The Health of Your Back Matters More than You Think
Much has been written about using yoga to relieve back pain or to improve posture. On this website, we have reported on several studies on the use of yoga exercises for low back pain and yoga as a therapy for poor posture and hyperkyphosis (the hunched back of dowager’s hump).
Yoga is one of the few types of exercise, which particularly emphasizes the back. Yoga exercises take the back through a series of twisting, bending, stretching and strengthening moves. By the end of a one-hour relatively moderate yoga session, in most cases, you will have moved your spine more than most people move it in a whole week.
Why does this matter? It does, because the health of the back and spine has a greater impact on our overall health than is commonly recognized. Further, like is the case for the body in general, the spine needs movement to stay flexible, strong, and healthy.
The yogis in India have a saying: “The body is as young as the spine is supple.” A simple statement; yet it holds the key to understanding not just how to prevent back pain problems, including those arising from bad posture, but how to stay healthy and vital throughout life.
The role that the back and spinal cord play in our overall health and vitality deserves much more attention than it currently receives in the Western framework of health and disease. Keeping the back and posture healthy is not only important to preventing back pain problems and health issues related to poor posture, it may be one of the best things you can do for your long-term health and, may impact how much of your vitality, well-being and functionality you’ll be able to retain as you grow older.
From the point of view of yoga therapy and many alternative health care modalities, particularly chiropractic and osteopathy, the health of the spine is linked to our structural and physical health, even to the health of our organs. The spinal canal houses bundles of nerves that run from the brain and exit through various openings in the spine to transmit information between the central and peripheral nervous systems.
Yoga therapy views the back in terms of subtle body anatomy as well. The spine is considered to be the central conduit for the flow of prana, or vital energy, in our body,. The seven chakras, the energy centers of the body, are centered around the central column of the spine, making the back and spine a vital center of the energy body and key to our overall vitality and well-being.
In this series of articles, we will look at how the health of the back and our posture impacts our overall health. We will draw from the knowledge of both yoga therapy and Western medicine to show how back pain problems, poor posture, and other back conditions impact our short-term well being and our long-term health. On this basis, you will see why the tradition of yoga puts such great emphasis on the health of the back. We will also offer solutions to what you can do to support the health of your back and posture and keep your spine young and supple.
Terry Smith, Ph.D., LMT, RYT 200 is a long-term bodyworker with advanced osteopathic training. He has practiced Iyengar yoga for more than 25 years an trained as a 200-hr. Anusara-inspired teacher with Todd Norian. He specializes in yoga therapy as it applies to back pain and other musculoskeletal issues.
Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D., LMT, E-RYT 200, RYT 500 is a writer and yoga therapist with a 500-hr. training in Integrative Yoga Therapy with a special emphasis on back issues.