Sun, April 25, 2004


Ask the Yoga Instructor

Can Yoga help my Back Pain?

The answer to that question is yes! As long as the back pain is not caused by an injury, yoga can definitely aid in making the back stronger and feeling good again. Tight and tense muscles are a major cause of back pain. We tense our muscles in our back due to stress without being aware of it. If we remain in a stressed condition for a long time the muscles contract more and more, feel stiffer and tighter. Did you ever notice after a long day at the office, hugging that phone to your ear for extended periods of time, or sitting in a car for many hours, your entire backside aches from the neck down to your lower back. Often it's because the muscles are out of balance, poor posture, not sitting tall. The end result is tight, and tense muscles that are now painful. The best thing we can do for ourselves is to keep our back muscles flexible and strong. Sitting tall, watching that posture, watching our breathing. Yoga poses stretch and elongate the muscles and help them become looser and much more flexible. The tighter and stiffer muscles are the more restricted movement becomes and tense muscles are much more prone to injury. We need healthy back muscles for our overall good health because they are connected to almost every major muscle group in our body. Another important aspect of relaxed muscles is correct and relaxed breathing. By breathing slowly and mindfully we allow oxygen to nourish every cell and muscle cell in the body. Many times I see students in my classes that are so tense and stressed, they have no idea how tight their muscles are until we go through a systematic relaxation procedure and they learn how to let the muscles "dissolve" and get the tension out them. There are many good and safe yoga poses to strengthen the back. Always stretch gently and mindfully as far as you can without pain, never overstretch. Never bounce, strain or push through pain. Always listen to your body. If you are bothered by lower back pain and know it is not caused by an injury, but muscle related, you might want to give yoga a try. Of course it will not improve overnight. However, if you make a commitment and become a regular student of yoga you will see a difference within 4-6 weeks of regular practice. I know, because muscle, neck and back pain brought me to yoga many years ago and yoga has made a tremendous difference in my life. I do recommend a beginners yoga class if you are dealing with back pain. There are many good books out on back care, one I highly recommend is by: Art Brownstein, M.D. titled: "Healing Back Pain Naturally".

How do I find a Yoga Class suited for me?

Yoga has proven itself and has become extremely popular. There is a wealth of information regarding yoga on the internet as well as your local library. If you are a very active person, want to increase your flexibility, build strength and increase your metabolism, then you might want a type of yoga that flows, like Ashtanga, or Power Yoga. If you have not exercised in a long time and you are dealing with back pain, or feel highly stressed and want to learn how to relax and better control the stress, you most certainly would like to look for a beginners class. If any of your friends are practicing Yoga, see if they might recommend an instructor. Check out the instructor's credentials. Is she/he certified? How many hours of real classroom teaching does this teacher have? Ask the students in the class for feedback. You can find an instructor online by checking out Yoga and also the Most organizations and instructors allow you to drop into a class for a one-time fee. Check out a class. It's hard to judge by taking just one class, but you should know after about 3-4 classes whether you like the instructor's style of teaching and if you enjoy the class. If for some reason you are not pleased, keep looking until you find the one that suits you.

Ilse Mindling is a Yoga Alliance registered and certified instructor, instructing in Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda. She may be reached at (941) 204-0095 visit:

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