Whenever there is a new yogini or yogi in my class I ask them if they have any injuries, pain or something I as their yoga teacher should know about. More than half of the time people say that their lower back is hurting in their everyday life. Pain in the lower back is also the main reason they came to practice yoga. They hope that the yoga practice will help them to ease the pain. It is absolutely great that people want to take care of themselves and many times doing yoga poses on the mat really helps, since the practice stretches the stiff muscles and at the same time makes them stronger.
The reason why so many people have lower back pain is that we spend the most of our time during the day in a sitting position. Sitting makes the muscles of the legs, core and back weaker and stiffer. Doing yoga is a really good idea, especially if you have to sit a lot. It is important to remember that cycling (as an example) is also sitting. It is a very efficient way to move, to exercise and it certainly makes your leg muscles stronger. But riding your bicycle is not very good for your back, since it tightens your hip flexors, which are directly linked to your lower back and that way also pull and tighten your back muscles. Furthermore it seldom strengthens you core or your back muscles. The good news is that by doing yoga you can release those tight hip flexors, activate your core, make your back muscles stronger and ease the lower back pain.
Many times the lower back hurts because, the muscles are either tight or weak or as many cases, they are both tight and weak. Because of this, they don’t support your lower spine and this can lead to more severe injuries and bigger problems, such as a herniated disc. If the pain in the lower back radiates to the legs or even makes them numb, you should visit a doctor. In some cases a herniated disc requires surgery. And, nobody wants that!
As mentioned, yoga practice can really help with the lower back pain. It is important to remember that not every pose is good and will ease the pain. Sometimes some yoga poses can even make the pain worse. If you are suffering from a pain in the lower back, you should be extra careful while doing forward folds. It is better to keep your knees slightly bent and keep the spine long. Also, really deep backbends and twists without core activation are a bad idea, just to mention couple of things. You should always feel into the pose. Is the pain sharp? Is it pain or just the feeling of stretching? Yoga with a competent and professional teacher will strengthen and stretch your body, but it will also strengthen and stretch the awareness of your body and with time you learn to listen to it and understand what your body needs.
Yoga Teacher, Munich/Germany
Anusara Inspired * Yogamazé * Yoga Alliance E-RYT 200 and RYT 500
More about Anu and Yoga: www.anuvisuriyoga.com