Yoga has so many beneficial aspects for individuals who participate in the activity. These benefits include: relaxation, stretching, and balance. The great thing about yoga is that it encompasses a lot of the stretches that one may be prescribed for back pain. Downward dog encompasses a hamstring stretch, pigeon is a piriformis stretch, child’s pose targets the lower back, upward dog places the spine in a relaxed and extended position, kneeling hip flexor stretch helps with hip flexor tension, and lower lumbar rotations may also be included in a yoga class. These stretches target the muscles of the spine that commonly alter the position on the spine due to tightness.
Excessive tightness in the front of the hip tends to place the lower lumbar spine in an extended position.
This stretch would help individuals who have symptoms of stenosis or poor posture contributing to lower back pain. Hamstring tightness will pull on the lumbar spine in the opposite position, putting it in a flexed position. This muscular restriction will impact an individual’s ability to bend forward toward the ground.
While yoga seems to be a great activity for the general population and potentially those with lower back pain, it may be critical for you to talk with your physical therapist before trying yoga. There are certain conditions such as a herniated disc that would typically have increased pain with yoga poses such as child’s pose and downward dog. If an individual has more acute (recent onset) back pain, yoga may not be the option for your initial pain management. Your physical therapist can suggest modifications to yoga poses or show you other stretches that may initially be more beneficial for your condition than yoga, but keep in mind the overall benefits of the activity!
– Meghan Johnson, PT, DPT, CSCS, Manager at Dedham Health