6 tips for practicing yoga with back pain
There are many causes of low back pain and it is becoming more and more common for people to arrive at a yoga class having been told by their GP that yoga could help.
The tricky part is that even though yoga can be a wonderful tool for relieving back pain, not all styles of yoga are suitable for back pain.
From my own experience of teaching group classes, there is always at least 1 or 2 people who turn up with some form of back pain. (That is of the people who mention it)
Having had back pain myself for many years, i'm always keen to share my knowledge of how to support existing back issues, as well as encouraging students to hone their own ability to listen their body in order to avoid any future issues.
The yoga that we practice in studios is mostly focused on the physical practice of yoga, in this way it invites you to move and get to know your body. A big part of this is an invitation to move at a pace that allows you to notice your body in a mindful way.
This can be a challenge in itself, as it is the opposite of our 'push harder' and 'no pain, no gain' culture.
Did you ever think that it may be our 'no pain, no gain' culture that got us here in the first place. Working longer hours, taking fewer breaks, eating meals at our desks, writing emails and tying up loose ends outside of working hours...
Now don't get me wrong...I like to work hard. And even now I will sometimes catch myself prioritising work, or neglecting to do my back exercises. I know that Covid changed how employers and we as individuals think about self care, but I also think we easily slip back into old habits.
It requires a change in mindset.
You see it is not just about the practices we do, it is about how we practice.
Tips to creating a practice that supports your spine...
1. It's not about how deep you go into a shape, it's about how you go deep. Use your breath to guide you. When the breath becomes strained, ease your way back to a place where you can breathe fully.
2. Let go of comparison...Everyone looks a bit different in a shape, because we all have unique bone structure and we are all showing up with different energy levels and injury histories.
3. Use props like blocks and bolsters for additional support. Props don't mean you are any less advanced. In fact knowing how to use a prop well is a sign of a very wise practitioner.
4. A good rule of thumb... If it hurts, leave it out.
5. Do forward bends with knees bent, or while seated or lying on your back instead of from standing. These variations are a great way to reintroduce this forward folding movement which may feel more secure and allows you to move at your own pace.
6. Let your teacher know what is going on for you. This is not so you can hand responsibility over to your teacher. This is so you and your teacher can work as a team, they can offer guidance, helping you to create a practice that is supportive for you.
Speak with your GP about whether it's okay to begin practicing yoga if you suffer from low back pain.
Let your teacher know what you are working with or look for yoga studios or teachers who offer classes specifically designed for back pain relief.
Join Back Support for Modern Life Learn tools and practices that have been proven to decrease pain so that you can start to feel like yourself again.