Can yoga help my pain?

Yoga has been practiced for many years, originating nearly 5,000 years ago. It pairs breathing and movements, to promote fluid motions that ease the mind and body. There are several types of yoga, but the most popular today are hot, power and yin. Each type yields a specific goal from its practice. For example, power yoga aims to raise heart rate with a fast paced flow.

While yoga has turned into a popular form of exercise, many are unaware of the physiological benefits that it provides. Yoga focuses on connecting the mind and body, which plays an important role in our overall health. Many people may benefit from yoga if they are experiencing problems such as arthritis or low back pain. The repetitive motions, called a “flow”, that the practice consists of, stretches the joints while also strengthening because of the weight bearing positions. The weight bearing positions strengthen muscles surrounding joints and also keep bones healthy.

Chronic pain: Low back pain and arthritis are extremely common diagnoses in today’s world. When in pain, it is a normal response to want to rest and avoid activity in order to feel better. What if the opposite is true? Yoga has actually been found to “quiet” the neuromuscular activations that cause pain in the body. Yoga principles offer many other physiological benefits including decreasing resting blood pressure, decreasing anxiety, increasing flexibility and decreasing stiffness.

Physical therapy’s role: Physical therapy actually incorporates many techniques practiced in yoga. Core strengthening is extremely important, as problems coming from the core can cause pain up or down the chain. Performing exercises that focus on strengthening the core, such as planks, can help to increase stability and take pressure off of the low back. Another huge topic that has been relevant and the root of pain is posture. With the increase in technology, hours spent at desks and constant peering at cell phones, posture has been greatly affected. Physical therapy involves manual and therapeutic techniques that aim to improve posture.

Posture is how the body is aligned while in sitting and standing. Every joint plays a role in contributing to good posture. Starting with the neck and ending with the ankles, each joint takes some responsibility in ensuring proper posture. If one joint is altered, the entire system tries to compensate. For example, a forward head posture put stress on the neck muscles. This puts more stress on the neck muscles as well as muscles that go down the back. Yoga exercises that are used in physical therapy aim to improve posture throughout the entire body. Balancing on one leg at a time is an example of a postural exercise.

Low back pain can arise from many different aggravators. It can be due to weak muscles, poor posture, tight muscles, bone changes, or many other factors. To alleviate the pain, either bending forward or bending backwards may help. Often times, one direction may be preferenced. Many yoga exercises are utilized in PT that favor either bending forward or backwards. For example, laying on the stomach and pressing up with both arms may help with low back pain caused by a herniated disc.

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