Many people struggle with back pain, it might be one of the most common bodily issues among men and women worldwide. Whether it is from an accident, stress, scoliosis (and other spinal problems), or child-bearing, yoga seems to be somewhat of a cure-all for solving back pain.
Yoga is often thought of as difficult postures which twist the body up in knots, intimidating some from trying it out. Often you hear people shy away from the practice with the excuse ‘I’m not that flexible’, though that is the point of yoga – to increase flexibility in both body and mind. The spine could be called ‘the vital focus’ of yoga, as every pose, breathing practice and visualization help the body become more connected to the spinal cord and the energy which is said to run through it.
Yogic asanas, or body postures, aim at stretching the spine in all of its various possible motions as well as elongating it, and massaging all of the nerves which run through the spinal cord. Practices like kundalini yoga are known for energizing the spine and increasing the vitality of the nerves and muscles which support the spine by helping bring more consciousness, or awareness to this region of the body.
Yoga means ‘union’, as the practices of yoga are meant to unite the body and the mind with the breath and energy of the whole system. When there is injury or ‘pain’ in the back, or anywhere else for that matter, it is a sign that energy or ‘life force’ is not moving and circulating properly there. Chinese medicine would say there is a block in the chi (Qi) keeping the energy from moving properly through their meridians. In yoga, these same meridians are known as nadis, or rivers of flowing energy currents through the body.
Even focusing on several simple spine-strengthening poses can do wonders for back pain and restore the proper health and flexibility of the body and back. Simple poses like ‘cat and cow’, ‘downward dog’, ‘camel pose’ and sun salutations can be a great place to start. Those who practice yoga regularly are known for getting a little ‘taller’ as the spine can actually learn to stand more erect and ‘lengthen’ by adding more awareness and flexibility to the places between the vertebrae of the spine.
Regular practice is key to beginning to retrain the body and the mind and to allow greater circulation and attention to take place within the body. Many of us spend so much time in our heads that we are actually not ‘present’ in our bodies. When there is pain, we detach ourselves even more, disassociating ourselves with what is happening within the body. The only way to truly heal and relieve pain in the body is to inhabit it again, and explore what it is really like to ‘be’ in the body – aware of every joint, muscle and bone. Yoga helps one to do this by cultivating presence and ‘the observer mind.’
There are so many varieties of yoga available today. It is recommended to start with basic Hatha yoga, either at a studio or in your own home – with on-line instruction or your very own video training. Meeting with a certified instructor is recommended for your first few classes, at least, so you can make sure to practice proper alignment and not hurt yourself more. It is not necessary to integrate dozens of poses at the beginning of your practice, instead choose a few that feel good and work on deepening your relationship with them. In this way, back pain can be solved through focused attention of a few yoga poses. You can do it!
Written by: Stasia Bliss