Relieving back pain through Yoga: a holistic approach

Rebecca Meldrum yoga

In the first of a series of blogs on wellness practices, yoga teacher Rebecca Meldrum gives an insight into how Yoga can help to prevent and manage back pain.

My Yoga journey started after I developed scoliosis when I was 17, so I know first hand how it can help to prevent and manage back pain. 

My consistent Yoga practice has given me long-term relief from back pain, however, I will preface this article by saying that not all Yoga practices and poses are suitable when you’re in pain. You MUST listen to your body and adjust your practice accordingly. 

It’s a valuable gift to be able to listen to your body when it’s speaking to you. One of the benefits of Yoga is that it enables you to develop this skill of listening. 

In coming blogs, we’ll explore specific Yoga postures that can help with different patterns of back pain. But to get things started, my first blog will take a look at the big picture around Yoga and back pain. 

A recent article published by Harvard Medical School affirms that a carefully adapted set of Yoga postures can help reduce low back pain and maintain back strength and flexibility. 

The article also recognised that the benefits of Yoga go ‘beyond muscles’.

Rebecca Meldrum yoga

‘The slow movements and focus on proper breathing can improve the emotional aspect of back pain by helping to lower stress and alleviate anxiety.’

I craft all of my classes with a huge consideration of the back and spine. It is so important to build stability in this area, particularly the lower back.

When the foundation is weak the spine is like a house of cards. Not to worry though, applying specific exercises while developing the breath is accessible for everyone no matter what your condition… ahh the beauty of Yoga!

Make the Right Moves

A holistic Yoga practice includes an alignment of physical postures (asanas), conscious breathing (pranayama) and mindfulness (meditation). In combination they support back pain management. I have summarised some benefits below.

Improved posture

Some back problems are related to poor posture from long periods of sitting or standing incorrectly. Yoga highlights alignment and awareness of body positioning that helps to correct postural imbalances. 

Poses like Mountain Pose (Tadasana) and Tree Pose (Vrksasana) promote spinal alignment and relieve strain on the back muscles and ligaments.

Increased flexibility and strength

Yoga poses gently stretch and strengthen muscles throughout the body, improving flexibility and supporting the spine’s natural curvature. 

Asanas such as Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana) and Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) target the back muscles, promoting flexibility and relieving tension. Another awesome pose for strengthening the lower back is chair pose (Utkatasana). I would recommend holding each asana (pose) for 3 – 5 slow, intentional breaths.

Stress reduction

Stress and tension makes back pain worse by causing muscle stiffness and constricting blood flow. Yoga incorporates mindful breathing and relaxation techniques that activate the parasympathetic nervous system, inducing a state of relaxation and surrender.

Variations of Pranayama (Deep Breathing) and Corpse Pose (Savasana) help reduce stress levels, easing tension in the back and promoting overall well-being.

Rebecca Meldrum yoga

Core stability

Muscles and joints of the abdomen, back, pelvis, and hips provide support to the spine. Various Yoga poses engage these core muscles to enhance stability and balance. 

Poses like Plank Pose (Phalakasana) and Boat Pose (Navasana) strengthen the abdominal muscles, improving posture and reducing back pain. However again I emphasise if these poses feel too much, start small and build up to them. Listening to your body is everything 🙂

Promotion of spinal health

Yoga also encourages spinal mobility and alleviates pressure on vertebral discs and nerves. Poses like Child’s Pose (Balasana) and Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) elongate the spine and create space between the vertebrae, reducing compression and promoting spinal health.

Lifelong practice

There is a wide variety of Yoga practices – from the high intensity of modern Vinyasa to the slow, deliberate movements of Hatha and deep stretches of Yin – which means your practice can be sustained throughout your whole life. Yay!

The power of Yoga in preventing and managing back pain channels through the tradition’s holistic approach to life. Yoga empowers us to take an active role in our healing journey and holistic well-being.

I hope you reap all the gifts Yoga has to offer. 

With Love,

Rebecca 

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