Yoga Can Improve Spine Health

How Yoga Can Improve Spine Health

The spine is your body’s central support structure and is important for stability and movement.  The spine is key in basic movements such as sitting, standing, walking, twisting, and bending. This makes spine health a key to our daily function and makes taking care of it very important.  

During our daily lives, we take our spine through these movements and more, but while doing so, we don’t often move our spine through its full range of motion. Over time, this can result in stiffening and loss of smooth fluidity. Further, our spines can become misaligned, which can result in movement of the cartilage discs between the spine bones, leading to pain and loss of mobility. This can mean anything from minor discomfort during certain movements or positions, all the way to constant, extreme pain and loss of the ability to move the arms, torso, and neck, or in the most extreme cases, the inability to sit upright or even walk.

How Yoga Can Improve Spine Health

However, there are things we can do to both prevent these situations from occurring and to improve the health of our spine. One of these is yoga. Yoga is a form of low-impact exercise that consists of moving into and holding various positions that can improve many areas of the body and mind, including strength, relaxation, posture, balance, body alignment, flexibility, mobility, and even our mental state. Because the spine is instrumental in so many movements of the body, many yoga positions can help relieve pain and improve strength and flexibility in the spine. However, it’s important to keep in mind that while yoga can be an excellent way to restore and strengthen a sore back, as with any exercise, yoga must be done with proper form, breathing, and body awareness so as not to risk injury. It’s best to first talk with your doctor about whether beginning a yoga program or any type of exercise is right for you.  

Getting Ready to Begin a Yoga Program

Once you’ve been cleared by your doctor to begin a yoga program, you can begin by looking for yoga instructors near you. They can often be found by a simple internet search and can range from teaching classes at their own yoga studio to community centers that offer classes. It’s good to investigate a few to get a feel for what the location, setting, and most importantly the instructor is like so that you can choose one that best fits your needs. If you are someone who suffers from back pain, be sure to discuss this with your instructor so they understand your situation and can provide positions and even specific instruction so as not to further worsen your condition and will help you eventually begin to improve your strength and flexibility. 

Some Yoga Benefits and Basic Positions for Spine Health

As mentioned above, the spine is key in many of the major movements of the body.  Here are some areas to consider as part of a good, basic, yoga program to improve your spine health:

Extension and FlexionThese two movements around the spine are backward and forward.  Both the Sphinx or Cobra pose and the Cow pose can help with Extension, while the Cat pose and the Child’s pose can be beneficial to improve Flexion.

Side bending or Lateral flexion – This movement bends the spine down to the sides of the body. Poses to improve these movements are the Triangle pose or the Standing Side Bend pose.

Rotation – This movement rotates or twists the spine. The Marichyasana pose or Simple Seated Twist pose can help with this movement.

Axial extension – This final movement vertically elongates and decompresses the spine, which can happen over long periods of sitting.  Good poses for this are the Downward Facing Dog pose and the Upward Salute pose.

A routine consisting of a few minutes of each of the poses above will assist in keeping your spine flexible, mobile, strong, and healthy, and help reduce and prevent back pain, all of which will elevate your overall functioning and quality of life.