Last week we described the different types of yoga, and how this popular exercise can help people with back and neck pain.
See also Exercise and Back Pain
To follow up, we caught up with yoga instructor Morgan Webert of Yoga with Morgan Webert to ask her how yoga benefits her spine patients first hand.
Yoga as therapy
Morgan trained as a yoga teacher at Yoga Vidya Gurukul in Maharashtra, India, and studied anatomy and physiology at the University of Massachusetts. She has worked with hundreds of students.
She points out that yoga works a lot like physical therapy or personal training regimens. Yoga postures can help maintain and increase spinal range of motion, as well as strengthen core abdominal and back muscles.
Most importantly, she notes, regular yoga practice can help you listen to your body better and be more in -tune with its needs. Yoga's emphasis on mindfulness can help a person adjust their physical and mental patterns, which allows them to avoid injuries and reduce pain.
Especially beneficial for people suffering from chronic back pain, yoga's focus on deep breathing and meditation can reduce stress and calm the nervous system. Morgan notes that many studies show that calming the nervous system through dedicated breathing techniques reduces inflammation and pain for many conditions.
Give yoga a try
Wondering how to get started? First, check with your doctor to make sure it's OK to give yoga a try.
Morgan recommends several options for people with spine injuries. She suggests starting with Iyengar, gentle Hatha, or Restorative yoga, all of which will release physical tension, stretch muscles and ligaments, and help build strength.
See Yoga Poses
Make certain to find a qualified instructor and begin with classes that move at a slower pace. Explain your limitations to the instructor and work closely with them to make any modifications necessary to keep your body free from pain.
Morgan recommends approaching any spinal twists and back- and forward-bends with caution.
She emphasizes that you stay focused on your breathing to keep your body relaxed. Doing so will help you to receive the most therapeutic benefits from your yoga practice.
Lastly, Morgan gives a simple rule of thumb: if a yoga pose doesn't feel right, don't do it. Each injury is different and reflects your unique circumstances. Don't push yourself into discomfort, and talk with your teacher to address your specific needs.