Pigeon Pose Relaxes Hips By Stretching Rotators
Pigeon pose, which can be a little challenging for yoga newbies, stretches hip rotators and flexors. It may not seem like the most obvious position to treat a backache, but tight hips can contribute to lower back pain.
Try it: Start in Downward-Facing Dog with your feet together. Then draw your left knee forward and turn it out to the left so your left leg is bent and near perpendicular to your right one lower both legs to the ground. You can simply keep your back right leg extended straight behind you, or for an added hamstring stretch seasoned Pigeon posers, only! carefully pull your back foot off the ground and in toward your back. Hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch to the other side, and repeat as needed.
Reasons Your Yoga Practice Can Become A Pain In The Neck
Many of us carry tension in our necks and when we go to a yoga class we hope to come out with our necks feeling better. But that is not always the case. There are certain things that you might be doing in a yoga class that can generate neck tension, instead of relieving it. Here are some of them:
Looking up in yoga poses, for example in Warrior 1. My teacher jokes sometimes that the only reason a warrior would look up in the battlefield is to pray to heavens because hed be gone in an instant. But battlefield aside, holding your head back doesnt serve any particular purpose, other then stressing the posterior musculature of the neck. There are some poses , where you do take your head back, otherwise you will stress your anterior neck muscles. But even there we need to avoid hyperextension .
Jutting the chin out thats a common occurrence in yoga classes. It usually happens because of habits, chronic tension or because were trying to keep an eye on whats going on around us. As a general rule, we want to keep the cervical spine and the head in a neutral position, unless we are working with the neck specifically. For example, in Bhujangasana:
We need to treat our necks with the respect that they deserve and attend to their needs regularly. Below is an example of a 35 minute yoga practice that will help you stretch the sides of your neck and loosen up your shoulders.
Yoga Poses That Can Hurt You
“Anityasuciduhkhanatmasu nityasucisukhatmakhyatiravidya” — From Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, written in Sanskrit approximately 2,400 years ago.
As a 40-year yoga practitioner, with over two decades practicing massage therapy and teaching yoga, I have seen countless injuries, chronic pain and joint issues in yoga clients of every age and fitness level. My work and investigations with yoga injuries has revealed certain yoga poses engage the body in positions that are unnatural for the design of the human body. In this series of posts, I will explain why these poses need to be radically modified or eliminated to protect yoga practitioners from finding out that which was considered to be useful may in time prove to be harmful.
The sad truth is that years of practicing body positions that do not simulate real life function can lead to misalignment, chronic pain, and even surgical replacements.
To be smart and safe in yoga, we need to consider postural alignment and natural joint function, rather than blindly following a list of “must-do” traditional poses and boot camp challenges.
Yoga Can Heal and Yoga Can Hurt
Stop driving with your parking brakes on.
Touching your toes is a waste of time and could prove to be harmful in the long run.
Keep your sexy curves by not engaging your body in straight lines!
Forward bends with straight knees can give you a flat butt!
Before and After YogAlign Practice
Babies know best.
Bend your knees, not your spine!
Align, don’t contort.
Read Also: Is Hot Yoga Ok During Pregnancy
But Why Does Yoga Hurt My Back
There may be several reasons why Yoga can make your pain worse, but the main 2 are:
1. Your teacher does not understand your condition and is not giving you appropriate exercises. Not all movements and poses are appropriate for everyone. The Yoga classes used in the research studies were all tailored to the specific needs of the patients.
2. You are trying too hard stop competing with the guy in the corner who can hook his leg behind his ear!
I always advise my patients to:
Book 1 to 1 sessions with an experienced Yoga teacher for 6 weeks.
Make sure that your teacher provides you with an exercise sheet and do the exercises EVERY DAY.
Only join a class once you understand the movements and know your limitations. Make sure that you join a class that suits your skill/activity level.
DO NOT PUSH THROUGH PAIN. While it may be normal to have a slight increase in your pain after a class, you should not experience a big flare in pain or other symptoms.
Make Sure Your Knees Are Cushioned
As mentioned earlier, making sure a resting knee is properly cushioned is important if your yoga mat is on a hard surface, in order to prevent long-term inflammation. Fold the side of the mat inward to double-up or purchase a portable, yoga knee pad to place under the knee. You can find these on Amazon for an affordable price.
Also Check: Bikram Calories Burned
Mental Benefits Of Yoga Exercises
Engaging in Hatha yoga affords the practitioner with a mental state of mind that is ready for meditation, which in turn reduces stress and enhances mood. These mental benefits play an important role in the overall healing benefits of yoga.
There are several theories as to why a mental state of mind may affect those suffering from back pain.
- Many believe that suffering from back pain increases because of perception. Negative psychological and emotional factors may not necessarily change the physiology of the back, but may tend to magnify a problem that already exists. Thus, reducing the perception of the pain can reduce the overall feeling of back pain.
- Others take the role of mental factors one step further. They believe that psychological and emotional factors are the primary influence in the sensation of pain and can physically alter the body. For various reasons, high stress and negative emotions may actually cause back pain. This will in turn create negative psychological and emotional feelings, perpetuating the cycle.
Also see Stress-Related Back Pain
In theory, yoga helps people concentrate their energy on breathing and maintaining posture. The methodical breathing increases oxygen flow to the brain and sets a rhythm within the body and mind. This action coupled with the poses and sometimes meditation is said to dissipate stress and anxiety, therefore, relieving back pain caused by psychological and emotional factors.
How To Apply This Information
The knees are a very useful part of the body, so it’s worth studying hard for how to care for them and keep them safe, especially if you have a regular yoga practice. Try practicing the above poses at home with the advice given to put the proper postures into your long-term memory.
Form the habits given today in your home yoga practice and yoga class practice by being mindful of them and doing them daily. The more you apply these tips and tricks, the less you’ll have to think about doing it!
Recommended Reading: Vinyasa Yoga Calories Burned Per Hour
These Poses Could Make You Put Down The Pain Relievers
Achy back? Give yoga a go. Numerous studies have shown the power of the ancient practice, which emphasizes stretching, strength, and flexibility, to relieve back soreness and improve function.
According to research published in July 2017 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga may even help reduce the need for pain medication. At the start of the three-month study, in which one group was assigned to physical therapy for their back pain, a second to yoga, and a third to reading about pain management strategies, 70 percent of the subjects were taking medication. By the end, however, while the number of people taking medication in the reading group stayed the same, only 50 percent of the yoga and physical therapy subjects were still taking it.
Researchers are also starting to discover how yogas effects on the brain may contribute to decreased pain. In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health and published in May 2015 in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, scientists found that there were significant differences between the brains of those with chronic pain and the brains of regular yoga practitioners. Those with chronic pain had less of the kind of brain tissue in the regions that help us tolerate pain, but those who did yoga had more which suggests that yoga may be not just physically but neurologically protective.
Ways To Avoid Back Pain During Yoga Class
As someone who once suffered from intense low back pain, I remember going to yoga classes and coming out feeling worse than when I entered. I knew that the low-impact exercise was a great way to strengthen my core and in turn, help reduce my back pain, but something wasnt quite clicking.
I decided to become a certified yoga instructor myself and learned the ins and outs of every pose and how each affected my body. With this base knowledge, I was able to adapt my personal practice so that Id leave yoga class pain-free.
Much of the time, instructors are leading a practice for a large group, making it hard to pay special attention to every single students form. Thats why I equip my private clients with the same cues that I use to reduce the pressure placed on my low back during specific poses. Not only do these cues protect your back, but they will help relieve shoulder, elbow and wrist pain during your practice as well.
Here are the five need-to-know adjustments that will help you flow through your practice pain-free:
You May Like: What To Use Instead Of A Yoga Mat
Be Mindful Of Alignment Cues To Protect The Knees
Yoga classes can be overwhelming sometimes, especially when it’s fast-paced, and the teacher is describing the pose, but isn’t showing many of them. Try your best to focus on the alignment cues, especially in regards to the knee. If you are unable to do this, it’s best to find a teacher that demonstrates the poses, or to attend a slower pace class until you’re more familiar with the poses.
Starting Yoga If You Have Back Pain
Talk to your doctor first about whether its okay to begin a yoga program if you suffer from low back pain. Dr. Elson suggests staying away from yoga if you have certain back problems, such as a spinal fracture or a herniated disc.
Once you have the green light, you can protect your back by telling your yoga instructor beforehand about specific pain and limitations. He or she can give you protective modifications for certain poses, or help guide you through a pose to ensure you do it correctly without stressing your back. Another option is to look for yoga studios or community centers that offer classes specifically designed for back pain relief.
Remember that the stretching and lengthening yoga movements are often what your low back needs to feel better, so dont be afraid to give it a try. “By mindfully practicing yoga, people can safely improve their mobility and strength while stretching tight and aching back muscles,” says Dr. Elson.
Don’t Miss: How Many Calories Do You Burn In Bikram Hot Yoga
Common Yoga Postures May Be Stressing Your Spine And Causing Back Pain Dr Kevin Khalili Author Of Preserve Your Curves Offers Five Back
Is your back bothering you? Youre not alone. Back pain is one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss days at work, according to the National Institutes of Health. The World Health Organization reports that low back pain is a major cause of disability worldwide.
Yoga to the rescue, right? A Harvard Health Publishing Report calls yoga one of the more effective tools for helping reduce low-back pain because it strengthens and stretches tight back muscles and improves mobility. But some asana poses may actually make posture worse and inadvertently exacerbate back problems, according to Dr. Kevin Khalili, DC, author of Preserve Your Curves: Spinal Freedom with Yoga and Pilates.
Thats because some of the daily postural and movement habits that cause spinal misalignmentslumping on the couch, leaning into the computer, sleeping curled into a fetal positionare actually replicated in asana practice. In his e-book, Khalili shares an anecdote about a long-time yoga instructor who came to his office suffering from constant low-back pain. They determined that her condition was caused by sitting for long periods in Lotus position.
I posed a question to her, he writes. Since most of us are forced to sit all day, although we understand that doing so is not beneficial to our backs, why would you do more of itin an even more compromised sitting positionand expect a different result?
Did That Pesky Crunchy Feeling Get In The Way
Most of the back pain questions I get center around the low back, or lumbar spine, in backbends. If there isnt an existing back problem, low back pain more often develops because the tendency is to rely overly on the lumbar spine to take the pressure of the backbend.
In a pose like Wheel, Bow, or deeper variation of Cobra , for example, this can look like an even more excessive arch in the lower back.
This kind of uneven distribution of the back extension usually leads to compression in the spinewhat I like to call that crunchy feeling where bone meets bone.
Without proper alignment in a backbend, the spinal discs cushioning each vertebra get exceedingly squeezed towards the front of the spine, leading your spinous processes to grind against each other, wearing down the bones, i.e. crunch.
If this happens too often, the risks can include chronic back pain or other serious related injuries. So to avoid this sad state of affairs for your low back, here are some quick tips to help enjoy a happier backbending journey.
Recommended Reading: Yoga After Dinner
An Upward Forward Bend Releases Tight Hamstring And Back Muscles
Sometimes called a forward fold, the upward forward bend stretches the hamstrings and back muscles while providing a release for tight, tense shoulders.
Try it: Stand straight with feet shoulder-width apart and your knees loose, not locked. While you exhale, hinge at your waist and bend forward, reaching toward the floor. Dont worry if you cant reach all the way to the floor at first just stop wherever your hamstrings feel a comfortable stretch. Repeat the pose five to seven times. On the last bend hold the position for 5 to 10 breaths.
How Do I Protect My Back In Yoga
According to Duncan Peak, author of Modern Yoga, to protect the lower back its important to:
Recommended Reading: Does Hot Yoga Burn A Lot Of Calories
The Verdict: Yoga Isn’t Supposed To Hurt
As is the case with anyone engaging in a physical pursuit, people doing yoga can sometimes tweak their backs, pull their hamstrings or hurt their necks. But as Janet MacLeod, a yoga teacher from the Iyengar Yoga Institute of San Francisco, says, Yoga does not have to hurt. In fact, without suffering, students can go beyond their perceived limits. Students should embrace the concepts of steadiness and ease. Being aware of these qualities allows the student to practice in a mindful manner and to be cognizant of when their balance is being lost. My belief is that the practice of yoga, which is based on the principle of ahimsa , should not hurt.
In the 15 years since I started practicing yoga, Ive learned to appreciate both the beauty of a fully realized pose and the reality of where my own body is in that pose — which feels a lot better than recovering from a tweaked lower back. Some days Im more flexible, but most days Im less, and every day there are different sensations in my shoulders, hamstrings and lower back.
After a few injuries , Ive learned to pay close attention to my body’s subtle signals that it’s time to stop. Now I can actually find joy in noticing my limits and pulling back just a bit to where I feel safe and protected. Let’s say I can only go so far into a forward bend today. The reward isn’t in how far forward I’ve folded, but in the sense of self-acceptance I achieve when I’m in the pose — even if I’ve done it “better” before.
Does Yoga Make You Skinny
Active, intense styles of yoga help you burn the most calories. This may help prevent weight gain. While restorative yoga isnt an especially physical type of yoga, it still helps in weight loss. One study found that restorative yoga was effective in helping overweight women to lose weight, including abdominal fat.
You May Like: How Tight Should Yoga Pants Fit