Dear Willow: Can Yoga Help My Low Back Pain?

This week a reader asks how yoga can help his back pain. Willow gives her recommendations on the best types of yoga, how to choose an instructor, and some self-assessment tools.

Dear Willow,

I have a lot of low back pain and am working with a Structural Integration therapist on alignment. Do you think yoga can help? If so, how should I begin? I don’t want to hurt myself further and yet I have heard that yoga can really help. What should I do?



Dear PDXActor,

Great question! As always, receiving a clear diagnosis from a qualified professional is a good start to addressing your injury. And it sounds as though you are clear on what you need. This is a huge step in the right direction and great job asking for guidance before just thrusting yourself into a random class, which may or may not address your needs.

There are a few ideas covered in this week’s article, Why You Lift With Your Legs & Not Your Back. This article not only addresses lifting, but also informs about specific muscles of the back that need to be used in their specific ways.

Structural Integration is a wonderful postural improvement tool and works deep within the skeletal system to increase proper alignment and release mental or emotional blockages stored within the musculoskeletal system. More people would benefit from this type of work and I appreciate that you are taking the time to work your body/mind relationship.

If your back is in the acute stages of pain, you don’t want to go to just any yoga class. There are specific systems that are better equipped to deal with injuries and alignment than others.

Recommended Systems:

  • Forrest Yoga
  • Iyengar
  • Yin Yoga

Interview the instructors or studio owners to ensure your specific needs get met and you are recommended to a qualified professional who understands how to work with injuries. A yoga instructor who is also a physical therapist or massage therapist is well equipped with knowledge of muscular ailments and movement patterns. He or she should be able to do a basic assessment and observe limited ranges of motion in your body that may be aggravating your back.

Ask what his or her experience is in working with injuries and more specifically what the approach would be in helping you. After you have a conversation with the instructor or studio, request a private lesson to give you poses and modifications or variations for your back. You can then apply these poses to a practice at home or in the class setting.

When doing yoga poses or exercising do movements that are comfortable. Don’t do movements that cause injurious pain. If what you are doing hurts in a negative way, stop immediately and express this feedback to your instructor.



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