Despite being over 5,000 years old, yoga remains one of the most popular forms of exercise and relaxation all across the world. The benefits of yoga are far-reaching, with increased flexibility and muscle strength, improved respiration and circulation, and weight loss being some of the main reasons the exercise has remained so popular over the years. People also enjoy yoga because it allows them to move gently at their own pace towards achieving their own goals, whether that means improving their overall health, or focusing on a specific issue.
Given how much focus yoga puts on proper form, it should come as no surprise that many people see it as a possible answer to back pain, a problem that commonly arises due to poor posture. But while yoga has the potential to ease back pain, it could also make things worse.
The first thing to note if you are considering using yoga to deal with back pain is that you should consult with your doctor before beginning. Back pain can be caused by a number of problems, from extended periods of sitting to the shape of your feet and how you walk. Before embarking on a road to recovery, you need to make sure not only that you are focused on the right area, but also that you are not exacerbating any underlying issues.
If there is in fact an issue specifically with your back, then yoga could help. But there are two main things you need to focus on in order to make the situation better, not worse. The first is form: even if a pose looks correct, you could be distributing your weight incorrectly, or leading with the wrong body part. The second is speed. Whether you are assuming your first pose or switching from one to another, you need to take your time, listen to your body, and not push back too hard against any resistance.
As you would expect, certain yoga poses put more pressure on the back then others, and should be avoided if you have back pain. Lunge twists, the seated forward fold, and the boat pose are some examples of exercises that put more pressure on your back than you might expect. Poses that more obviously focus on your back, such as the full wheel, camel, or the facing dog poses should only be carried out under correct supervision.
When done correctly, yoga can help alleviate many physical woes, including back pain. But despite being widely regarded as a relatively easy and relaxing form of exercise, executing poses correctly can be harder than it looks. Unfortunately, many people who believe they are working hard to improve their pain may actually be causing it to get worse. So if you are considering using yoga to alleviate back pain, make sure both your doctor and instructor are aware of it, as they will be able to guide you, keep you on the right track, and prevent you from making things worse.