Yoga allows you to find a new kind of freedom that you may not have known even existed.” ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
How Iyengar yoga can help relieve back pain
Suffering from back pain but not sure if yoga is the answer? Experts believe that far from being confined to alternative therapy, Iyengar yoga can make a real difference in combating chronic back pain. Read on and find out why more and more doctors are referring their patients for Iyengar yoga therapy.
What is Iyengar yoga?
Iyengar yoga is a very progressive form of yoga that focuses on the correct alignment of each posture. It was created by B.K.S. Iyengar, widely considered one of the greatest yoga teachers in the world, who died in August 2014. B.K.S. Iyengar sparked a yoga craze across the western world and there are over 100 Iyengar yoga centers across the globe. But what makes his form of yoga so unique?
First of all, the precision needed for each posture demands a focused and concentrated mind, so if we see a student coming in to class with a lot on their mind, they will be taught how to get rid of it so that they can focus on the poses with absolute clarity. Each pose, once perfected, must be held for a long time to get the maximum benefit. Iyengar yoga helps with flexibility, strength, stamina and stability and is used more and more to help people suffering from alignment issues or back pain. Practicing Iyengar yoga also reduces tension and stress, both well-known triggers that can make chronic back pain even worse. So trying Iyengar yoga won’t just help with back pain – it does wonders for improving one’s mood, too.
What’s the evidence?
We’ve noticed a greater focus on medical studies proving that Iyengar yoga is a front-runner in helping people overcome chronic back pain. One published study showed that people suffering from back pain tried a number of ways to relieve their symptoms, including conventional physical exercises, Iyengar yoga, or self-help therapy. Iyengar yoga achieved the best results, with patients confirming that their back pain was reduced and they were able to function far more easily. These studies have helped Iyengar yoga to break away from the confines of alternative therapy and become a serious contender for medical experts when looking at ways to relieve back pain.
Why are props used in Iyengar yoga?
Props are one of the many reasons why Iyengar yoga is so unique. They are used simply as an aid, so that people suffering from pain or limitations can be supported to achieve each pose and hold it for long enough to achieve the maximum benefits. Common props used in Iyengar yoga are blocks, belts, or blankets. So students who may have chronic back pain can use blankets or belts to help them try poses that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. As their confidence grows and they can hold the correct pose longer, the use of props can always be reduced.
Why exercise to help your back pain?
It’s now widely understood that keeping still in the hope that back pain will disappear is one of the worst things you can do – it can actually make the pain last longer. So creating a gentle, regular exercise regime alongside Iyengar yoga is absolutely the best way forward.
As well as helping to reduce tension and improve strength and flexibility, exercise releases endorphins, making us feel great and producing more energy. Back pain can be very tough to deal with psychologically and a good exercise regime, including Iyengar yoga, keeps the mind focused and positive. We always advise anyone suffering from back pain to exercise regularly and aim for at least 2 and a half hours spread across the week.
Top tips for a healthy back
We’ve talked about how Iyengar yoga can help to reduce chronic back pain, increase strength and flexibility and focus your mind. Here are some additional tips for maintaining a healthy back and minimizing the risk of further back problems:
- Maintain a healthy weight. This will reduce pressure and keep you feeling great.
- Use Iyengar yoga and breathing exercises to reduce stress and tension, both major triggers of back pain. Achieving the best possible wellbeing is all about being kind to the mind as well as the body.
- Watch posture – this is particularly important for people working in offices and sitting down for most of the day. We advise people to remember not to hunch, check the height of their desk and change their office chair if needed.
- Mattresses need checking regularly to make sure they are giving the right support.
- Remember to lift heavy items properly every time. We all know we need to bend our knees, not our back – but how many of us remember to do it?
- Young children count as heavy weights! For anyone with little ones, it’s vital to watch how you lift children out of the car and avoid twisting your back.
- Exercise isn’t just a way to relieve back pain – it’s a vital way to keep your back healthy. Once you’ve found an exercise regime that works for you, keep doing it.
Getting professional advice
Finally, it’s vital to get the right advice about back pain. We always advise anyone suffering from back pain to speak to their doctor or physiotherapist before starting any exercise regime, including Iyengar yoga. While yoga can do wonders for many types of back pain, it might not be suitable for others. If you suffer from back pain your doctor or physiotherapist should be able to provide you with professional guidance on whether Iyengar is a good alternative to traditional back treatments.
“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence.” ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
Editor’s notes: This is a guest post by Coast Yoga. Coast Yoga runs the Iyengar Yoga Centre south of Adelaide, Australia, where they run a wide range of yoga classes suitable for all abilities from beginners up to advanced level. Coast Yoga prides itself in creating sequences for each class designed to build strength, flexibility, balance, and stamina. Coast Yoga focuses on each student’s development so that everyone can reach their full potential. For more information about Coast Yoga’s classes, please visit http://www.coastyoga.com.au/about/.