June 5, 2013

How (& Why) Yoga Helps Lower Back Pain. ~ Keith Villanueva

First, we need to identify the cause of the back pain.

Hatha yoga (physical practice of poses) in itself is a perfect system in keeping the body limber, strong, flexible, functional and mobile. Why and how do we benefit from yoga poses (asana)?

It uses your body, gravity and breath in each and every pose.

Breathing correctly allows your body to open up and gain flexibility without creating unnecessary stress to the body. Breathing correctly also enables your body to release deeper into the yoga pose allowing you to receive the benefits from that specific pose. It reduces stress, tension and creates more mobility without force.

Yoga poses use gravity and your body weight to help you gain flexibility, muscular strength and endurance. This strengthens your body with its own body weight without using unnecessary equipment, making your body strong enough to move itself around.

Why does Hatha yoga reduce lower back pain?

Let’s talk about a few things that help induce lower back pain.

1. A dysfunctional core (weak abdominal muscles) doesn’t perform its job stabilizing and protecting the spine. Hatha yoga helps strength your core muscles along the trunk, abdominals and lower back muscles. Each yoga pose has a component of stability interwoven into the pose; the poses move your spine/lower back through static and dynamic motions that you normally don’t do on a regular bases.

Moving in this fashion creates strength, stability, flexibility and mobility in the spine and abdominal muscles. This in-turn creates functional strength in the core and trunk muscles of the body. Strengthening your abdominal and lower back reduces pain by creating a strong foundation for your spine. This helps to decompress and relieve stress from the discs and ligaments of the spine.

2. Tight hips and hamstrings restrict the movement of your pelvis. Anybody that has inflexible or tight hips and hamstrings usually experiences lower back issues. The less movement you have in your hips and hamstring the more stress goes into your lower back when doing daily activities due to your lower back over compensating.

Yoga poses target the hip and leg musculature. Not only do the poses create strength but they also create flexibility. Gaining flexibility in the lower extremities allow for freer movement of your pelvis, in-turn allowing better alignment of your spine during daily activities. Good flexibility in your lower extremities allows your pelvis to move easily without adding unnecessary stress to your lower back.

3. Lower back stiffness. A stiff lower back or spine hinders your ability to move freely causing add stress. Tight back muscle are easily pulled if forced to move in a way it isn’t use to. A stiff back is a weak back. You want your spine to be able to go with the flow—a stiff back can’t do that. This is where yoga can help you relieve lower back stiffness.

Yoga poses increase the mobility of your spine.

When the poses are finished with attention to the breath, alignment, control and under a knowledgable yoga instructor, mobility to the spine and pelvis will come as a byproduct of your practice. Each pose focuses on different parts of the body. Yoga poses take your spine through a regiment of movements that you don’t normally do on a daily basis in everyday life.

Your spine goes through flexion, extension, and rotation. Yoga poses keep your spine young and healthy by having your spine move in way that it normally wouldn’t—these movements help increase the mobility, stability and strength of your spine on a variety of planes.

This provides you with strong, stable, flexible, dynamic, and responsive core musculature.

These are just a few reasons to why and how yoga/stretching helps reduce lower back pain.

Yoga itself does a lot more for you than that—you have to give it a try in order feel the benefits. Yoga will not only help your back but it will change your life.

If you are new to yoga, I would recommend trying a gentle yoga or a basic Iyengar style class as a good intro to yoga.

(Don’t try a power yoga style class as a beginner—you want to heal your back, not break it.)

As the famous Yoga Guru Sri K. Pattabhi Jois said:

“Practice, practice, practice and all is coming.”


Keith Villanueva lives in New York City and work as a full-time FDNY firefighter. He is a certified Personal Trainer under the NSCA (National Strength & Conditioning Association), holds a degree in Allied Health Sciences & majored in exercise sciences. He is a yoga instructor under Dharma Mittra and leads Kirtan—and authored a book on how to play the harmonium.



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Assist Ed: Lacy Rae Ramunno/Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo Source: Tumbler


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