Extracted from The Back Pain Sourcebook by Stephanie Levin-Gervasi
Yoga has its origin in India and goes back nearly 3,000 years.
A Sanskrit word meaning joining together, yoga works to unite the
body and the mind. Yoga involves the whole person as the mind focuses
meditatively on each movement.
Yoga is not an exercise, but a series of postures or poses. The
gentle poses are held anywhere from 10-60 seconds. Poses should
never be painful. Because yoga combines both mental and physical
activity, the two most common types of yoga are hatha and raja.
There is an interdependency between the two.
Hatha yoga enhances musculoskeletal strength flexibility, balance,
agility and coordination. Raja benefits the mind by relaxing and
quieting the mind. Benefits of raja yoga are increased mental stimulation
and an ability to handle stress. Yoga encourages the individual
to sensitize himself or herself to their limits while teaching that
physical limits often change.
Because yoga strengthens the musculoskeletal system, your back,
as do your abdominal muscles, benefit. Because breathing and relaxation
are a part of yoga, stress is reduced and fresh oxygen flows to
Once you've had a back attack, yoga works in a slow, methodical
manner to stretch and strengthen the muscles. Yoga takes a holistic
approach that a back problem is not isolated from the rest of your
If I've never taken yoga where do I start?
Visit a yoga class and talk to the instructor. If you are practicing
yoga to strengthen your back, ask about specific postures. Many
exercises prescribed by specialists or that are currently part of
back schools, derive from yoga. It is vitally important to search
out a yoga class or an instructor who understands yoga postures,
specifically designed for back problems. A person with a back problem
does not belong in a generic hatha yoga class. Look for a class,
and an instructor who specifically has a background in yoga regarding
back problems. Just as each back problem is unique, so is each instructor.
Seek out a yoga teacher who understands your back ailments. If there
is a yoga institute in your city, call and ask for a referral. Often
universities or community colleges offer yoga classes, as do senior
citizen centers. The Yoga Journal has a list of yoga instructors,
classes and retreats around the country. A good instructor teaches
you to pay attention to your own signal of distress. It is also
your responsibility not to push your body beyond its limits, just
because everyone else is doing a posture. A bad back will not fare
well in a yoga class filled with healthy backs.
Further information can be found at: