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Why Yoga Alleviates Back Pain Better Than Other Forms of Exercise

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Why Yoga Alleviates Back Pain Better Than Other Forms of Exercise

People who suffer from chronic back pain or pain following an injury or back surgery, may find relief in yoga. According to a University of Washington study, yoga and intensive stretching was found to improve back-related function and decrease symptoms of back pain more than other forms of exercise.

"Our results suggest that both yoga and stretching can be good, safe options for people who are willing to try physical activity to relieve their moderate low back pain," said study leader Karen J. Sherman, PhD, MPH, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute. "But it's important for the classes to be therapeutically oriented, geared for beginners, and taught by instructors who can modify postures for participants' individual physical limitations."

Yoga stretches the spine, opening up the cartilage between each vertebrae to help prevent compression, relieve pain, improve flexibility and restore health to the spine, explained Glenda Twining, a Cooper Fitness Center yoga instructor and author of several yoga books.

Yoga involves continual movement of the spine, more than any other exercise and deep stretching and strengthening of muscles in the body. According to the same University of Washington study, people who took yoga or stretching classes were twice as likely to reduce their dependence on pain medication for back aches than people who did not take yoga or stretching classes.

So what yoga poses are best for back pain? Glenda recommends Downward Dog, Child’s Pose, Warrior 2 and Forward Fold to help reduce back pain.

Note: If you are experience back pain, talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.

Downward Dog
This is a classic yoga pose that provides a total body stretch, specifically targeting muscles in your low back and hamstrings. Beginning on your hands and knees, with your hands slightly in front of your shoulders, raise your knees off the floor, lifting your tailbone toward the ceiling and keeping your back straight. As much as possible, try to keep your heels flat on the ground. Hold for five to 10 breaths.

Child’s Pose
The primary “resting” pose in yoga, Child’s Pose also stretches and elongates the back. Begin with your hands and knees on the ground, with your hands outstretched in front of you. Sit back until your glutes rest just above your heels. Hold for five to 10 breaths.

Warrior 2
Another classic yoga pose, Warrior 2 helps to relieve backaches, develops balance and stability and improves circulation and respiration. Standing with your feet together and your arms at your sides in Mountain Pose (Tadasana), step or lightly jump, spacing your feet about 3 ½ or 4 feet apart. Raise your arms parallel to the floor and reach them out to the sides, palms down. Turn your right foot to the right and your left foot out 90 degrees to the left, aligning your left heel with your right heel. Turn your left thigh outward so that your left kneecap is in line with your left ankle. Exhale, bending your left knee over your left ankle, keeping your shin perpendicular to the floor. Press your right heel firmly to the floor. Keeping your torso long and your shoulders over your pelvis, turn your head to the left, looking out over your fingers. Hold for five to 10 breaths.

Forward Fold
The Forward Fold stretches the hamstrings and back muscles, while releasing tight, tense shoulders. Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart (do not lock your knees). Exhale and bend forward at your waist, reaching toward the floor. If you can’t reach the floor at first, stop where your hamstrings feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for five to 10 breaths.

If you are suffering from back pain, injury or a recent surgery, be sure to let your yoga instructor know. There are modifications you may be able to do to ease your body back into exercise and stretching. Yoga is perhaps the gentlest exercise for people who have recently had back surgery and can also help prevent future injuries or back pain. Watch a video demonstration from Glenda.

For more information about yoga at Cooper Fitness Center, visit and view the Group Exercise Schedule.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.