Yoga and Back aches

Recently a friend of mine asked me what to do for back pain. He seemed to have a bulging disc. I started re-reading my copy of ‘Yoga Rx’ and it addresses this very specific problem. As one would normally think, we shouldn’t be doing forward bends. These aggravates the bulging disc. Instead you want to do mild back bends – like variations of the Boat (Navasan) or Half-cobra. The idea is that the bulging disc needs to be compressed back into its place. Forward bends tend to pull them out.

In general for back aches, Yoga has been miraculously beneficial. If you read case studies, people suffering from acute back pain have benefited a lot with constant practice of Yoga. To what extent you need to follow Yoga is something you want to decide with your teacher. Of course, going to a doctor first or a therapist and finding out what kind of motions they recommend is necessary. This information can be then discussed with your Yoga teacher. There are a few things to keep in mind

– Lot of back aches are caused by emotional stress. Yes, it is hard to believe but stress is a big factor in back aches.

– Deep Relaxation or Shavasan is an excellent option to calm down the stress muscles.

– Good breathing is key to fight pain. This takes the mind of pain and onto something else. Moreover, good breathing brings back life into the being as it is supposed to.

– Good posture is critical to keeping the back healthy. The modern, sedentary style of living actuall puts more pressure on the discs with the gravity pulling on them. This causes the discs first to loose the gel (mostly water) and push out into the nerves causing pain (over a long period, of course). Secondly, the blood vessels near the discs also get compressed and deprive the discs/spine of nutrients. A simple exercise such as walking infuses movement along the spine – the gentle up and down movement – and helps irrigate the spine.

Read ‘Back Rx’ by Vasanth Vad for an excellent book on this topic

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