The Benefits of Yoga
Yoga is good for the body, mind, and spirit, but especially for the back. Recently, the largest randomized controlled yoga trials ever done were completed to determine how yoga can help with back pain.
Published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 228 Americans with chronic back pain of unknown origin were divided into three groups. One group participated in weekly 75-minute yoga classes that involved poses adapted to the physical needs and conditions of each person. The second group attended intense weekly stretching and strengthening classes. A third group was given a self-care handbook on back pain, but did not attend yoga or stretching classes.
After 12 weeks, the groups that had gone to yoga and stretching classes reported greater relief from pain symptoms and greater improvement in function than the group given the self-care handbook. The benefits lasted past the study’s three-month follow-up.
While it may be surprising that the stretching group’s results were similar to the yoga group’s, keep in mind that the two classes have much in common. The results suggested that the benefits of yoga could be attributed to the same, physical benefits of stretching and strengthening the muscles.
The second notable study, recorded in the Annals of Internal Medicine followed over 300 people in England with chronic or recurrent lower back pain. The study found that 12 weekly yoga classes led to greater improvements in lower back function for up to 12 months compared to normal care.
Yoga offers many other benefits besides reducing chronic back pain.
- Promote relaxation and reduce stress.
- Improve posture, balance, and coordination.
- Burn more calories and boost heart rate (faster paced forms such as “power yoga”).
- Reduce weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol.
However, you should avoid taking yoga classes if:
- You have any kind of musculoskeletal problem or other injury.
- You feel pain or get dizzy.
- If you’re not sure about your instructor’s qualifications.
Tips for beginners:
- Start with a basic-level class or semi-private/private lessons where you can get more personalized attention.
- If you are not fit, avoid strenuous classes like Ashtanga, “power yoga,” or “yogarobics.”
- Don’t compare yourself to classmates! Everyone is at a different level.
Make sure to consult your primary care physician or chiropractor for all health related advice.