Yoga as a treatment for back pain | Lifestyles
Here is a personal example of how yoga transformed my daily life from living in excruciating pain to a manageable existence.
While I was a student in India, a yoga master trained me for five years. However, when I came to the United States to pursue my higher education, I was sporadic in my yoga practice. Almost 40 years ago, while I was renovating the attic, an incident occurred. It opened my eyes to the art of yoga.
I was in excellent health. While fixing the attic, I carried 32 sheets of drywall up to the third floor via two narrow staircases. As a daredevil, I figured I didn’t need anyone’s help to carry those sheets up to the attic.
In July, the temperature in the attic was 105 degrees. As I individually struggled to twist each leaf through these narrow passages, I also twisted my lower back. After wearing 31 sheets, I was totally exhausted. Although my body was complaining, my mind was telling me to wear the last one to finish the job. As I was not listening to my body, when I was in the middle of the second staircase I heard a crackling. It sent excruciating pangs of pain down my back. I felt my body above the hips was collapsing.
A bloodcurdling scream of pain erupted from my body. My wife came to my rescue. She lifted the plasterboard and laid it flat. The pain was so intense that I felt like I was going to pass out. My wife brought me a glass of water. I took a few sips to stay conscious.
As I lay there, I thought about the yoga exercises taught by my teacher ten years ago. I remember him saying that lower back pain was due to bad posture or bad lifting habits. The sound of his voice echoed in my ears. He said: “To regularize the situation, maintain your lumbar lordosis, the curve formed by the hips and the rib cage!
There I was, flat on the ground in great pain. I needed to do something to relieve this discomfort. I tried to gently press my hips and shoulders to form the arch of lumbar lordosis. Although it was horribly painful, it eased the pressure on my back. I held this arch for a count of ten, then released the tension by gently pushing my lower back against the carpeted floor. Immediately I felt relief from the tenderness caused by the twisting and turning of the tendons in my lower back. I repeated this exercise five more times. To my surprise, I could stand up without pain.
The next day I saw a doctor. He took X-rays and found that one of these five vertebrae that make up the lumbar region of my spine had cracked during my childhood. Since no one treated it then, it repaired itself. However, he was not aligned. Every time I lifted something, the stress on those vertebrae could cause the excruciating pain I had suffered the night before. Since my heaving of slabs of rock had made him tender, he would act throughout my life. It meant I had to live with chronic back pain.
The doctor prescribed ibuprofen as a pain reliever. I have also tried alternative chiropractic, acupuncture and acupressure therapies. After trying these treatments for a few months, I was disappointed. Then I started doing the yoga exercises for lumbar lordosis as directed by my yoga teacher. These exercises went directly to the sore spot where the disease lay. I have been practicing these yoga exercises for 40 years. They have made my lower back so functional that I continue to play tennis with players of different ages. Doing yoga exercises regularly has done wonders for me to lead a healthy and productive life!
Warning: The exercise below is only a suggestion. If you try it regularly, it might ease the tension!
Stand on your back. Let your arms rest next to your body. Inhale and exhale. Observe the flow of your breath. He should feel good. Now become aware of your hips and shoulder blades. Press them against the floor while lifting your lower back. Maintain the lumbar lordotic curve of the lower back. Stay in this position for a count of ten and then relax. Inhale and exhale. Observe the flow of your breath. He should feel good. Repeat this exercise five times. Then relax your lower back. Inhale and exhale. Observe the flow of your breath. He should feel good. For best results, do this exercise on an empty stomach!
Dr. Ashok Kumar Malhotra has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus and founder of the Yoga and Meditation Society at SUNY Oneonta. His videos are available on YouTube. Malhotra’s columns are condensed from his eBooks available at https://www.amazon.com/author/malhotra. He donates all royalties to the Ninash Foundation (www.ninash.org), a charity that builds schools for disadvantaged girls and minority children in India.