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Yoga, as a form of physical exercise, involves postures or “asanas”, controlled breathing and a mindful awareness. It combines the development of the mind, body and spirit and is widely practiced as a way of living with an overarching goal for a healthful mind and body. The postures in yoga teach balance and strength and involve fluid movements with stretching. Regular participation improves flexibility, has been shown to reduce pain and contribute to overall better well-being. Many participants feel emotionally better after practicing yoga, they report decreased stress and anxiety, more restful sleep and improved pain control. Yoga practice allows one to identify problems in the body and begin to restore balance. Most poses develop core strength and create a greater awareness for posture. There are many different styles of yoga offered, make sure to discuss with your provider any specific concerns with yoga practice before starting an exercise program.

Chronic Back Pain

Yoga can be specifically beneficial for patients with chronic low back pain. A study by researcher Karen Sherman in Seattle had 101 adults with chronic low back pain who were assigned to a weekly yoga class for 12 weeks, a therapeutic stretching and strengthening program developed by physical therapists or a self-care book with home-guided stretches and relaxation exercises. Yoga participants had decreased pain sooner than the other study arms and after three month follow-up continued to have less pain and better function with decreased need for pain medications.

Three Yoga Poses to Ease Neck & Back Pain

1. WIDE-LEGGED FORWARD BEND

  • Stand with your feet about three to four feet apart, turn heels out slightly
  • Clasp your hands behind your back, pressing your palms together
  • Lean forward, slowly bending at your hips, bring the crown of your head and hands towards the floor (go as far as you can without discomfort)
  • Stay in the position for five deep breaths.
  • Gently press into your feet and use your quads and inhale as you stand up

2. COW & CAT STRETCH 

  • Start on your hands and knees, hands beneath your shoulders and knees under your hips
  • Keep your spine neutral, with your back flat, abs engaged, looking at the floor
  • Inhale, and lift your sitting bones and chest towards the ceiling, while letting your belly “sink” towards the floor, lift you head and look ahead
  • Upon exhale, round your spine towards the ceiling {Imagine pulling your belly button towards your spine}
  • Tuck your chin towards your chest and let your neck relax
  • Continue repeating the cow and cat pose about 10 times

3. CHILD'S POSE

  • Kneel on the floor, sit on your heels with knees hip width distance apart
  • While exhaling, lie your torso on your thighs and extend your arms out in front of you
  • Hold for about 30 seconds to one minute

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