So many myths surround Yoga and back pain that Hatha Yoga teachers should inform the public as to what they should realistically expect from a regular practice. Chronic back pain is a very real ailment, while some health professionals hold to the belief that many cases are psychosomatic.
There is room for debate here; as many of us know the possibility of psychosomatic pain does exist. One theory is that psychosomatic back pain is a result of repressed emotions. A medical professional may feel the combination of a patient’s personality type, and the lack of physical evidence in an MRI or X-ray, makes this person prone to have psychosomatic back pain.
On the other hand, fibromyalgia was misdiagnosed in the past, and many patients were sent home, after being told their pain was “all in their heads.” The wide variety of potential problems with the spine, and the fact that the spinal structure is so complex, make it possible for an expert to miss a visible cause of back pain.
It has been said that four out of five Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. The reasons are numerous. We have become a “chair sitting” society. At the same time, there are degenerative disc diseases, arthritis, muscular problems, spinal nerve disorders, and herniated discs to be considered.
Hatha Yoga cannot solve every problem, but asana practice can assure a student that muscular balance will be restored. Some medical experts are of the opinion that muscle imbalances are the source of most forms of “real” back pain and sciatica. In the case of a muscle imbalance, the stronger muscles will pull in one direction, while the weaker muscles on the opposite side, “give way.”
This structural imbalance of the spine, as a result of uneven pressure from opposing muscle groups, causes the bones and joints to become misaligned. To elaborate on this a little further – the spine is at the very center of the physical stress between opposing muscle groups, which cause this structural imbalance.
Hatha Yoga offers more to students than asana practice. For instance, pranayama (Yogic breathing) offers a method for establishing a mind/body connection. Some new practitioners do not see the long term value of pranayama. For example: Pranayama, alone, will calm the mind and make a person feel refreshed.
For those, who have difficulty in understanding this concept, my suggestion would be to try a supervised pranayama practice, with a competent Yoga teacher, guru, or swami. Within one hour, anyone who is new to the practice of pranayama should become a believer.
In addition to pranayama and asana, we also have meditation. Once again, my suggestion would be to seek out a competent Yoga teacher for guidance in meditation.
All of the above benefits and techniques should be found within a single class. It may require some searching on the part of the person who is experiencing back pain. Yet, the time spent searching for a competent source of information, is small in comparison to the chronic physical back pain one is experiencing.
© Copyright 2010 – Paul Jerard / Aura Publications