I’m healthy, fit and active but I have terrible back pain once in awhile.
Can yoga help? Is there a pose I can do for my back?
It totally sucks to have back pain. If it’s really bad you feel like you can’t do much of anything, much less the things that you normally do to stay fit and healthy. I'm not talking about the kind of pain where you feel like you should be in a body cast, or on a scale of 1 to 10 you are a 8 or higher. I’m talking about a garden variety pain/ache be it chronic, or something that flares up on occasion, like when you try to pick up your 80 lb lab to put in the tub for a bath.
When you have back pain you realize just how much you rely on a healthy, strong back just to do daily life stuff. You can’t run, bike, garden, or sometimes even brushing your teeth and taking a shower can be a challenge. Maybe you are used to taking care of everyone else, and now you have to rely on others to help out more.
A very, very brief rant about the spine:
The spine is the first structure to develop in the womb, everything branches off from there, EVERYTHING. It’s important to know that your spinal health is key to a relatively pain free life. I’m not going to say “pain free” because that’s not realistic, but you can have less pain by taking care of your spinal health. From yoga’s perspective your spine (the center of your spine) is the conduit of consciousness. Which is one reason why there is such an emphasis on it.
Yoga can help, although a class may not be advisable until you are at place where your pain level is maybe a 5 or less. Not all yoga is the same, so a little asking around plus some research to find out what may work for you.
A couple weeks ago I was talking to a neighbor, who had recently tweaked her back while babysitting her grandkids. Now my dear neighbor is one extremely dynamic, active grandparent/CEO/runner/cyclist/go-getter kind of a super woman who may even have special powers for all I know. She was experiencing back pain for the first time in her entire adult life. At 60 + years, having had no back pain previously is extremely rare. Anyway, back to her tweaked back – she tried a few things ice etc. but wanted a quicker recovery. She asked me if there were some poses she could to that would help, at which point we booked a series of sessions to get her rocking on her recovery.
The sessions consisted of Yoga Therapy – a more passive form of yoga – and private instruction to get her started on a home practice. The first few sessions were passive, I had her on the floor with some propping so she was comfortable, she was in too much pain to do poses. Then, after a few sessions some healing had ensued, we went over a “bed yoga” practice. Bed Yoga takes 15 minutes and is generally 3 poses that are very simple yet effective at helping the muscles in your spine release.
Of course, I won’t be able to teach you “Bed Yoga” here in this blog, but I can give you a few things you can try at home:
A few things you can do right now to help with back pain:
1. Breath – just bring your awareness to your breath. It’s best if you are on the floor and have your legs over a chair, or a couch. Simply notice you’re in breath, how your body expands when you breathe in, even notice where the breath is moving inside your body. Then on the exhale, just allow your body to soften and sink heaver into the floor. You can become aware of what is happening internally, as you empty your body of air. Although we think of the breath of just entering the lungs, you may have a different experience of where your breath is moving. There are countless breathing practices, but the simplicity of being aware of your breath helps you relax.
2. Shavasana – this is the pose of doing nothing, or corpse pose. You lay on the floor/bed with your legs over a couch or chair or a few pillows. Supporting your legs will lengthen your low back a little and most of your spine (other than your waist) will be supported by the floor/bed. Best to do on a carpeted floor, a bed can be a little too soft, but it will do if that’s works for you.
3. Legs up the Wall – Put both legs up the wall and scoot away at least a foot or more so that your legs are straight (no bend in the knees) and you don’t have to stiffen your legs to straighten them. You may have to scoot away more than a foot to get the angle that works best for your body. To scoot away slide your feet down the wall & push, keep your head on the floor. You may need a blanket under your head so your chin isn’t jutting out. Feet are just an inch or so apart & your heels are resting on the wall. Do nothing, just let the weight of your legs lean into the wall and into your hips, your lower back/sacrum will start to relax and widen. You can breath easy and naturally. Stay there for 5 to 7 minutes.
4. The Wedge Back Support Cushion on Amazon 24.95 – you can take them with you anywhere you go, in the car, work, and home, anywhere.
Pain can be the great motivator – you learn a ton from being in pain. You have to slow down and do things with more awareness. You have to ask for help (a big one, especially for women). You get to spend more time taking care of YOU. There’s an opportunity to meet some terrific practitioners too, if you go that route.
If you have intense pain that has been going on for a long period of time, you will need to do intense healing sessions for at least one-month minimum. I’ll try to explain using the least amount of verbiage…
Your sessions need to be timed close enough together so that you are not backsliding, you are improving dramatically each time you come and not doing the 2 steps forward, 2 steps back thing. The idea is that you open, open, open, maybe shut down a little bit, then your sessions are timed so that even if you do shut back down a little you will be opened back up right away because your body “remembers” what it feels to be more open/soft/relaxed/balanced.
I raise my glass to a healthy, happy spine! Cheers!
Janis M Desmond RYT500, CSYT