~ awake in this moment, at home in the world ~

A Healthy Back

March 15, 2012
Sooner or later, even the healthiest among us are likely to face back pain that ranges from mild discomfort to incapacitating agony. And while modern medicine offers a host of valuable tools for healing achy backs, ancient disciplines like yoga offer strategies that have the power to both heal back injuries and - better yet - sometimes prevent them.

A wealth of resources abound for those who are interested in learning more about maintaining spinal health. Some of my favorites follow.

Back Care Basics by Mary Pullig Schatz, MD, is a great first stop for anyone interested in learning more about various back ailments, as well as gentle yoga postures that can be used to help heal them.

Ageless Spine, Lasting Health by Kathleen Porter is another great place to start for anyone interested in learning how to live in a way that supports and strengthens a healthy spine. Beautiful photographs of well-aligned bodies (most of them NOT in the United States!) offer additional insight and inspiration.

Jean Couch, founder of The Balance Center and author of The Runner's Yoga Book, offers a wealth of information about healing your back at her website. Watch the videos she highlights there, and make sure to read this enligthening article, which she wrote in 1998 for Yoga International magazine.

New Rules of Posture: How to Sit, Stand and Move by Mary Bond is a great resource for those who want to cultivate a healthy spine in an organic, meaningful way. The book includes a wealth of information about the body's core, as well as many specific exercises to explore.

Esther Gohkale, a movement educator who healed her own back ailment through years of exploration and immersion into a variety of healing modalities, offers both a book, Eight Steps to a Pain Free Back, and a DVD, Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution, that offer clear and simple strategies for promoting back health. It includes step-by-step instructions on how to sit, stand, walk and lie in a healthy manner. I also recommend her Stretch-Sit Cushion, which I use to help my own car seat more healthfully support my spine.

Barbara Benagh, one of my favorite yoga teachers, offers a fabulous article that includes gentle solutions to ease neck pain.

Elise Browning Miller has used yoga to help manage her own scoliosis, and offers a booklet and a DVD that specifically relate that condition. These are great resources for anyone whose back pain stems from a curvature of the spine.

Loren Fishman, author or the forthcoming Yoga For Back Pain, shares a wealth of information at Sciatica.org.  It offers lots of specific information about sciatica, piriformis syndrome and osteoporosis.

And while this article by Judith Lasater is focused on meditation, the principles and techniques she offer can be helpful to anyone hoping to sit in a happier, healthier way.