Benefit From Practicing Yoga in Tampa, FL – Three Poses That Can Help Relieve Your Chronic Back Pain
Author, Dr. Jeffrey Langmaid from Laser Spine Institute
If you live or work in the Tampa, FL, area, you may have noticed people practicing yoga in public parks like Curtis Hixon Park, Al Lopez Park, Picnic Island and MacFarlane Park. Perhaps you’ve been intrigued by their sense of calm. What you may not realize, though, is that these people are benefiting not only mentally, but physically as well. That’s because yoga can be very effective for addressing chronic back pain.
Chronic back pain is very common, affecting both sedentary and active people alike. Even highly trained athletes are not immune. In fact, the majority of people will experience spinal discomfort at some point during their lives, often to the point that even basic movements like standing and walking can seem challenging.
Why is back pain so prevalent? Most people are aware that it can be caused by spinal trauma, improper lifting and repetitive stress from bending and twisting. But, some people are surprised to learn that it more often results from extended sitting. That’s because maintaining a seated posture for long periods of time can gradually cause the hamstring muscles (at the backs of the thighs) and iliopsoas muscles (in the hips) to shorten, leading to lower back strain and chronic discomfort.
In most cases, a painful episode will resolve either on its own or with a few weeks of conservative treatment. For instance, many people are able to find sufficient relief with a brief period of rest, activity modification or traditional therapies. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the application of ice or heat, physical therapy and targeted stretching.
Another option that is gaining popularity as a complementary form of back pain treatment is yoga, which includes mental, spiritual and physical aspects. This ancient discipline emphasizes movements that are designed to stretch the body’s core muscles, which support the spine, as well as enhance overall muscle strength and flexibility. The regular practice of yoga can also help to restore proper spinal alignment. Additionally, practitioners can gain a wide variety of other mental and physical health benefits, including improved energy, breathing, metabolism, focus and self-confidence, all of which can help an individual feel better and function well.
Prior to beginning any type of exercise program, including yoga, it is important to consult with a physician who can perform a health assessment, provide individualized advice and suggest an appropriate yoga regimen. You don’t need anything formal, though. Just put on some loose-fitting clothing and head outdoors, where you can enjoy the beautiful weather in Tampa, Florida, as you practice the following three basic poses, which are often recommended by the experts at Laser Spine Institute for soothing back pain:
1. Cat-cow pose – When practiced together, these two basic poses can help warm up the body, loosen the back muscles, promote postural awareness, align the spine and restore a sense of balance. Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists placed under your shoulders and your knees positioned under your hips. Slowly inhale, rounding your spine upward toward the ceiling, tucking your tail bone in and lowering your chin toward your chest (the cat pose). Then, as you exhale, arch your back, lower your abdomen and lift your head and tail bone (the cow pose). Slowly alternate between the two poses for a minute, then end with a child’s pose.
2. Child’s pose – Despite its appearance, which may seem almost restful, the child’s pose is an active stretch that can help elongate the back and abdominal muscles, align the spine and reduce pressure on the lower back. This deeply relaxing pose promotes flexibility and circulation, and can also be an effective way to relieve mental stress after a long, exhausting day. Start out by kneeling on the floor with your buttocks resting on your heels. Separate your knees so that they are hip-width apart. Exhale and lower your torso down between your thighs. Position your arms on the floor at your sides, rest your stomach comfortably on top of your thighs and place your forehead on the floor. You should feel a stretch in your shoulders that extends down through the length of your spine and arms. Hold the position for five breaths and then slowly and carefully lift your torso back to a seated position. Repeat the pose as many times as needed to achieve a good, soothing stretch.
3. Downward-facing dog – This classic but slightly challenging pose elongates the spine, strengthens the core muscles and provides a total body stretch that specifically targets the back extensors (the large muscles in the lower back that support the spine and enable standing and lifting). Because this pose positions the heart higher than the head, the resulting flow of blood to the brain can help calm the nervous system and reduce stress. Begin on your hands and knees with your hands positioned slightly in front of your shoulders. Exhale as you press back, raising your knees away from the floor and lifting your tailbone up toward the ceiling, bringing your body into the shape of an “A.” Relax your head and look toward your navel. For an added hamstring stretch, gently push your heels toward the floor. Hold the position for five breaths, and then return to the beginning pose on your hands and knees. Repeat five to seven times.
These poses can be performed in any order and are easily incorporated into a more extensive program. To gradually increase the intensity of your workout, try holding the positions for increasingly longer periods of time.
Yoga poses are designed to enhance overall health and wellness. Consistent practice can result in improved posture, as well as an increased sense of balance as the spine is restored to proper alignment. Additionally, unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga can help stretch and strengthen the muscles on both sides of the body equally. The benefits that can be achieved through yoga can also help maintain the natural curvature of the spine, which is an important part of preventing and alleviating chronic back pain.
If you’re interested in trying yoga but unsure of where to begin, start with the above poses, then check out the Seven-Day Yoga Challenge. This simple but effective plan was developed specifically with beginners in mind, and it is particularly well suited for people who are experiencing mild to moderate back pain. After mastering a few basic poses, grab your mat and head out to the nearest park in Tampa, FL, where you will be further inspired by the beauty of nature.