Back Pain Heals Better With Yoga – New research

This is a guest post contributed by Jack Woo

According to the latest research, doing yoga daily is more effective in healing your chronic back pain than other conventional back pain treatments. There are also more side effects as a result of using the conventional treatments, such as painkillers and muscle relaxants.

The researchers closely monitored 228 adults who suffer from acute and chronic back pain problems. They were separated into three groups with two groups attending daily yoga sessions and the remaining group doing different exercises for a few weeks.

At the end of the program they discovered that half the participants who attended yoga sessions felt much better compared with only 20% of the other group.

Yoga exercises

Yoga exercises

Yoga is not just a form of meditation as some people perceive it and the benefits are not just limited to strengthening muscles, improve flexibility and balance. Yoga is an extremely good therapy for relieving back pain, shorten recovery time, reduce swelling and increase blood circulation. Practising yoga daily will help improve your posture and keep your spine in proper alignment, which is essential in back pain treatment.

There are many forms and poses of yoga and not all can help your back pain. In fact some can even worsen your back condition. It is best to attend classes under the guidance of certified yoga instructors as they can advise on what poses are suitable for you.

Back strengthening poses serve not only to strengthen your muscles around the spine, but also help to activate your kidneys and tonify your body. Back releasing poses will help to reduce tension and muscle spasm and improve spinal mobility. These exercises will help to nourish your back muscles and muscle tissues, and are good for people suffering from back pain, especially lower back pain. Stretching other muscles in your body such as the hamstring and thigh will make them stronger and more flexible and lessen the amount of stress on your back. This will finally reduce the tension and back pain.

Performing poses on the floor are easier than standing poses as they require less strength and balance. One very important aspect of doing yoga is to learn how to breathe properly, especially when holding the poses. Choose poses with longer hold times (inhaling and exhaling) as they are easier to do.

When you master the art of deep and rhythmic breathing, your body will relax, freeing you of pain-inducing restrictions and eases proper circulation.

Do not eat at least one to two hours before you practise yoga and refrain from drinking too much water before the session.

You should practise yoga daily for an average of 30 minutes, depending on your schedule, objective and fitness level. It is better to practise more often with shorter duration than less often with longer duration as this will produce better result.

If you are seeking relief from back pain, yoga is certainly one of the best lower back pain exercises. Like all forms of exercises, do not push your body to the limits. If you still experience pain after doing yoga, stop and consult your doctor.

Jack Woo has a special interest in back pain, having suffered from it in the past. He shares with you his experiences and many back pain treatment options and prevention tips.

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Stretching or Yoga

I am pleased to publish this article with the permission of Terry Laughlin, swimming coach and founder of Total Immersion.

Yoga and Swimming

I’m searching for information on stretching with focus on freestyle swimming.

I’ve found in Total Immersion, the Revolutionary Way to Swim better, Faster, and Easier some exercises and two stretches for the front of the shoulder and two stretches for the back of the shoulder.

I’m definitely interested in shoulder stretches but also back and leg stretches that are appropriate. I’ve noticed with TI swimming a definite change to the muscles in my upper back, and I would like to be sure that lack of correct stretching does not cause a physical problem.
The effects or benefits of stretching are commonly thought to be relief of tightness in muscles and increase of range of motion in joints.  Over time I’ve come to view the question of stretching and its effects differently, and my view today is colored by my age – 59, a time when my muscles seem a bit more susceptible to injury or the occurrence of “hot spots” or knots.

My stretching activities now are more geared to overall health and feeling good at all times, while also–as an athlete–trying to keep my muscles ‘tuned for action.’

I rarely do the kind of swim-specific stretching I did from my teens to my 30s that was illustrated in the original TI book. This focused on muscles like the pectorals, triceps, lats. When I was younger I regularly experienced post-swim soreness in those muscles but that was because my swimming relied on higher arm-forces. By using the drag-evading and whole-body-propelling techniques of Perpetual Motion Freestyle, I no longer experience that kind of soreness.

I deal with more general tension–not uncommon in middle-aged-athletes–by warming up more gently and thoroughly before a practice. Also by having one or two practices a week done entirely at ‘recovery pace’ and devoted to higher levels of technique.

I often get knots, particularly in the muscles around my left scapula, because I tore the rotator cuff in that shoulder in an auto accident in 1996 so those muscles compensate to keep my shoulder stable. I need occasional massage, adjustments and acupuncture to break open those knots and relieve tension.

But virtually all of my prior active stretching has been replaced by yoga, which feels both holistic and integrative in a way those stretches were not. Yoga not only keeps me feeling more supple–in my spine and joints as well as in muscles. It also keeps me strong in an integrative way. That is, rather than working on isolated muscles, it strengthens them as they work–in combination and by using them as I do outside of yoga.

Finally, it brings the calming and centering effects of meditation. I’m certain the combination of yoga and swimming is among the most healthful things I will do for the rest of my life.

I was involved in the planning of the Yoga for Swimming and More DVD with Susan Jacque who is one of my teachers, and can strongly recommend it both to complement swimming and as a way to become acquainted with yoga.

For more information on Total Immersion and Terry Laughlin, visit: and