Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Yoga Can Ease Back Pain

If you are practicing yoga, you may not know what you are missing in terms of back pain, stress and anxiety. However thousands of Americans suffer from back pain every day. If you happen to know one of them, consider passing along a bit of new information that might help them: A new back pain study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health showed better results with yoga than conventional therapeutic exercise or information alone."The study suggests that for people who are looking to do something for themselves, you could clearly say that yoga is the best," says Karen Sherman, an epidemiologist and researcher with Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, and the lead author of the study.The study compared 101 adults with chronic lower back pain. One group tried conventional therapeutic exercise taught by a physical therapist. Another took weekly classes in viniyoga, a yoga style focusing on safety and therapeutic benefits. The third group studied a popular back pain book, “The Back Pain Helpbook.”At the end of the 12 week study, the yoga group showed far more increased function than the other two groups in tasks like walking up stairs without pain or bending over to tie their shoelaces. The yoga group and needed less pain medications as well. Your yoga practice could be saving you trips to the doctor and the pharmacy even now.Viniyoga is an ancient Sanskrit term that implies differentiation, adaptation, and appropriate application. This highly personalized style adapts the various means and methods of practice to the unique condition, needs and interests of the individual, according to the American Viniyoga Institute. This approach evolved out of the teachings transmitted by T. Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar of Madras, India, and incorporate many dimensions of teaching and practice, including asana, pranayama, bandha, sound, chanting, meditation, personal ritual and textual study.Breathing was mentioned as an important aspect of yoga by the study’s lead author. Since yoga breathing practices make people conscious of their body’s movement, it can also make them aware of unnatural movement patters which can contribute to their back problems. Be sure not to overlook this aspect of your yoga practice.The study also highlights the importance of a good yoga instructor and a studio environment for best results. So if you’ve been using mainly DVDs and booklets, now might be the time to consider joining a studio. The group reading the Back Pain Helpbook actually increased their medication usage.Kate Lorig, one of the co-authors of "The Back Pain Helpbook" and the director of the Stanford Patient Education Research Center, underscored the need for proper instruction rather relying on written directions."We have long known that in most cases giving people information alone is not enough to change either health behaviors or health status," she says. "I would never expect a book alone to make much difference."

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