Yin Yoga for Back Pain — Addressing the Core Issues

Yin Yoga for back pain

Know about Yin yoga for back pain, the anatomical reasons for it, top poses for lower back pain, and how to maximize the benefits of Yin yoga for back pain.

Introduction

Back pain can affect a person at any age and in any physical condition. It can result from the work environment, medical conditions, or injury, and is long considered a major reason for absenteeism from work.

An International Association for the Study of Pain fact-sheet estimates that about 577.0 million people or around 7.5% of the global population suffer from lower back pain. Lower back pain is a leading cause of disability across the globe and a major public health concern — and the figures only seem to increase.

The Anatomy of Back Pain

The spine is a remarkable structure. Flexible tendons, strong ligaments, powerful muscles, sensitive nerves, and firm bones enable it to support and hold the body upright and provide mobility at different levels.

Somehow we tend to take our spine for granted as we go about our daily lives until we are laid low by back pain.

When the natural ‘S’ shape of the spine is altered due to injury, overuse, or degeneration, the pain and discomfort originates.

The regular practice of Yin yoga can help in the prevention or mitigation of back and lower back pain. The following are some of the common anatomical causes of back pain.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains happen when a ligament gets torn, while strains are caused by the tearing of a tendon or muscle. Sprains and strains can also be caused by falls, overuse, or injury.

They cause mild to severe pain, especially in the lower back, which is further stressed with movement. All of these can result in a reduction in range of motion, muscle spasms, and muscle stiffness.

Sciatica

Sciatica is not caused by the sciatic nerve as commonly assumed, but by irritation of the lumbar nerve roots. Ruptured discs, bone spurs, injury, prolonged sitting, and pregnancy can be risk factors.

Sciatica can cause cramping, burning, or shooting pain that extends from the lower back to the buttocks, and sometimes down the leg to the sole. Muscle weakness, tingling, and numbness are also common.

Ruptured or Bulging Discs

Spinal discs are shock-absorbing cushions that are located between the bones of the spine.

Age, obesity, trauma, and repetitive stress can cause the intervertebral discs to bulge outward, causing severe pain.

Discs can also rupture and the nucleus of the disc can slip out and compress nerves nearby, causing pain, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal as you age. Bone overgrowth due to spinal arthritis can also cause constriction.

The obstruction compresses nerves resulting in shooting pains in the lower back and buttocks, along with tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis leads to thin and weakened bones and the wear and tear of cartilage between spinal bones. A spinal column compression fracture can often occur.

A dull to sharp back pain in the lower or middle back, which can get worse with movement, joint stiffness, and reduced range of motion are some of the symptoms.

Bony outgrowths can develop, which can compress nerves to cause numbness and tingling.

Spondylolysis and Spondylolisthesis

Spondylosis is a fracture of the spinal bones due to repetitive stress on the lower back. It is rather common in people who play sports.

It can also happen due to age-related weakness of the spine. The fracture can weaken the spine and cause the vertebrae to slip out of place leading to spondylolisthesis.

If the slipped vertebrae pinch a nerve, it can cause tingling, numbness, shooting pain, or muscle weakness.

Important to Note

Our spine is built for strength and flexibility. We tend to take our spine and its structures for granted until we experience pain. Wise to adopt the practice of Yin yoga for back pain as a preventive remedy.

Yin Yoga for Back Pain

Our sedentary lifestyles and the habit of being glued to our laptops, computers, and electronic devices for long durations leads to postural defects in our spine and loss of flexibility and mobility.

The hurried pace of life has led to stress that causes mental and physical illnesses.

Back pain like other body aches and pain, can often stem from emotional stress. Mental strain caused by guilt, financial worries, a toxic work environment, loneliness, etc. can affect the body and cause pain well before an actual injury occurs.

Then when a weakening of a body structure or injury occurs, the nerves and muscles around the area get into a spasm and create more stress and pain.

The practice of Yin yoga for lower back pain can help you access deep connective tissue — such as the fascia and ligaments of the spine – and the stress embedded in them.

As we mindfully observe sensations during the long-held poses, we can consciously let go off stress as well as modulate our stress reaction. That way, we can achieve equanimity.

Letting go of sensations and stress can help you achieve stillness of mind and body, and help dissolve pain. Yin yoga for back pain can help to trigger the parasympathetic nervous system that helps the body to rest and repair itself.

Takeaway

The Yin yoga routine stretches, compresses, and decompresses the spine safely to rebuild bone health, and strengthen and lengthen spinal connective tissues.

Top Yin Yoga Poses for Back Pain

The world needs Yin yoga now, more than ever. Sedentary lifestyles and an increase in desk-bound jobs have put significant stress on our spines.

This intricately designed structure which is a column of strength for the body and a protective covering for our delicate spinal cord is often overlooked.

It’s time we change that. Yin yoga gives your spine the care that it deserves. Given below are a few poses usually included in the practice of Yin yoga for back pain.

Butterfly Pose

  1. Sit in a comfortable position.
  2. Fold your legs and place the soles of your feet together.
  3. Gently fold forward and allow your spine and back to release.
  4. Rest your hands on your feet or the floor in front of you.
  5. Do not hang the head forward if you have a whiplash injury of the neck.
  6. Breathe normally, concentrating on your spine.
  7. Hold for 1-3 mins.
  8. To release the pose, use your hands to gently push on the floor and slowly return to the erect position.
  9. Lean back on your hands and release the hips.
  10. Stretch your legs out.

Benefits

This pose stretches your lower back, groin muscles, inner thighs, and hips. It is recommended for people suffering from urinary problems. It is good for the kidneys, prostate gland, and ovaries.

Caution

Practice with caution if you have knee injuries or low back pain. Avoid the pose if you have sciatica.

Child’s Pose

  1. Sit on your heels.
  2. Gently bend forward to bring your chest to your thighs.
  3. Place your forehead on the floor in front.
  4. You can place your hands on either side of your body, palms up, or stretched out in the front.
  5. If your hips don’t reach the heels, place a bolster or cushion on the heels for support.
  6. Remain in the pose for 1-3 mins and breathe normally.
  7. Place a bolster if your forehead does not touch the floor.
  8. To come out of the pose use the support of your hands and the floor to gently raise the body. The head comes up last.

Benefits

A calming asana, the Child’s pose activates the relaxation response of the central nervous system. It stretches the lower back, hips, ankles, and the tops of the feet, and massages the abdominal organs.

Word of Caution

Pregnant women should not do this pose. Those with knee or back issues should also avoid the pose.  

Melting Heart Pose

  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
  2. Place the knees a little wider than the distance between the hips.
  3. Hands should be shoulder-width apart.
  4. Walk your hands forward to drop your chest down and place your forehead on the floor.
  5. Keep your hips in line with your knees and raise them.
  6. Breathe normally and maintain for 1-3 mins.
  7. To release the pose, bring your hands towards your shoulders and lower your hips onto your heels.

Benefits

The Melting Heart pose stretches the shoulders, arms, core muscles, and back. It counteracts the rounding of the spine.

Caution

People who have knee, neck, or shoulder issues should not attempt this pose. If there is tingling in the hands or fingers, it is a sign that a nerve is compressed.

To alleviate it, adjust the arm and hand positions. Do not practice the pose on a full stomach.

Supported Bridge Pose

  1. Lie on your back with your arms by your side and legs outstretched.
  2. Bend your knees and lift your hips to slide a block or bolster under your pelvis.
  3. The block/bolster should be under the pelvis/sacrum and not under the low back.
  4. You can keep the legs straight to create deep stress in the lower back, hip flexors, and sacrum.
  5. Keeping the hands over your head increases stress on the lower abdomen and hip flexors.
  6. Relax into the pose and maintain it for 1-3 mins.
  7. Breathe normally.
  8. When coming out of the pose, fold your knees and lift your hips to slide the support away.
  9. Gently lower your hips to the floor, stretch your legs, and relax in the Corpse pose.

Benefits

This pose helps to correct the defects of poor posture and relieves lower back pain. The chest is opened up to improve breathing. The pose works the hamstring, hip, back, and core abdominal muscles. The blood flow to the brain is improved.

Caution

Poor execution of the pose could result in neck and knee problems, and even high blood pressure, detached retina, and glaucoma because of the slight inversion. It is best to avoid the pose if you have had a recent back injury.

How to Maximize Effects

Balance is the keyword when doing Yin yoga to increase the flexibility of your back. You have to find that delicate balance between how far you can sink into your stretch and the extent of your pain or discomfort.

It is about achieving a balance between Yin yoga poses that improve flexibility and those that enhance strength. Also maintaining a balance between Yin yoga poses that make you bend forward and ones that involve the arching of your back. That balance will lead to the overall stability of your spine.     

Adapt your practice to the moment. Be aware of how your body feels at each moment and be gentle with yourself during practice to avoid aggravating your back pain.

A majority of Yin yoga poses are seated, lower-body-targeted holds that mostly impact the hips and spine. It is recommended to consult a healthcare professional on the extent to which you can flex and extend your spine before you take up the practice of Yin yoga for back pain. 

Props can also help to deepen stretches without overstretching the tendons and ligaments.

They also help in reducing joint pain when practicing Yin yoga for back pain. Blocks bolster, and straps can be substituted with pillows, towels, and belts when practicing at home.

Supine poses and alternative poses that take the support of the wall can keep the spine stable and protected when you release your leg and hip muscles.

The Bottom Line

Yin yoga is a mind-body therapy that can effectively help alleviate your back pain and the stress that brought it. The practice of Yin yoga can help you gain a better understanding of your body and the areas in your back where your stress lies, and facilitate its safe release. This awareness can help you to balance and realign your spine.

We at Siddhi Yoga have created a customized Yin Yoga Course to help practitioners get the right guidance in their journey. See the course here. This course has got numerous 5-Star ratings by participants.

1 sources
  1. https://www.iasp-pain.org/resources/fact-sheets/the-global-burden-of-low-back-pain/
Shalini Menon
Shalini has a Diploma in Yogic Education from Yoga Vidya Niketan in Mumbai. She taught for some time and instilled an abiding love for yoga in many, including her family members. Her younger daughter also graduated as a teacher from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhanwantari Ashram in Kerala and taught in Sydney, while her elder daughter went on to learn pilates.

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