How you can practice Yoga for back pain

A 2016 study published in the Saudi Journal of Sports Medicine found that, out of 174 medical practitioners surveyed, a whopping 83.9 percent of them experienced a “lifetime prevalence of back pain.” What’s probably most striking about this study is that the mean age of the participants was only in the low-to-mid 30s.

Although most of the respondents questioned reported that their disability was minimal (with just 7.5 percent rating their condition as “moderate” or “severe”) this study highlights the fact that many people working within the health care industry are likely struggling with at least some level of back pain. And they’re doing it on a fairly constant basis.

If you’re a massage therapist and this is you, fortunately, there are some all-natural, effective pain-relieving solutions available.

Regularly practicing yoga is one of them as this form of exercise can oftentimes help, and in many different ways.

Yoga Provides Many Benefits for Massage Therapists

“In addition to back pain relief, my yoga practice provides an outlet for physical fitness and a source for stress-relief,” says Rissa Wray, L.M.T., and Certified Yoga Teacher with Moving Meditations in Saint Petersburg, Florida. “It’s been my experience that we all have our own bodily imbalances,” says Wray, who shares that her imbalance is a mild scoliosis. “Some are just more accentuated than others.”

Wray credits “the meditative framework of yoga” for creating the biggest impact on her life. “Yoga addresses the whole person,” she says, and since a person’s physical, mental, and emotional states are all connected, over time, Wray says that she’s been able to “heal as a whole.”

Massage therapist Nicole Casanova, founder of Polished Professional Development, says that she’s received benefits from practicing yoga because it “releases compression of the nerves and blood vessels [near] stressed and tight connective tissue. It also helps you meet the emotional connections to your pain very effectively.”

Types of Yoga Providing the Greatest Impact

What types of yoga are most beneficial? “I practice and teach Hatha and Vinyasa yoga (more active styles), as well as Yin and Restorative yoga (more passive styles),” says Wray, indicating that she performs some style of yoga daily to help her with her back.

As far as which one has provided the most benefit, Wray says, “For me, slow, active yoga (Hatha primarily) has been the most helpful in addressing my structural imbalances. I am able to intentionally balance my muscle tonicity between right side and left, alleviating some degree of uneven wear and tear caused by my structural imbalance.”

However, if you have a special condition or struggle with old injuries, Wray suggests therapeutic yoga. This particular type of yoga has made a huge difference in her life, she says, when it comes to helping her deal with the aches and pains she feels in her back, as well as those she gets in her shoulders, neck and hips.

“It’s about balanced, varied movement,” says Wray, “as well as practices of rest, recovery and relaxation.”

Casanova says that Yin yoga is her go-to “because of its precise attention to the fascia (or connective tissue layer). Because Yin is about holding a pose passively for 3-6 minutes, it completely reprograms the muscle memory and opens up the tissue for deeper blood flow like other more active styles can’t.”

If your back pain is chronic, Casanova suggests doing a targeted pose of the area at least three times per week until it dissipates.

After that, Casanova says you can lessen the number of sessions, as she’s done, sharing that she now only engages in this type of yoga “as needed for damage control if I start to feel even a slight hint of soreness.”

Think of Yoga As A Lifestyle

Wray stresses that you need to think of yoga as a lifestyle, “not just the athletic poses you see on Instagram and on magazine covers. It’s the quality of your movement and the quality of your thoughts that is the central focus of yoga.”

Plus, you can do different types of yoga and different poses based on your needs at the time.

For instance, Wray says, “If I’m feeling tired and overworked, I’ll set myself up in a restorative posture to calm and relax. If I’m feeling stagnant and sluggish, I’ll practice active Hatha or Vinyasa yoga to energize and activate. Whether the style is active or passive, it is the intention of structural alignment and mental-emotional ease that makes all the difference.”

How to Incorporate Yoga into Your Routine

Because yoga practice is so widespread, there are a plethora of different teachers, styles and avenues for trying it, says Wray. Two options she offers are to “find a local studio near you with a group of teachers you like and trust, or you can even look online.”

For instance, YouTube has a number of free videos created by reputable yoga teachers, but there are several subscription-based yoga networks available as well.

It also helps to have patience says Wray, calling this virtue a central part of a good yoga practice. If you jump in and try to progress too quickly, you risk injury. Instead, Wray suggests that you remember that, as with the story of the tortoise and the hare, “slow and steady wins the race.”

Michael Bridge-Dickson, speaker and educator with sensàsana, and author of the upcoming book, Pain in the Asana: Cause, Care + Prevention of 8 Common Yoga Injuries, agrees. “The more mild the pose is, the fewer risks it has and the more effective it will be,” says Bridge-Dickson. “Some of the deeper poses are very effective as well, but can easily be done in a way that is more harmful than helpful.”

Bridge-Dickson also warns that, “Currently, there is no real standard of measuring the quality or knowledge base that yoga teachers have, and so while there are many yoga teachers, and all of them mean well, not all are qualified nor knowledgeable enough to treat back pain effectively.”

That’s why Bridge-Dickson suggests that you find someone who knows how to use yoga therapeutically.

“Yoga is life-changing, and is one of the best ways to ease back pain, from my experience as a practitioner, a massage therapist, and a yoga teacher,” says Wray. Furthermore, “As many yogis say, to master this practice takes lifetimes. But, you can feel some of the positive effects immediately.”

About the Author

Christina DeBusk is a freelance writer dedicated to providing readers relevant, research-backed content related to health and wellness, personal development, safety, and small business ownership. To learn more, visit her website at www.christinamdebusk.com.

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