Mindful practice of asanas has a beneficial impact on keeping our spine strong, flexible and healthy. Our 21st century life, being very sedentary from a very early age can create bad posture habits and underuse of some spinal muscles. Often we are sitting in front of computers for many hours with our lumbar and thoracic area rounded, resulting in pressure on the muscles around this area causing stiffness and weakness there. Even when we are doing a lot of physical work or doing certain sports we might not use our bodies symmetrically. We often repeat the same movements for long periods of time unbalancing the muscle function, straining them in one direction. This is particularly evident in one sided sports like tennis, paddle, squash etc. Even gardening may cause stiffness in our lower back as we stay in unsupported forward bending position for extended period of times. The unbalanced use of the muscles often results in stiffness, weakness and eventually tear of the muscles. Bad posture also has a big impact on the health of our spine…How often we stand up pushing out our stomach and over concaving our lumbar spine. Being a yoga teacher I often see the same mistake being repeated on the mat in Tadasana, pelvic and abdominal organs being pushed forward. This incorrect practice of Tadasana and incorrect posture, with time will result in stiffness and weakness of the back muscles.
It is often difficult to change the way we live, our jobs, or give up our hobbies and playing sports which we love…. but we can improve our awareness of how we use our bodies. Once we become more aware of our bodies we can make necessary adjustments and perhaps change our unwelcomed habits. We accommodate our weaknesses, and adjust our expectations that we have towards our body performance. It is foolish to expect our bodies to perform now the way they were able to perform 10 or 20 years ago…We even need to keep adjusting our yoga practice as we get older, or suffered from injuries….
How can yoga practice help…Practice of yoga postures works our spinal muscles in symmetry, extending them in various directions resulting in more strengths and flexibility. Employing regular practice of asanas can help to rebalance your body.
When you have a back problem always check with your doctor before attempting yoga asanas, there might be some structural problem with your spine in which case some of the asanas might need to be modified.
Start your daily yoga practice with simple yoga postures preferably standing postures which extend your spine, stretch and strenghthen spinal muscles eg. Hasta Padangustasana and variations, Vrksasana, Trikonasana, Virabhadrasana, Parsvakonasana, Ardha Chandrasana….These asanas bring more freedom and flexibility to the pelvice area which results in lighter movements. The lighter movement, the less pressure and strain on the spine and lower back. They also have the same impact on the shoulders, helping to expand the ribcage and promote better breathing. It is without saying that Adho Mukha Svanasana is one of the key postures….look what dogs are doing first thing in the morning….and throughout the day. Always remember to practice a variety of postures so the practice involves extending and moving our spine in various directions. Include gentle forward bends like Janu Sirsasana, gentle standing twisting postures like Standing Marichyasana, sitting on the chair Bharadwajasana, supported Supta Padangusthasana which strengthens the lumbar muscles, and gentle backbends.
The inspiration to write this blog was my back injury, torn back muscles I had 27 years ago. Even after I recovered, which took almost a year, it was years of respecting my limitations and paying attention to how I used my body in everyday life, yoga practice, and horse riding. My recovery journey helped me to develop sensitivity to my body, and deeper awareness.