Halloween is approaching, and what better topic for 40 Reasons to Love Yoga than our bones, and in particular, our spines? Did you know that low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide? Experts estimate that 80% of us will experience a back problem at some point in our lives. Yikes!
Our backs are complex and connected systems of bones, ligaments, joints, nerves and muscles. Injury to any of one of these - sprains, strains, irritations and ruptures - can be debilitating for the whole structure. To prevent back pain, we need to care for ourselves holistically, including being thoughtful about how we sleep, our choice of footwear, properly warming up before exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet. One major way to protect our backs is regular yoga practice.
Many of the asanas in yoga increase strength in specific muscle groups that support and protect our spines. Strengthening our abdominal and back muscles through regular yoga can prevent or reduce common back pain. Next time you're in class try a cat-cow, cobra, or plank pose to focus on your back.
But yoga doesn't just help our backs by strengthening important muscles - it also helps by relaxing them. When we stretch we reduce tension in and improve flexibility of our muscles, which can be very helpful in addressing chronic back pain. For instance, stretching our hamstrings can improve the range of motion in the pelvis, which decreases stress on the lower back.
Finally, yoga trains us to be more aware of our bodies and maintain proper alignment. When we make minor corrections at the cues of our instructors, we focus our attention on the feel of proper alignment and position. Over time, regular yoga practice and holding of asanas can build muscle memory, strength, and balance that improve our postures outside of class. Good posture means we're maintaining proper curvature of the spine and preventing lower back pain and injury.
You can learn more about spine health and yoga here. We'll see you "back" at the studio soon!