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The Importance of Yoga and Your Back

By Debra Rodzinak

Exercise is important for a variety of reasons: Health, weight management, stress management.  Exercise can also be important in maintaining a healthy spine and back, especially the lower back.  Performing the right kind of exercises for the lower back in addition to a regular exercise routine is vitally important.  Preventative measures, like exercise, can often stave off injury to the lower back.  Doctors agree that it is more important to take preventive measures, like exercise, than it is to deal with the issues after the damage has already been done: The old adage applies, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Importance of Yoga

Many of the basic yoga positions are already common practice among those in the physical therapy profession.  If you have had physical therapy for back pain, many of the yoga poses may seem familiar.  If not, by performing these simple yoga poses, you may be able to alleviate many of the lower back problems that cause pain.  Being consistent with a yoga routine is important.  Just 10 or 15 minutes of yoga exercises on a daily basis can retrain the muscles of the back into supporting the spine.

Common Yoga Poses

Three yoga poses are commonly used to help strengthen the back:

  • Cat Yoga Pose – Put hands and knees on the ground.  Relax the calves and feet.  Create a 90-degree angle with the knees, hips, and shoulders.  Inhale deeply and drop the stomach to the floor.  Look up and over the head.  Exhale while pushing into the hands and take the spine to the sky in a curved position while looking at the stomach.  Link these positions to the breathing while holding the position for 5 to 10 seconds.
  • Cobra Yoga Pose – While lying flat on the stomach, place palms down, slightly wider than the shoulders.  Point the elbows back and out while relaxing the body.  Beginning in this position, push the arms downward and arch the back.  Be sure to relax the lower portion of the body during this part.  If this is too taxing, the elbows may be used instead of the hands for a gentle stretch.  Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds. The abdominal muscles will be stretched while the back muscles are relaxed.  Slowly bring the upper torso back to the floor.
  • Knee to Chest Yoga Pose – Lie flat on the back while relaxing the body.  Slowly, bring one knee toward the chest.  Place the hands on the back of the knee and gently pull toward the chest.  Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds. 

Performing these poses daily should not cause any pain, tingling, or numbness.  If you do feel any of these sensations, slowly move out of the pose and modify as needed.

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