Sunday, 15 March 2009

How Yoga Can Help With Back Injuries

Back problems are often a hazard, making it difficult to do the common things that most take for granted: lift objects, bend down, or even sitting in a cushy armchair. While GPs recommend diets, pills, and hospital treatments to help cope with enduring symptoms, more and more people have been turning to non-western approaches to help them overcome their problems. Why? Because they work. One alternative technique has been particularly popular for back pain sufferers: yoga.

How it works

There are many types of yoga: there are gentle forms that help calm the mind and body, and there are more psychically demanding types that serve as a great workout. Yoga works to help you improve your posture, your alignment, and gain a greater awareness of your body, doing so through a combination of breathing exercises and poses.

Yoga experts and osteopaths recommend gentle exercises, and discourage yoga variations such as Bikram and Ashtanga, as they are often too challenging for people with back problems. Hatha is the style of yoga that would work best, as it is gentle and involves slow breathing exercises, stretches, and practises some of the most basic yoga poses. It creates greater flexibility, while at the same time strengthening your backs muscles. Hatha yoga can also facilitate the fast recovery of back problems such as Sciatica, Osteoarthritis and Fibromyalgia, and can help prevent these from developing altogether.

What can you do?

Here are some yoga exercises you can do to strengthen your back, alleviate pain, and make your muscles more flexible:

1) Begin with a stretch before moving into to the exercise poses. Start in the Mountain Pose position : stand up straight with your feet together, balance the weight of your body evenly over the feet, and slightly press your arms into the sides of your body. Stay in a firm posture while tightening your buttocks and stomach muscles, and breathe in slowly through the nose, out through the mouth.

2) Crescent Moon Pose: this pose strengthens your back, legs, and shoulders, helping you build extra stamina. Complete it in two steps:

Kneel down to your knees while keeping a straight back. Step forward with your right foot so that your foot is a little past your right knee, and keep your leg parallel to the floor.

Stretch both arms above your head, hooking the thumbs together. Keeping your balance, slowly lift your left knee off the floor, stretch out the leg, and make sure your weight is spread evenly over both the front and leg. Pay attention to keeping your chest low, otherwise you create a hollow in your back.

3) The Child Pose: this pose helps you stretch your spine, hips, and thighs, and should help alleviate the psychical and emotional stresses in your body. Carry it out in three steps:

Kneel onto your knees, keeping the knees slightly parted, sitting with your feet pointing outwards.

Now, carefully place your forehead on the floor and swing both arms forward, around the head at the height of the ears.

With your head still touching the floor, bring your arms around to your sides, palms facing upwards.

These traditional ways of healing the body can therefore be a great supplement or alternative to western back treatments. As long as each pose is exercised with caution, hatha yoga can ensure that your mind and body feel better and refreshed.

Andrew Mitchell, clinical editor at the Osteopath Network, writes papers about musculo-skeletal conditions, drug-free treatment, pain management and how to find a Leicester Osteopath. He is interested in the treatment of back pain, neck pain and injury and pain management.

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