John Aplin: Back in Action through Yoga
Falling 30 feet onto jagged rocks would be a death sentence for most—or at the very least, life in a wheel chair. However, John Aplin, who survived such a fall sustaining three vertebral fractures, a broken wrist, several broken ribs, fingers, and toes, and a punctured lung, is now not only walking again, he is teaching yoga as well.
According to an article in the UK’s Daily Mail, the 56-year old biomedicine professor achieved his remarkable recovery through a self-designed yoga back exercise program that he now teaches to others, including participants in an English study funded by the Arthritis Research Campaign.
While the study’s results have yet to be tallied, significant positive indications suggest what other studies have already shown: yoga for back pain can provide effective, long-term relief from chronic discomfort.
Yoga helps alleviate back pain through two main means: stretching out overly tight muscles and building core postural strength
Back pain and stress are both epidemics in our society, and it comes as little surprise that the two are interconnected. When we face regular stresses over a prolonged period of time, our bodies get stuck in sympathetic, or “fight/flight,” response. In this state, our muscles contract and pull on the surrounding bones.
When this state is held for days, weeks, months—and even years—on end, our muscles forget how to relax. They remain tightly bunched up, no matter our metal/emotional condition, and tug on our vertebrae at unnatural angles. This not only promotes poor posture; it results in chronic back pain and can lead to hip, neck, and shoulder pain and even headaches as well.
Yoga back exercise stretches back muscles, returning the habitually tightened muscles to their natural, elongated state. Through back stretching, yoga removes unnatural pressure on the spine and surrounding areas.
Furthermore, the abdominal and back strengthening yoga provides build balanced core muscles, which are necessary to support the spine along its natural curve. Through regular back pain yoga, the body’s core postural muscles develop to counteract the pull of gravity and keep the back healthy and strong.
Without strong core muscles, the body hunches down, the shoulders roll in, and even the head tilts forward. Over time, this posture puts extra weight on the vertebrae and back muscles, leading to degenerative disc disease and other back health concerns.
Through regular strengthening and back stretching yoga, back pain sufferers can find real and long-term relief. Beginning a back pain yoga practice now can not only help with current aches and pains, but prevent other structural health concerns from cropping up down the road.
There are no physical prerequisites for adopting a stretching and back strengthening yoga practice; even those in situations like John Aplin’s can begin their journey down the road to recovery.