Nov 10, 2008

Yoga and spine health -II

This post deals with doing yoga procedures in a spine-safe way when there already exists some problem in the spine.

Since asanas focus a good deal on bending and stretching of the body, they may result in spine problems if not done properly. In our temptation to show to others, or to ourselves, that we can accomplish even the hardest of the yoga postures, we sometimes overdo the bending. Or, we do not listen to the precautions, thinking of them as nagging pieces of advice.

Whatever the reason, if we have a problem in our spine, we should take precautions and we should do only those asanas that would not aggravate the problem. We can think of starting the spine-strengthening asanas after the spine has been cured of existing problem(s).

The first, general, caution can be: do not bend sideways or twist the body if you have a backache/ spondylitis problem or any medical problem with spine. Even while bending forward or backward, do it slowly and cautiously. Do not bend forward at acute angles. Do not bend spine to lift things, especially heavy things; rather, bend your knees.

Take care of your posture, both while sitting and while standing. Do not sit or stand on one pose constantly for a long time. When sitting, use a back-rest, ie do not sit without supporting the back.

If you have back pain but no serious spine problem such as slip-disc or degeneration of inter-vertebral tissues, do these safe exercises:

1. arm rotation and head press: This set of four exercises is very helpful in relieving spondylitis , shoulder pain and upper back pain. [However if you have had a muscle pull in shoulder or arms, avoid this.]
Stand straight; stretch hands to the sides and bend them from the elbows, touching shoulder with fingertips.
Now rotate the elbows in clock-wise and anti-clockwise directions 3-4 times each, slowly.
Next, bend your left arm above your head to the right ear. Hold fingers of left hand with the right hand fingers and let both the hands pull each other. Hold it for a few seconds. Do this with the opposite hands.
Take the hands to the back of your head. Entangle fingers of both the hands and pull, like before towards their sides. Hold it for a few seconds.
Now take the hands to the forehead and hold fingers and pull, like given above. Hold for a few seconds.

2. backward and forward bend: This set of exercises relieves even chronic lower-back pain if not caused by a serious problem.
Stand straight and slowly bend backward - as much as you can comfortably can. Then slowly bend forward, by a lesser amount. Hold in both the conditions for a few seconds.
When there is no pain or heaviness in the spine, these simple exercises can be followed by a set of one forward bending and one backward bending asana. Start with doing an asana slowly, for a small time and holding the pose for a small duration.

Doing pranayama is mostly safe, except that sitting for a long duration might lead to back tiredness or pain. If the spine aches or feels heavy, take a small rest, take a small walk and resume the pranayama.