According to the Yoga Journal, more than 20 million Americans (about 8.7% of US adults) are currently practicing yoga, hoping to reap the much-touted health benefits: improved flexibility, enhanced bone health, increased blood flow, muscle strength, and many others. Researchers found that yoga can even power-up your immune system functionality and improve mental functions – all this by doing the guided relaxation and meditation practices. But while yoga can indeed do a lot of good to those who practice it correctly, it also can cause significant harm to people who are not mindful of their bodies while performing the postures.
3 Poses that Can Really Injure Your Back
If not performed correctly, the following yoga poses can add strain on your spine and lead to chronic low back pain:
- Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana). This pose involves bending forward from the hip joints and lengthening the front torso until you can touch your ankles. When performed correctly, this pose is said to stretch the hips, calves, and hamstrings, keep the spine strong, strengthen thighs and muscles, increase flexibility, activate abdominal muscles, and stimulate the kidneys and the liver. It is also believed it has therapeutic use for infertility and sinusitis.
The problem with this pose is that it requires keeping the legs straight, so it locks the pelvis and makes it difficult for practitioners to rotate forward. As all the force of the flexing movement comes into the lower back, it compresses the area during bending and may cause acute pain.
- Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I). To get into the Warrior pose, the practitioner lunges forward, making sure the right knee comes directly over the right ankle. The right toes should be pointing straight ahead, while the left toes should be positioned at 45-60 degrees away from the body. Benefits of this pose include: strengthening shoulders, arms, and thighs, opening up hips and chest, improved focus and balance, stretching the arms, legs, neck, shoulders, and groin, and energizing the entire system.
The problem with this pose is that sometimes, the body is not prepared to sustain such a wide arch in your back, and practitioners may experience hyperextension of the lower back muscles. Feeling as little as a pinch in your back is enough sign that your core is not engaged, potentially leading to muscle contractions that cause muscle aches or narrow the space between the spinal joint, further inflaming the nerves.
- This is another highly popular and effective yoga pose, with benefits ranging from stretching of muscles, increasing flexibility, and strengthening arms and shoulders to elevating mood and invigorating the heart.
The problem with this pose is that all the force exerted to push up on the arms and into the floor to arch your back concentrates at a narrow point in the lumbar region of the spine, causing compression and often leading to a sore back.
3 Poses that Can Relieve Your Back Pain
Here are some highly effective yoga poses that can relieve your lower back pain if performed correctly and at regular intervals:
- Supine Hamstring Stretch. With your back on the floor, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor, place a strap of fabric or a rolled-up towel around the ball of your foot and straighten the leg towards the ceiling. Relax the shoulders while keeping the elbows slightly bent. Lower the leg to the floor and repeat the stretch for the other leg. (Read here how you can steer clear from the most common stretching mistakes.)
- Two-Knee Spinal Twist. Lying on your back, bend your knees into your chest and hold your arms out. Lower your knees to ground on the right as you exhale, while keeping shoulders pressing down on the floor. This pose encourages movement of the spine and mobility of your vertebrae, improves digestion, alleviates pain and stiffness in the lower back, hips, and spine, and stretches and tones your internal organs.
- Pigeon. Starting on all fours, place your hands in line with your shoulders, and your knees right below the hips. Bring the right knee forward until it reaches the right wrist, while keeping the right thigh parallel to the side of your mat. Inch your front leg towards the midsection of your body until your foot is directly under the left hip and straighten your left leg towards the end of your mat. This pose is ideal for tight hips as it stretches hip rotators and the hip flexors. Practicing it consistently will allow you to unstick your hips and get the gliding freely once again.
If you practice yoga on a regular basis and notice that your low back pain and other sources of discomfort aren’t resolving, doing more yoga is not likely to do you good from here on out. It may be time to pay a visit to your local chiropractor’s office to find out what is the source of your pain and what treatment plan can be designed to put you on your feet again.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.