Have you ever wondered about the science of yoga? If you have ever suffered from low back pain (as I have), you may know that yoga can be a complementary health practice that provides relief for a difficult problem to treat. Many people never really figure out the true cause of their back pain and they turn to alternative medicine. Speaking from firsthand experience, the orthopedic surgeon told me, “you have a degenerated disk between L4 and L5 but nothing alarming for a 46 year old woman who likes high impact exercise.” He said, “Last resort is going under the knife.” Alternative therapies are an appealing alternative.
Lucky for me, I am a yoga instructor and personal trainer and know what I need to do. I may not solve my problem completely, but when I stay consistent with yoga and stretching after my intense workouts, my back pain is very manageable and less limiting. From personal experience and watching many clients who also suffer from back pain, I am convinced that movement is ABSOLUTELY the key to a healthy back.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health has recently released a video highlighting the science and safety of yoga. Featured in the video is the work of two respected investigators in the field.
George Salem, Ph.D., is at the University of Southern California and uses innovative technology to examine how older adults use their muscles and joints in certain yoga postures. Karen Sherman, Ph.D., M.P.H, is at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, and focuses on how yoga may be a beneficial complementary health practice for people with chronic low-back pain, a common and difficult-to-treat problem.
I urge you to view the video that provides valuable dos and don’ts for consumers who are thinking about practicing yoga. Watch the Scientific Results of Yoga for Health and Well-Being video here.
Some of the general findings include:
• Yoga is generally considered to be safe in healthy people when practiced appropriately under the guidance of a well-trained instructor
• Everyone’s body is different, and yoga postures should be modified based on individual abilities. Inform your instructor about any medical issues you have, and ask about the physical demands of yoga
• If you’re thinking about practicing yoga, be sure to talk to your health care providers. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health.
A 2007 Center for Disease Control and Prevention survey reported that 13 million American adults (6 percent) used yoga in the previous year, and the number is on the rise as mind and body therapies are becoming increasingly integrated into the health care system.
If you are even a tad curious, I encourage you to give yoga a try. The various types of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Find one that is right for you and start simple. You may find relief from your back pain and explore a whole new part of your mental health as well. In the words of famous yogi, B.K.S. Iyengar, “Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.”