If you suffer from back pain then it is easy to assume that the discomfort that you are experiencing is a result of strain or injury localised to the spine. However, the muscles, ligaments and joints of your body do not work in isolation. Instead, there is great interdependence between these components and a weakness in one part of your body can have a huge impact on another part of your body. The connection of the human body from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes is known as the kinetic chain.
Back pain can be caused by many things, such as lifting something that is too heavy, an awkward posture, physical trauma or poor fitness/physical inactivity. In our last article we looked at yoga poses which mobilise the spine and can, when performed regularly, alleviate back pain. However, back pain, especially lower back pain, can also be caused by tightness in the hips and the hamstrings and, so, alternative yoga postures are needed to address pain associated with these areas. This article will look at the hamstrings and their relationship to back pain.
Back pain is a common feature of modern living which is estimated to cost the NHS many millions each year treating this condition. For some, the problem is short term and may be resolved without requiring any medical treatment. However, many others experience chronic back pain which causes them significant pain and discomfort in their day to day activities.
Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog, is probably one of the most well known yoga postures throughout the world. Even if you have never taken a yoga class in your life then the chances are that you have still heard of this pose.
If you practice yoga regularly then by now you are probably very familiar with the instructions that accompany postures such as Downward Facing Dog (DFD). However, you may not be aware of the associated anatomical action which accompanies each alignment point. For example, when in Adho Mukha Svanasana you are asked to “turn the upper thighs inwards” because performing this action causes the femoral neck to press the pelvis back.
Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog, is a yoga posture which has many benefits to offer the yoga practitioner such as stretching out the hamstrings, back, shoulders and calves and generally strengthening the arms and legs. However, some people find that they are unable to reap the rewards associated with Downward Facing Dog (DFD) because they are unable to hold this posture with comfort due to the wrist pain that they experience whilst in the pose.
In Sanskrit, Bandha means to lock, to hold or to tighten. There are three main Bandhas in the body: Mula, Uddiyanna and Jalandhara (the combination of all three of these is referred to as Maha Bandha). Learning to use the Bandhas in your asana practice will really help you to create the energy that you need to hold a posture for longer with comfort, to push further into stretches and/or to advance into the more challenging postures such as Sirsasana (headstand).
Most people first book into a yoga class because they have heard that yoga is great for losing weight and toning up. Whilst it is true that the regular practice of the physical aspect of yoga is a great way to stay fit and healthy, the performance of the “asanas” is only a tiny component of yoga.
It may seem odd that the peaceful practice of yoga includes a posture known as “The Warrior” or “Virabhadrasana”(veer-ah-bah-DRAHS-anna). This is a yoga pose with which most yoga students are familiar. However, perhaps you are not familiar with the tragic love story behind this posture. The story is one of love, hate, rage, violence, sadness, wrath, compassion and forgiveness which begins with the marriage between Lord Shiva and his bride Sati.
I am publishing this blog deliberately on Sunday 5th January because I know that women and men everywhere will be sitting in front of the TV right now, eating the last of the Christmas cheese and crackers and savouring the taste of their last glass of wine because “the diet starts tomorrow”. Monday has always been the time to wipe the slate clean and begin the new diet thinking that “this one will be different, this time I will stick to it and finally be skinny”. However, the first Monday after New Year is when we don’t wipe the diet slate clean so much as pop a speed based slimming pill and use our bare hands to give it a good scrub with bleach.