Yoga for Spine

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Yoga is a fantastic way of looking after the spine and there are many poses that can help. By consistently stretching the spine in a gentle and controlled manner much suffering can be avoided and the quality of life for the yoga practitioner can be vastly improved.

The first issue we need to think about is safety because it is easy to cause damage to the spine if we push ourselves too hard and too fast at the start. Make sure to slowly build up your confidence and try not to undertake the more challenging poses too early just because you think you can. The aim is to improve our mental and physical health and this should be remembered at all times.

Yoga can have a positive effect on all 4 parts of the back which includes the cervical, thoracic, lumbar, and sacral regions. Because the neck or cervical region is highly flexible it is also easy to injure. The thoracic region is far less flexible and causes fewer problems. It can be challenging to improve flexibility in the thoracic region because the vertebra is attached to the ribs.

Because men tend to store their fat around the waist they can suffer from pain in the lumbar region. And this is not to say the sacral region doesn’t have its issues as well where problems can be encountered due to bad posture, particularly for those who sit in a chair all day long. The following yoga poses can alleviate some of the problems that you might encounter with your spine.

Let’s start with an easy pose called the Salabhasana or Locust pose. This is a great stretching pose and carries little risk for your spine. The first thing to do is to lie on your mat facing down. Make sure to interlace your fingers together with the position being above the sacrum. You engage in the pose by lifting your legs and chest off the ground at the same time and make sure to keep your legs straight while doing this. Make sure to keep your eyes looking directly in front of you and squeeze your shoulders together as far as they will go. Don’t squeeze your buttock muscles nor should you look directly up at the ceiling because this will lead to compression of the spine.

The Urdhva Svanasana is more commonly known as the Upward Facing Dog. This is one of the most important postures in yoga. It strengthens the supporting muscles while opening the lungs and allowing you to breathe deeply and in a controlled manner. To execute this pose you should start by lying on your stomach with your hands on the ground beside your ribcage. Make sure the top of your feet is lying on the ground. The execution phase is done by lifting your upper body off the ground with your wrists underneath your shoulders when arms are locked straight. Make sure to look straight ahead. By now only the tops of your feet and your hands are in contact with the mat. At this stage, you can bring your shoulder blades together in order to open your chest. Your back will instantly appreciate the difference it makes and it is a great way of releasing tension from your body.

The Dhanurasana or Floor Bow is a challenging pose and it should enable the advanced yoga practitioner to open up the lungs and have a good overall stretch at the same time. Begin by lying flat on the floor and then reach back with your arms to grab and hold the outside of your ankles. This should lift your head and shoulders off the ground as well as the legs. Make sure the knees are about shoulder-width apart. Bring your ankles slowly together. Be aware that you’ll hurt your back if your legs are too far apart. This is a highly challenging pose and it should be engaged in a careful and controlled manner so that you’ll prevent an unnecessary injury to yourself.

The Ustrasana or Camel Pose is similar to the Floor Bow but it is done on the knees. The thoracic spine will really be exercised by this pose and it is a much safer alternative to the Floor Bow. You can start by getting on your knees which are set shoulder-width apart. Grab your ankles on the outside with your hands. Now slowly pull your head back until you’re looking straight up. Remember to pull back your shoulders. Be careful not to stress your lower back by moving too suddenly and remember to use this opportunity to breathe slowly and deeply so as to move your focus onto your breathing and not your back.

By far one of the most difficult poses in all of yoga is Urdhva Dhanurasana or the Wheel Pose. This should be counted as an aspiration rather than a realistic goal if you’re starting out in yoga. Having said that. It is a great workout for 4 areas of your back and it is also a great way to stretch your entire body at the same time. It takes extreme strength and flexibility to execute this pose.

The hands should be the customary shoulder-width apart with the fingers facing back towards the feet. You can start by lying on the ground and then push your legs and arms up at the same time as high as they’ll go. The next step is to push your hips as high as they’ll go as well in order to make a wheel shape out of your entire body. Make sure to look straight forward but this time your head will be upside down. This is an extreme pose so be careful. Remember to breathe in a controlled fashion as you should do with all yoga poses. You’ll probably be able to do this pose the first time you attempt so you might like to try the baby steps approach. If you can execute this pose then you truly are an advanced yoga practitioner.

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These are just some of the yoga poses that are beneficial for your back. Be aware that there are much more available. Try out the easier ones first in order to build up your confidence and your competence. And as always in yoga, remember to breathe as deeply in a controlled manner at all times. Quality over quantity every time is the rule in yoga.

Nick Hanlon

I'm an Aussie interested in topical issues.

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