How Can I remove pain from my lumbar and thoracic spine?
In this essay I am going to tell you about the benefits that doing yoga will have on your spine, posture and all the aches and pains a lot of people struggle with in these areas.
The reason I am choosing this topic and why I think it is important is mainly because I have struggled a lot with my back and these areas and yoga has helped me so much getting stronger, leaner and with managing my pain. Back pain is also something that I have noticed a lot of people in general is struggling with, and I would love to help bring awareness of the beauty and power of yoga and the amazing health benefits it can have on your body and mind if done right.
Most people think that yoga is only the sun salutations and the asanas. A pure workout to get more flexible. It has become so commercialised that living in The western world you have lost so much of the true meaning and purpose of it. The word yoga means ‘unity/ oneness’ and comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ which means ‘ to join’. Yoga is the science of right living and you are intended to incorporate it in your every day life. It works on all aspects of you: the physical, mental, vital, emotional, psychic and spiritual. With yoga you aim to bring the different bodily functions into perfect coordination so that they work for the greater good of your whole body. You have shatkarma for cleansing and opening your nostrils and air passage like neti pot.
The asana was essentially meant to prepare and make your body strong enough for longer periods of meditation. You can also use asana postures to make your meditation more advanced and challenging.
Pranayam is conscious breath control and will increase your oxygen levels, will heighten your energy levels. While doing pranayama you can include mudras, powerful ways to hold your fingers and palms to direct the energy flow back into the body, and bandhas, powerful internal locks in your body to make the Pranayama, asana and meditations more powerful and to awaken your kundalini energy. sitting in meditation for long periods of time was traditionally the main goal of all these practices. With the end goal of reaching samadhi, enlightenment. Everyone can with lots of practice and focus manage to reach the lowest level of samadhi in this life.
Different Postures Will Help You
Shava Udarakarshanasana/ universal spinal twist: lie on your back with feet and legs together, stretch he arms out to the sides at shoulder level with palms facing down. Bend the right leg and place the sole of the foot beside the kneecap. Place left Han on top of the right knee and here you have your starting position. Gently bring your knee down towards the floor on the left side. Be aware and keep the leg in this contact position at all times. Turn your head gently to the right and keep your drishti/ gaze point at your middle finger of the right hand. The right arm and shoulder should be in contact with the floor and and the leg you are not bending should remain straight. Hold for as long as long as it’s comfortable. When you want to switch sides you bring your head and knee to centre. Stretch the right arm out to the side and straighten you foot. Then repeat on other side.
Inhale in the starting position. Exhale while pushing the knee towards the floor and turning the head.
Keep your awareness on relaxing your back, shoulders and on your breath.
You should preform this asana after doing forward and backward bends or after you do any pose that’s strenuous on your lower back. It is also a good pose for you to do after sitting in chairs or in meditation for longer periods of time.
This asana can realign your hip joint, and you should stop if you feel pain.
E benefits you will experience from doing this pose is that it will feel tightness and tiredness will be relieved, especially in your lower back. Your pelvic and abdominal organs are also toned through the asanas massaging actions.
Majari-asana (cat cow pose)
You start by sitting in vajrasana (thunderbolt pose). Then you raise your butt and lean forward and put your hands on the ground with fingers spread, middle finger pointed forwards and you keep your hands shoulder with apart. Your hands should be in line with your knees and your arms and thighs should be in a straight line up from the floor and you should keep your knees slightly separated under your hips. Here you have your starting position. Inhale while raising your head and depressing the spine so that your back become concave. Expand your abdomen fully and fill your lungs with maximum amount of air. hold your breath for 3 seconds. Then exhale while lowering the head and stretching the spine upward, gazing at you navel. At the end of your exhalation, you need to contract the abdomen and pull in you butt. Your head will now be between your arms, facing your thighs. Hold your breath for 3 seconds again, exaggerating the arch of your spine and abdominal contraction. This is round one.
You can perform the movement breathing as slowly as is comfortable for you, and you should aim for inhalation’s and exhalations of at least 5 seconds.
You should do at least 5-10 rounds of this Asana.
You should hold your awareness on the flexion of the spine from top to bottom, and on the breath synchronised with the movements.
This asana will improve the flexibility of your neck, shoulders and spine. It also gently tones the female reproductive system and will give you release from menstrual cramps. This is one off my favourite poses to do when I have upper back pain. If you are pregnant you can practice this asana safely, but you should not forcefully contract your abdomen.
Ushtrasana (camel pose)
sit in vajtasana(thunderbolt pose). Lift your but up and stand on your knees with your arms along your sides. Your feet and knees should be together, but you may separate them a bit if they is more comfortable for you. Engage your abdomen and start to slowly lean back reaching for the right heal with your right hand, and then the left heal with your left hand. Feet should be flat, but if you aren’t flexible enough to reach, you can flex your feet before you reach back. Push your hips forward, and keep your thighs vertical, bend your head backwards as far as it is comfortable. You should relax your entire body, especially your back muscles, into the stretch. The weight of your body should be evenly supported by the legs and arms. Your arms should anchor the shoulders to maintain the arch of your back. You can remain in the final position for as long as t is comfortable for you. Return to the starting position by slowly releasing your hands from your heals one at a time. You should breath normally during this asana. Do not try and take deal breaths since your chest is already stretched.
You should practice this asana it to 3 times as a dynamic asana. You can Hold the final pose for up to 3 minutes as a static pose
Hold your awareness on the abdomen, throat, spine and your natural breath.
It is important for you to always follow this asana with a counteracting forward bending asana, like child’s pose, to release all tension in your back. This asana can easily be used straight after coming out of camel pose.
If you have severe back alignment last such as lumbago you shouldn’t perform this asana without the help and guidance of a competent teacher.
The backbend in this asana will help you loosen up the vertebra and stimulate the spinal nerves, relieving backache, rounded back and dropping shoulders. Your posture will be improved. The front of your neck will be fully stretched, toning the organs in your thyroid glad. It will also be beneficial for your digestive system and reproductive system. It will also stretch your stomach and intestines, alleviating constipation.
Meru Wakrssana (spinal twist)
sit upright with your legs outstretched. Turn your trunk slightly to your right side and place the right hand behind your body, close to your left buttock, with your fingers pointing backwards. Teen you should place your left hand behind and slightly to the side of your right buttock, as close as possible to your right hand. Now, bend your left knee and place the food outside the right knee. Now you can twist your head and trunk as far to he right s comfortable, using the arms as levers, while keeping your spine upright and straight. Your buttocks should always remain I the floor and you may bend your right elbow a little bit. Hold the final position, relaxing the back. look over you right shoulder as far as possible without straining. Re-centre your trunk and relax for a couple seconds. You should repeat this movement for up to 5 times before changing sides. – You should inhale deeply in the starting position and exhale while twisting. You should retsina your breath outside, or just breathe normally if you are holding the pose. Inhale again when you are re centring.
– you should keep your awareness on the twisting and relaxation of your spine, and also on breath awareness in the final position.
– the benefits you will feel after doing this asana includes stretching of the spine, loosening the vertebra and toning your nerves. It will alleviate backache, neck pain, lumbago and mild forms of sciatica. It’s a good asana for beginners and and it will prepare your back for the more difficult spinal twists as well. This is also one of my go to asanas when my back is acting up, and I highly recommend it for you.
Recommended Pranayama and Meditation Techniques
pranayama is generally defined as breath control. ‘Prana’ means ‘vital energy’ or ‘life force’ and ‘ayama, means ‘control‘. But the word pranayama means ‘extension or expansion of the dimension of prana’. In other words, it’s the regulation of the breath through certain techniques and exercises. It is important to always start your pranayama session with a small warm up to make your body ready for the breathing, open up your nostrils with for instance breath balancing pose to get the airflow going properly. You should start slow, with 5 minutes and gradually build your way up to 30 minutes. More than that is unnecessary and will leave you with little energy. Only super advanced practitioners can do more than 30 minutes. Always end your practice with some meditation and shavasana in the end for about 5 minutes to relax and take in the effects of the practice. Pranayama should be done after asana practice. now I am going to tell you about one that I like and find beneficial.
Ujjayi Pranayama (the psychic breath)
Sit in any comfortable meditation asana. Close your eyes and relax the whole body. Take your awareness on the breath in your nostrils and allow your breathing to become calm an rhythmic. After a little while, shift your awareness to your throat. Feel you imagine that your breath is being drawn in and out through your throat and not trough your nostrils, just as if it is taking place through a small hole in your throat. As your breath becomes deeper and slower, gently contract your glottis/ throat so that a soft snoring sound, like the breathing of a sleeping baby is produced in your throat. If you are doing this correctly, there will be a spontaneous contraction if your abdomen, without any effort being made. Both inhalation and exhalation should be long, deep and controlled. Practice yogic breathing(filling the abdomen first, then expand ribs and take your breath as far inn as you can and fill the lungs all the way up to the upper part and so you can feel it around the base of your neck. Shoulder and collar bone should also move slightly upwards.) while concentrating on the sound your breath is producing in your throat. The sound of your breath should be heard only by you.
You should start slowly with 10 breaths, and slowly increase up to 5 minutes to get the general benefits of this pranayam. As an adjunct to meditation or mantra repetition you can practice it for up to 10- 20 minutes.
If you are an introvert by nature you should avoid this pranayam.
Ujjayi is classified as a tranquillising pranayama, and it also has heating effect on the body. This practise will soothe your nervous system and calm your mind. It also has a profoundly calming effect at a psychic level. It will help you relieve insomnia and may be practiced in shavasana just before sleep. It will slow down your heart rate and is therefore useful for people suffering from higher blood pressure. The reason I am recommending this pranayama for people with thoracic and lumbar spine pain is because it is tranquillising, so you will feel less pain, you can do it lying down which will help people with back pain, and you will be able to do it for longer and it will help calm you down and get a good night sleep. This is a great Pranayama because it can be performed in any position, standing, sitting or lying down, witch ever one you find most comfortable. If you are suffering from slipped disc or vertebral spondylitis you can practice in varjasana/ thunderbolt pose or makarasana/ crocodile pose. Relax your face as much as possible when performing it, and don’t contract your throat too much. The contraction of your throat should be slight and be held continuously throughout the practice.
Suggestion to diet, water intake, Ayurveda
So in the yogic tradition we have something called dosha. The doshas is there to help explain the nature of the 3 body types. Vata- air, pita- fire and kapha- water/ earth. I would recommend you to go see an Ayurvedic doctor to find your dosha. After finding your dosha and learning it you are in balance or not you can easily follow the Ayurvedic Eaton guides for your dosha. Obviously your doctor is going to share his knowledge with you and recommend to you what to eat and not. But I also recommend you to get ourself an Ayurvedic cook book so that you can keep your dosha in balance with that you eat. In Ayurvedic traditions we also believe that the feed we eat brings us good and bad energy. For instance when an animal gets slaughtered all the fear and death hormones it produces will still be in the meat when you eat it and you will absorb this bad energy. That is why it is always recommended to eat a plant based diet, with unprocessed foods. When food is processed/ heated/ cooked the life force/ energy will leave the food within 1-3 hours. So if you buy microwave meals, or reheat your leftovers there is no life force energy left in it for you, and only calories. It is also important to drink enough water and keep hydrated during the day. Stay away from sodas and cordial. Freshly brewed Herbal tea is highly recommended giving you good energy and nutrients. You should avoid drinking for a while before and after meals to aid your digestion and drink warm water in stead of cold. Once you start eating and drinking the right foods for your body, you will begin to notice a difference in many issues you might be having. Like tiredness and fatigue, hyperactivity, skin rashes and other problems will start to improve.
As you can see yoga isn’t just the movements and stretches, ta a lifestyle. And a damn good one if you ask me. It can seem difficult to fit all of the aspect of it into your everyday life. But start with a couple of hours a day. Change your diet, focus on setting aside some time each day for some of the practices and when you notice the changes in your body and mind it will become easier to make time for it. Asana and meditation has helped me so much with the mental and physical problems that I have had concerning my back pain and also my all over wellbeing. It has helped my back become stronger and more flexible. It has helped me to mentally deal with the pain in a much better way and it has made me so much more conscious of how I carry myself, my posture, my work positions and how I use my body in every day life to minimise pain and to be able to protect my muscles and joints better because I am being more mindful. Another effect of being more mindful is that I am being more present. As I have learned about my body and how to best treat and men it, I have also learned about my mind. I have become more peaceful and content and a whole lot happier. Yoga has helped me not only dealing with physical pain, but also with mental pain, depression and anxiety by raising my awareness, bringing me into the present moment and raising the energy flow in my body. Now I hope that this essay will inspire you to keep pushing yourself into the unknown and ripe the benefits of a healthy and happy boy and mind through the power of yoga .