Yoga: A Bad Back's Best Friend

© Renata Ferraz
Strengthening yoga postures like this Four-Pointed Staff I'm pictured in can lend to a healthy back.

Nothing makes you feel older than a stiff back. That's what I remember thinking as a recent post-grad in my early twenties. It was exhilarating getting my first salary and a gig at a prestigious company-- it was debilitating sitting at a desk for eight hours, plunked down another four hours for my daily train commute. I started scheduling bi-weekly chiropractic adjustments to cope. I was just one of countless Americans, "spending $50 billion a year on medications, physical therapy and related costs" for back pain alone as the New York Times' Well Blog reports.

That's until I met yoga. My back pain is nevermore and now science has just corroborated the same. Yoga is a bad back's best friend.

Start chatting up other yoga practitioners. They'll likely tell you the same. My yogi boyfriend found himself literally stuck on his back for a month or more after working for an advertising firm. Hours were long, hard and yes, at a desk and in a car commute. He had started practicing yoga earlier but was in a period of intermittency.

The Science of Yoga and Back Care
No, you don't have to jump ship from your career for the life of an aspiring yogin, but you can jump in and obtain the body-soothing findings from the latest study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

228 participants suffering from chronic low back pain were randomized and divided into 12 weekly classes of yoga (92 patients) or conventional stretching exercises (91 patients) or a self-care book (45 patients). After 12 weeks, the patients were given a questionnaire and asked to rate their pain using a numerical scale. The results: yoga practicing patients felt better than those using the self-care book, but conventional stretching methods -- when combined with strengthening exercises -- were just as effective as yoga.

Skip the Meds! Build a Yogin's Back
The yoga group was given only 5-11 yoga postures. I'm convinced that if the yoga group were given a more comprehensive practice, they would have outshone the stretching group.

If you're looking to build a strong iron-clad back through yoga, look for a quality instructor (even better if they've had a history of back challenge) or class that's offering just as much strengthening postures and transitions as it does stretching, and commit to a thorough, consistent practice. It requires discipline, but man is it worth it.

More on Yoga:
The Self-Compassion--Sustainability Connection (i.e., Take it Easy)
Study Links Meditation to Telomerase, An Anti-Age Enzyme
Wanderlust Yoga Festival Founders on Mindful, Murky Green Event Planning (Interview)

Tags: Yoga

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