Regular stretching and strengthening exercises, such as yoga poses, are great for maintaining the health of your back and preventing problems. Previous painful experiences often make us afraid to move and cause us to hold tightness in the muscles. This actually makes us more likely to develop back pain again. So it’s important to begin small, to do your yoga practice with awareness, and to increase your range of movement gradually.
2. Strengthen your muscles
Good muscle tone maintains and supports the back. My yoga classes include a range of poses that strengthen the back muscles – both the inner core muscles that we need for stability and stamina, and the outer muscles that we need for efficient movement and load bearing.
3. Get more flexible
Practising a range of yoga poses that develop flexibility in the spine keep it supple and therefore less prone to injury. Flexibility is clearly a physical issue, but there is also a large mental component. By approaching your body and its movements in a different way you challenge old holding patterns and free up your whole body. If you are not used to a regular yoga practice you may be surprised how quickly your flexibility increases over a course of sessions.
4. Learn to relax
Complete relaxation of the body at will is a skill that you learn with practice and is a useful skill to have, helping you to take the edge off stressful situations. In my yoga classes we practice a relaxation exercise at the end of each session which has many knock-on health benefits and is great therapy for your back.
5. Improve your posture
Poor posture places strain on your back whenever you are upright. Rolfing is one way to make deep changes to your posture. My yoga classes contain many of the principles of Rolfing, helping your body re-learn what it knew as a child – how to be upright without effort.
6. Move efficiently
If we have an unbalanced posture then any movement we make – lifting, bending, getting in and out of the car – can all put unnecessary strain on the spine, the intervertebral discs and the back muscles and ligaments. Learn how to make these movements safely, while maintaining the integrity of the body's structure, so that everyday life activities become exercises in themselves. Bending, lifting, carrying, when done in the right way, can all help you to develop fitness, strength, flexibility and awareness, rather than bringing strain and pain.
This is key to any authentic yoga practice. By developing your self-awareness you will learn to adjust your yoga practice to suit your needs. It’s important to start from where you are. For example, a suitable yoga practice enjoyed after a hot bath will be very different from a practice at the end of a stressful day, or a session of gardening. Learning to listen to your body and to work accordingly will allow your yoga practice to be a safe way of nurturing your body at any time and keeping your back in shape.