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Baby Get Back! Part Two
So you've got a healthy back? Great! Keep it that way!

Part One of this two-part series focused on the benefits that Yoga gives to those who have suffered back pain. But maybe your spine is supple and you've never had a sore back. Maybe you're also in your 20s or early 30s. If you are, don't pat yourself on the back (figuratively speaking) just yet. It's possible - quite likely, in fact - that your back is able to stand up to the subtle abuses you give it every day only because it's young and healthy. But if you are neglecting it, the situation is almost guaranteed to change in a few years. You could be courting back soreness, maybe even injury.

(Article continued below.)

Observe how you are treating your back. When you're picking up something heavy, are you inviting strain by keeping your legs straight and lifting with your back? Or are you taking a load off it by bending your knees and distributing the weight evenly as you stand? Do you stretch every time you finish a (non-Yoga) workout? Lack of stretching can lead to all sorts of injuries. How is your posture while you're at your desk or watching television? Slouching, lying on one side for an hour at a time and sitting on a lumpy couch can all add up to future back pain. How stressful is your job? It's common to hold stress in your neck and shoulders, leading to upper back pain. Nearly everyone is guilty of at least one bad habit when it comes to their backs - and there are more than a few of you out there who are multiple offenders!

Some of you may be able to spend your life slouching, lying around on badly made furniture and hunching over your computer and never have a serious back problem. But you're still paying a hefty price. As you age less blood circulates through the discs of your spine. They begin to shrink and lose their suppleness. You begin to lose height. The upper part of your spine rounds and you become hunched over. This wreaks havoc on your health. A hunched over back causes the chest to collapse and your lungs can't take in as much oxygen. People so often take the breath - the basic, most life-giving substance - for granted. When your lung capacity is compromised, it affects every cell in your body, and these cells slowly begin to die from lack of proper nourishment. That is what is really at the root of many symptoms of "aging." And that is one of the reasons why people who practice Yoga regularly for many, many years seem so much younger than their peers who are physically inactive.

Aging - or, rather, the idea most people have of aging - is not inevitable. Keeping your spine healthy goes a long, long way when it comes to staying youthful and active for your whole life. Part One of this series offered a number of great back postures, along with abdominal and hamstring exercises to help with flexibility and to balance out the increasing strength in your back muscles. Nearly everyone can do them. If your back is healthy, they are a great place to start - they should be a regular part of your Yoga routine for your whole life. There are also simple, ten-minute routines you can do to maintain back health. But there are also some more advanced backbends you can try. Backbends in general are an important and exhilarating aspect of Yoga - they open up your chest and ribcage and increase your lung capacity. They tone your spinal column, and some backbends can strengthen your wrists, arms and legs. They massage your kidneys and lubricate your joints. They also lift up your spirits. There is no downside to a properly done backbend. If your body is prepared, they feel incredible.

But you don't randomly leap into a series of backbends. First you must take a few precautions (some of these are mentioned in Part One, but they bear repeating):

  • Never, ever begin a Yoga practice with backbends! Make sure your body and your spine have warmed up with some less taxing Asanas.
  • Correct form is especially important with backbends. Back off if you feel you are compromising your form. Don't ever force. Ask your Yoga teacher for help if you are in doubt about the way you are doing a backbend.
  • If anything hurts - don't do it! If you have any limitations, let your teacher know before class begins.
  • Be good to your back outside of Yoga - avoid slouching, stretch often, stand straight.
  • Breathe.

Next page >> Bending Over Backwards >> Page 1, 2

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