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Look after your back …

Typical back issues…

by Louise Tanner

None of us pay much attention to our back until we get a twinge, an ache or, worse still something happens to cause a back pain that lingers…

Most back problems are caused by postural and movement habits that allow;

  • gravity to compress the spine into unhealthy alignments
  • too much movement in certain sections of the spine
  • insufficient movement and stiffness in other sections of the spine

Practically, this is inevitable given that most of the time our focus is about getting on with our lives and not on our posture and how we move. Initially, these issues cause aches and pains in different parts of the back, neck and head but they can be turned around and prevented from developing into a chronic condition. Unfortunately, we tend to wait until a recurring niggle has become a back problem which interferes with our ability to get on with life, especially if the problems listed above develop into herniated or “slipped” discs, sciatica, frozen shoulder, arthritis…

The good news is that Therapeutic Yoga can help with all of these, from niggles and twinges to more chronic issues.

 Why is it important to have a healthy back?

The spine is not only the primary structural element of the body, it is also the protection for the spinal cord which is what connects our brain with our limbs and organs; a healthy spine is very important for general health and wellbeing.

When our spine is in a “neutral” alignment, the structure of the spine works with gravity. All the vertebrae are positioned so that there is even pressure across each of the intervertebral discs and the facet joints are all safely aligned. In neutral spine alignment each section of the spine can safely play it’s part in supporting the weight of the body as it moves through space.

If the spinal alignment is habitually, held and in action, out of neutral alignment it causes uneven compression and sheering at the intervertebral joints, over time this leads to problems. The bulging intervertebral discs could impinge on nerves, causing discomfort and pain anywhere in the body; the IV discs could become damaged and the normal alignment of the spine could become permanently compromised.


How does Therapeutic Yoga for back health work?

Before you can work on progressing towards a particular goal you need to become aware of where you are now; to develop awareness of how you stand, sit, move and breath and what movements and positions trigger pain and alleviate it. This requires a little patience, the beginning of each class will involve spending some time lying down and being guided through a relaxation practice; helping you to find the places in your body where you have been subconsciously holding on to tension and giving you time to find out how to let it go and learn to fully relax.

You will need to practice exercises that improve your body awareness and help with the following:

  • to become aware of how to strengthen and stabilise the sections of the spine that are prone to hyper-mobility and collapse
  • to help to mobilise and increase the range of movement in stiff and frozen sections of the spine
  • to become aware of what the body feels like when the spine is in a “neutral” alignment
  • to become aware of how to move with a neutrally aligned spine
  • to become aware of how to use breathing to support and maintain the body in healthy neutral alignment.

Our existing postural habits have taken all of our life to develop without us being aware of them. So, it requires commitment and patient repetition to develop the body awareness to reveal these habits, undo them and replace them with good habits.

The commitment and patience are the most difficult part, the exercises or asana are easy. Its worth persevering because you will see the benefit in improved function and relief from aches and pain; it’s an investment in your longterm wellbeing.

The Yoga for Healthy Backs class takes place each Thursday 1 – 2pm at InHale Yoga; it is suitable for everyone from those who have experienced niggles and twinges to those with chronic conditions –  we ALL need to have a healthy back.

Author: Louise Tanner

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