injuries tend to occur when students are distracted or unfocused, and any student whose mind looks like it is wandering should be guided back into the concentration required, if possible.
3. Back bends and inversion poses can place strain on the spine, so movements within poses should be slow, fluid and as correct as possible. Students with back problems may need to modify these poses or avoid certain advanced ones, like headstand, completely.
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