Yoga for the Back
Yoga is a great stand alone or complementary therapy for those suffering from chronic or occasional back pain, those with a stiff back, arthritis, herniated disk or those who want to improve the health of their backs.
Yoga for the Back: 4 or 8-week Therapeutic Series:
This therapeutic yoga series designed specifically for those suffering from back pain! Each class in the series will build on the previous and will consist of education about your back health, breathing techniques to ease back pain, gentle yoga practice increasing strength and flexibility, guided relaxation or meditation, and weekly home practice. In Yoga with Yaga for the Back we address the common muscle imbalances leading to back pain, and bring harmony back to the body. Breathing exercises and simple balancing poses bring calm to the mind and nervous system, reducing inflammation and pain in the body.
This is an excellent stand-alone or complimentary therapy for back pain sufferers. No previous yoga experience required. Pre-registration required. Not appropriate for pregnant women.
Please visit the Classes page for upcoming class dates.
More about Back Pain:
Low back pain is a condition that affects 80% of the population at some point in their life. Up to 85% of occurrences of low back pain is classified as ‘idiopathic’ – meaning, that doctors can’t identify the cause, even due to complex modern diagnostics . Yoga is a great stand-alone or a complementary therapy for back pain, especially chronic. Yoga creates balance in the body: it strengthens the weak muscles and stretches the tight muscles. Yoga calms the nervous system, releases tension in the body, and brings the body closer to a natural state of well being. Several research studies have shown the beneficial effects of yoga on back pain, which included decreased pain, decreased bothersomeness, increased mobility, and reduced need for medication (, , ).
The most common identified causes of back pain are:
- Muscle imbalances and weaknesses (due to postural habits, improper ergonomics, etc).
- Sprain & Strains: Injury, overuse, or strain of muscles, ligaments, facet joints, and the sacroiliac (SI) joints.
- Compression of nerve roots in the spinal canal, due to herniated disk, osteoarthritis (joint degeneration), spondylosis (degeneration of the spine), spondylolisthesis (vertebra slide over one another), spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine from side to side), kyphosis (abnormal rounding of the upper spine)
- Other: Pregnancy, Arthritis, Bacterial Infection, Tumors, Disorders of other organs
Yoga is an excellent treatment and prevention method for back pain as it brings the body back into balance, and removes muscles imbalances and weaknesses, and improves posture. Yoga practice focuses on creating length in the spine, reducing nerve compression, and removing abnormal spinal curvatures.
For chronic back pain, the western medicine treatments are limited. Over-the-counter pain reducers or stronger prescription muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs are commonly recommended. These don’t remove the cause of back pain, rather just mask the symptoms. Antidepressants are sometimes given to patients with chronic pain who might have developed depression as a result of pain itself, and associated sleeplessness, and/or inactivity. Again, these do not cure the issue, but often temporary relief of symptoms. Anesthetic or corticosteroid injections are also sometimes used to reduce inflammation. Physical therapy is recommended to some patients to strengthen the muscles of the trunk, core, and spine support. Very few cases of low back pain require surgery. Surgery is sometimes helpful in cases of a disk herniation or nerve damage.
Yoga reduces back pain by removing the cause of the problem rather than just the symptoms. Once the cause of back pain (muscle imbalances, nerve compression, strain, etc) are removed, the back pain typically resolves itself. Yoga can then be used as a preventive/wellness therapy to keep the body in balance and pain free. With yoga, you’re in charge of your body and working on getting it out of pain, and hence yoga practice is an empowering way to bring yourself to wellness.
What’s the difference between yoga and physical therapy?
As the name implies ‘physical therapy’ primarily addresses the physical body, whereas Yoga works on all levels of the body, physical, emotional and subtle (energetic) body. Physical therapy exercises for back pain can be similar to the physical postures used in Yoga for the Back; A large part of the yoga practice is working with the breath and integrating breath and movement, working on habitual and emotional patterns, as well as energy flow in the entire body. Chronic pain is usually found in people with stress and tension-based issues and yoga therapy addresses these concerns more completely than physical therapy. Yoga acts to create balance and harmony in the whole body, which releases anxiety and tension, and contributes to pain relief and increased general well being. For most, yoga is an enjoyable practice that people enjoy integrating into their day.
I’m going to see a chiropractor for my back pain. Isn’t that enough?
Chiropractic care can greatly reduce your back pain, but doing yoga in addition to chiropractic care will get you pain free faster, and keep you pain free longer. A chiropractor manipulates the spine to remove misalignments often referred to as subluxations. The spine connects to joints, then to muscles and ligaments that support the spine and its structure. If there is a problem within the spine, the muscles in the close proximity to the spine misalignment (and often not only in that region) will also be affected. Typically some muscles will become overly tight and some will become weak, as muscles work in pairs. This is what’s commonly referred to a muscle imbalance. Chiropractic care removes the spinal misalignments, however if the pattern in the body has been there for a long time, the muscle imbalances will act to move the spine back into misalignment. Yoga acts to remove the muscular imbalances, hence helps the body to remain in balance, and helps the spine to stay in the adjusted position longer. Hence, yoga will work in conjunction with chiropractic care to get you pain free faster.
What’s the difference between Yoga with Yaga for the Back and regular Yoga class?
All yoga is therapeutic and many people will find relief from back pain by attending a Hatha, Vinyasa, or Anusara yoga class. People with herniated disks and back pain due to nerve compression will in most cases not benefit from a general yoga class, as forward folding and twisting will contribute to the nerve compression, and cause greater pain. Yoga with Yaga for the Back is a gentler class than most general classes, so it’s appropriate for people who have never done yoga before and/or have limited mobility, and are not in very good physical shape. The poses in Yoga with Yaga for the Back are safe for most back pain issues and focus on relieving tension in the back, strengthening the core, and releasing tightness in hamstrings and hips.
 ‘Low Back Pain: Healing Your Aching Back’, A Harvard Medical School Special Health Report, 2010
 Sherman et al. 2005: Comparing Yoga, Exercise, and a Self-Care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain, Annals of Internal Medicine, 849 – 856
 Williams et al 2005: Effect of Iyengar yoga therapy for chronic low back pain, Pain: 107 – 117
 Williams et al 2009: Evaluation of the Effectiveness and Efficacy of Iyengar Yoga Therapy on Chronic Low Back Pain, Spine: 2066 – 2076