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Baby Get Back!
If you're at the mercy of an aching back, Yoga may be just what you need
Part One of a Two-Part Series

There's a ton of scientific research that tells us our sedentary lifestyle is wreaking havoc on our backs. But eight out of ten adults don't need to look at a medical study for proof - they know it firsthand. That's right - the majority of people will suffer low back pain at least once in their lives, and many of those have a repeat performance. For perhaps one-fifth of them, the pain is chronic. The culprits? Sitting all day at a desk without moving (except to cock your ear over a phone receiver). Coming home and laying around watching television. A job where you're on your feet all day is no better - you're probably straining your back with bad standing posture. And of course, when you come home you're at least as exhausted as the office worker, hence more lying around in front of the TV. And as if you weren't putting enough stress on your back physically, any mental tension you are carrying is also having a negative effect. The next time you're feeling blue, check out your posture - aren't you more hunched over than usual? Plus, no one's getting any younger and a stiffening back is inevitable... right?

(Article continued below.)

Wrong. As countless numbers of Yoga enthusiasts know, it is possible to have a healthy, pain-free back for a lifetime - even if you're a creaky relic of the last millennium. Yoga poses are designed to promote spine health. In some branches of Yoga - Kundalini and Tantra, for example - it gets rather esoteric, with talk of the energy channels Ida, Pingala and Sushumna and awakening the Kundalini. But for the purposes of this article, we're purely concerned with the vertebrae and the muscles that support the back. Yoga strengthens your back and makes it more supple; it also teaches you good posture so that you're less apt to strain it. And anyone can do Yoga - these days many doctors prescribe it for those with back trouble. So what are you waiting for? There's no better time to get started than the present. Give it enough effort and maybe someday you'll have the spine of a man in his eighties.

Of course, before you leap into some complicated, spine-twisting Asana, there are a few caveats:

  • Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program (maybe this sounds like a broken record, but it's a necessary reminder). Make sure that all you have is a sore back from daily living, not something more serious.
  • Take it easy at first. If your goal is preventative - your back is fine and you want to keep it that way - you'll progress into more challenging postures very quickly (and Part Two of this article will be for you). But if you've never done Yoga or have had just a little experience with it, do take a couple of sessions to really observe your back and the effect the poses are having on it. Let your back talk to you (and let's have no puns about talking back!). Mindfulness is the key.
  • Do discuss your back problems with a Yoga instructor you can trust. He or she will be able to observe your posture, the way you do the asanas, and give you proper direction.
  • Take what you learn from your Asanas into your daily life. In other words, stop slouching! Be aware of ways in which you may be sabotaging your practice when you're away from the mat. Also move around - don't just sit or stand in one place for hours on end. Every 15 minutes or so, shift position, stretch, do something to make your body feel good.
  • Breathe. Be gentle with yourself. Don't push or force, ever.

Next page >> Asanas for Your Back >> Page 1, 2

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