Dru Yoga for a Healthy Back
Back pain is a very common problem, and an area in which I have a special interest, as I first came to Yoga following a back injury, and found it really helped my recovery. With regular Dru Yoga practise I keep my back healthy and flexible, and Dru Yoga has helped my husband cope with intermittent muscular-related back pain too!
Most back pain is the result of ‘muscular’ or ‘mechanical’ problems, and people do not have a specific diagnosis, and is often referred to as “non-specific low back pain”.
The current NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidelines recommend ‘keep moving’. The back needs to move, and the sooner people with back pain get moving the sooner they will feel better! Exercise gets your back moving again by stretching tight muscles and joints, and stops the working parts seizing up.
Yoga performed gently and with awareness is an ideal treatment. As well as movement and stretching, relaxation can help reduce stress and anxieties which can aggravate and prolong back pain. By using controlled breathing and muscle relaxation techniques, students can manage their pain better.
Why Dru Yoga is good for backs
Back pain affects people worldwide and is a major cause of workplace absence costing millions. The causes of back pain vary which is why it is important to get a good diagnosis and find out what types of movement help or hinder your condition.
Here is an interesting article from UK Physiotherapist and Senior Dru Yoga teacher Ruth Boaler, who explains seven reasons why yoga is good for backs. As always, practice Dru Yoga mindfully and with awareness, avoiding any postures that may cause pain.
The most common cause of back pain is poor posture. When the body is properly aligned, the pelvis is in a neutral position and the spine retains its natural curves. The neutral pelvis is a pre-requisite for core activation and core stability exercises. When we hold good posture our muscles can also switch off and relax which will reduce muscle tension and therefore reduce muscular back pain.Yoga postures that encourage correct posture are Tadasana, Cat, and the Dru Chair of the Heart.
The spine stiffens, compresses and loses water from inactivity (eg. sitting for long periods). Yoga opens and decompresses these squashed intevertebral discs and draws fluid that has leaked out back into the discs especially in the lower back. Lying down also decompresses the spine. Give your discs a well deserved drink with squatting, rolling or by doing the Bridge and a 20 minute Savasana.
Extension/Flexion of the Spine.
Forward bends and back bends decompress the spine and, when alternated, are the most efficient movement to hydrate discs. The backward bending asanas (unless contraindicated) commonly correct any distortion or bulging in the intervertebral discs and can often ease related symptoms such as sciatica. Importantly, daily flexion/extension promotes nutrition to the discs. Try the bending movements in Dru’s Ebr1, Sun Salutations, Cobra or Sphinx.
Core stability is created by a cylinder of deep postural muscles which stabilise and support the body keeping your natural curves and posture. If these are working inefficiently then other important postural muscles shorten causing misalignments and perpetuating back problems. All yoga postures can be done with core awareness. Why not experiment with Cat, Locust, Cobra or the Dru flowing triangle which has a strong emphasis on spinal control?
Mobility of Nervous Tissue.
If you do not move your body enough and do things like sit too long at the computer desk, then this immobility can cause restriction in the nervous tissue which in turn can create pain. Back health is dependent upon neural mobility. Many yoga asanas take the nerves to their fully lengthened positions e.g. forward bends performed with the legs straight lengthen sciatic nerves. Other postures that can lengthen these nerves are the Maltese Cross and Plough.
Breath work, relaxation and meditation help to release stress and tension that may accumulate in the back. By focusing the mind inward, the body receives messages that it is safe and secure. The body can then relax and achieve a greater sense of well-being and stillness. This in turn improves our ability to deal with the symptoms and causes of back pain. Treat yourself with a five-minute progressive muscle relaxation.
The Healing Koshas.
Some professionals have concluded that emotions and mental states can play a role in back pain. Dru Yoga engages all layers of our being–physical, mental, emotional and energetic. Breath work, affirmations and visualisations invoke positive mental/emotional states. By involving all layers of being, you activate the prana or life-force in your body, balance your emotions, positively transform your thoughts and create deep stillness to heal back pain. Even if you have only a few minutes a day, it’s still important to exercise the spine. Nothing is a waste. Practising one yoga stretch on a regular basis can help you maintain a healthy back.
Healthy Back Programme* classes
Future ‘healthy back’ classes will be advertised in the ‘classes’ section of the website. They are usually run as a 6 or 8-week course.
The classes are aimed at people who have had musculoskeletal low back pain for more than 6 weeks, but less than a year.
The classes are not for people whose back pain is caused by:
- cancer, a fracture, an infection or inflammatory disease (such as ankylosing spondylitis)
- irritation or compression of nerves that mainly affects the legs
Take away home practise materials so you can continue the programme at home! Contact me if you are interested in attending a Healthy Back course, or if your workplace would like to set up a course of classes for staff. firstname.lastname@example.org
A recent Healthy Back Programme delivered to staff at Derbyshire Community Healthcare Services by Kath’s Dru Yoga in 2019 had fantastic results for reducing back pain and improving wellbeing and health-related quality of life.
The participants rated the programme an average of 8.4 on a scale of 0-10 in term of how much they had benefitted.
100% of participants had higher health-related quality of life scores than at the start of the programme.
86% of participants had higher wellbeing scores by the end of the programme.
100% of participants had lower back pain scores than at the start of the programme, people with more severe baseline scores making the greatest improvement.
Here are the links for the home practise sequences: Click on the link to open – each section is 10 mins long.
Home practise DVD and CD
If you prefer to follow a CD or DVD you can purchase the following Dru back care products from me. Special offer price for those students who have attended a Kath’s Dru Yoga Healthy Back class* DVDs and CDs can be posted (P&P charges added).
Calm, Clear and Relaxed DVD
A great companion to the gentle healthy back classes, allowing you to continue your exercises at home! Each DVD includes: Activations, Energy Block Release Sequence 1, Earth Sequence, Cross-hemisphere alignment (Spinal Alignment Sequence), 2 Relaxations to choose from.
Investment: £12.99 (£9 for students who have attended a Healthy Back Programme* class)
Dru Easing Back Pain CD
Gentle Dru Yoga movements to help strengthen and relax your back. This 2-CD set includes two 20 minute stretching and strengthening classes, to guide you through a 6 week programme – that’s just 20mins a day to keep your back healthy!
Investment: £9 (£6 for students who have attended a Healthy Back Programme* class)
Dru Easing Neck Pain CD
Gentle Dru movements to create strength and flexibility in your neck.
Investment: £9 (£6 for students attending a Healthy Back class)