How do you create good back health?
One of my private yoga students told me the other day that his back issues didn’t really change until he began yoga and massage. “I tried cortisone shots, and even had some nerves cauterized, but nothing really worked until I did yoga and massage regularly.”

Regular practice.
There are several aspects to keeping your body – and your back – in good health. The most important one is a practice that you will do regularly. That means regularly day after day (or at least week after week), year after year. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, or difficult. More important to be steady and regular – a habit that your body remembers for you – like brushing your teeth! For me, this has been my yoga practice. I always include core-strengthening in warmups, and of course core-strength happens in most of the standing poses naturally. When your core is strong, your movement comes from a place of strength and balance. (By the way – core strength refers to all the muscles on the torso, not just abs!)

Good alignment
may be next in importance. I’ve kept a strong interest in this to keep my own spine in good order over the years, and also because I observe and help people experiment with their own alignment all the time in my teaching. Some of this is simple body mechanics like bending your knees. This way you lift your weight with your legs and not your back. That good habit makes a huge difference in how you use your back muscles. And that makes a difference in how your back ends up feeling.

Then there’s posture
– day in, day out. How are you sitting right now? Where are your head and shoulders, where are your hips? In yoga, the basic standing pose is the Mountain (Tadasana). We carry all the instructions from Mountain pose into good sitting as well. Align your head over your shoulders over your hips (and over knees and then ankles if standing). It helps to look in a mirror, or have someone look at you from the side. You’re supporting the natural curves of the spine, and adding to your own core strength as you do this. Or subtracting from your natural core strength if you’re slumping.

Stress & Emotions
Other important connections to your back are how you deal with stress and challenging emotions. This may not be an aspect you’ve thought of as a direct connection, but how we hold tension in our bodies makes a huge difference. Learning to breathe in difficult situations or through those times when our emotional buttons get pushed is big. Knowing techniques to release stress through breathing, stretching, relaxation, and meditation can be life- and back-saving!

Yoga is one of the best systems I’ve experienced to keep strong and healthy because it includes so much that’s beneficial – physically, mentally, energetically, emotionally, and spiritually. You can find a form to practice at any age, at any time, in any condition. It is a vast body of knowledge that has worked beneficially for centuries. If your back is calling out to you for help – I encourage you to try it – or come back to it. Start with a gentle practice, learn the basics, and practice frequently. Your back will thank you!

Pam Jackson inspires you to move and breathe with yoga that’s the perfect fit for you right now so you can live life fully. She’s been teaching for over 25 years and uses yoga daily to stay strong & flexible as she moves into her sixties.