Dr. Bell's Blog

How Yoga Can Help Your Spine....And Which Poses Are Best

The practice of yoga was first developed in India 5,000 years ago. It has long been believed that the regular practice of yoga can have tremendous benefits for mind and body alike. Among other things, yoga can physically help with flexibility, muscle strength, respiration, and circulation. Of all the benefits, none is closer to my heart than the benefits it can have on your spine. The great thing about the practice of yoga is that it can be done by nearly everyone, regardless of age or physical ability. Yoga comes in many different forms and levels of difficulty, ranging from an hour and a half hot yoga session done in over 100 degree heat, to chair yoga that is regularly performed with the elderly and those physically impaired. And if you are someone that thinks Yoga is not a workout, spend an hour and a half performing 26 poses in 100 degree heat and I promise you will think differently.

7 Great Poses For Spinal Health

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Downward-Facing Dog: Back pain, particularly that of your lower back, is closely tied in with your hamstrings. Tight hamstrings will lead to a tight lower back. This particular pose is great at lengthening the hamstrings and back extensors. Hold posture 5-10 breaths, and repeat 5 times.

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Upward-Facing Dog: This is a classic yoga pose, yet very effective. It helps to strengthen the muscles of the arms and shoulders, as well as opening up your chest and stretching your thoracic spine. Hold for 5-10 breaths and repeat 5 times.

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Child’s Pose: This is one of my favorite yoga poses, and is also a great way to relax your mind and body in the middle of a stressful day, or at night after a long day. This pose will once again help elongate your spinal muscles, relieving tension from them. Hold for 5-10 breaths, and repeat as many times as needed.

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Seated Spine Twist: This pose can have benefits not only for your spinal health, but also that of your overall health. It has been shown to also improve digestion, and improve menstrual discomfort. Hold for 5-10 breaths, repeat on each side 2-3 times.

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Cat and Cow Pose: This gentle and easy posture is a great way to loosen up back muscles and improve lower back mobility. This is a great beginner posture to start with as you begin your practice of yoga. Repeat 10 times in sequence.

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Locust Pose: This pose begins to increase in difficulty, but has a relatively low risk of injury. However, as always, you can make modifications to every pose to suit your ability. This posture will help strengthen back muscles, improve posture, and relieve stress.

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Camel Pose: This is a great posture to help those of you with chronic tension in your hips. It can also help improve flexibility of your thoracic spine and lengthen the flexion muscles in your neck. This is a great pose for the health of your entire spine.

One common thread you may notice throughout most of the 7 poses I referenced above is extension of your spine. The vast majority of activities we all do every day are flexion activities. That includes such things as sitting (hip flexion), bending (hip/lower back flexion), and looking down (neck flexion). Doing yoga poses on a regular basis that perform the exact opposite of those activities helps to combat the stress they cause on our body. People often ask me, “Doc, how can I get my adjustments to stay better?” Well, here is one of those things that can go a long way towards helping your spine stay in alignment a little better and a little longer. This is yet another step that can help you….

LIVE well. BE well.