Is that enough elimination talk? I think yes, so we’ll call it quits (for now). There’s a lot more we could cover, but we’ll save it for another day. Thanks for hanging in there with me.
So, now we both know that lying on our left side can have some health benefits. The next time you’re feeling a bit full or have some digestive distress, give it a shot. As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback.
Should you put your foot over your head? Should you use no, 3 or 5 blankets in shoulderstand? Should you bend your knees in a forward fold. If you do not practice yoga, you may be wondering why in the hell we’d put our foot over our heads or we’d stand on our shoulders.
When we see limber, young white women on the cover of the yoga magazines in fancy poses and colorful tights and tops, we get the impression that this is yoga. It may be for them, but may not be for you. It’s always frustrating to hear that people do not try yoga because they are too stiff or have bad balance, as if touching your toes with straight legs is “yoga”. Perhaps you try the poses in class and wonder why you have such difficulty. You may become discouraged or force your body into painful poses or quit yoga all together.
Let’s talk about what is “normal” flexibility? There’s a term “range of motion”. It’s the measurement of the movement around a joint. It takes into consideration the ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones associated with the joint. A healthy joint should have good range of motion and move in all directions permitted to that joint For example, the range of motion of your elbow is about 50 degrees. Try this. Hold one arm straight ahead of you. Bend your elbow to bring your hand toward your head. It’s considered normal range of motion for your hand comes about as far as your ear (90 degrees would bring your hand to your shoulder). If you’re interested in the range for other joints, see the reference below.
Knowing what is normal is helpful in yoga because it gives you a gauge of where we should be heading. This depending a lot, of course, of whether there is an injury or other restrictions. If you have a “normal” range of motion, then you should be quite happy. But, I usually see students struggle mentally and physically because they don’t look like their yoga teacher or neighbor even though they are within a healthy range of motion for that particular joint.
Going beyond normal range of motion can have consequences. We are seeing labral tears in the hips of yoga students who are overdoing hip stretching (see link below). What about shoulderstand? The normal range of motion for the neck in flexion (chin toward chest) is 50 degrees. When doing shoulderstand without props, the neck is being pushed to 90 degrees of flexion leading to a flattened cervical spine. So, if it’s painful to do shoulderstand without props you are probably very normal (see Mary Richards and Lizzie Lasater’s video below).
Having a balanced body with good range of motion in all joints is important. Lifestyle, like sitting or having poor posture, can affect your range. Improving the movement of your joints will take some time as you stretch the tight areas. You will find some or a lot of discomfort as tight fascia, muscles and ligaments regain their more natural position and allow more movement in the joint. Patience, consistency, patience, good instructions and more patience is required. If you’re curious about your own range of motion you can assess yourself or contact a physical or yoga therapist. I refer to Mukunda Stiles book, Structural Yoga Therapy. http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/199515.Structural_Yoga_Therapy
It’s understandable to push ourselves to achieve a shape, even though it’s not optimal for the health of the body. I’ve done it and I do it. But, I challenge my body with respect and knowledge, rather than aggressively pushing and forcing. There’s a difference. Hopefully this has given you a starting point to begin to think about what is normal for you.
According to the previous guidelines, the first line of therapy was medication. This may be obvious to you. Now, pills, even the over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, should not be first choice, according to the February 14 reporting in the New York Times, Lower Back Ache? Be Active and Wait It Out, New Guidelines Say and an accompanying opinion on February 17. The new recommendation is to look for nonpharmacological therapies first. Whaa? No prescription pad, no trip to CVS, no side-effects, no out-of-pocket expense? What could it be that is as effective as the almighty, chalky white, round pill? Okay, you’re way ahead of me. Yes, yoga. But more, like exercise, acupuncture and massage therapy. Did they mention yoga? Yes, they did.
From the NYT:
“Doctors should reassure their patients that they will get better no matter what treatment they try, the group said. The guidelines also said that injections were not helpful, and neither was acetaminophen, like Tylenol, although other over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen could provide some relief.”
Patient without acute back pain, that which lasts 4 weeks or less and doesn’t radiate down the leg, do not need to see the doctor. They’re making an analogy to the common cold: “it can be annoying when it happens, but most of the time it will not result in anything major or serious”.
The placebo effect even works wonders, even when the patients knew they were taking a placebo. Studies have shown that patients with chronic low back pain reported less pain and disability on a placebo than those in the control group.
The article explains that some people with chronic back pain tend to shut down and avoid their usual activities. This is the opposite of what needs to be done. People need to return to their normal activities. The article quotes a doctor stating, “I know your back hurts, but go run, be active, instead of taking a pill.”
Before you start cheering and thinking there was a least one speck of good news this week, it’s not all so rosy. Patient want the quick fix. There are incentives for doctors to push the pills, scans and injections. Medical insurance does not pay for the remedies, like massage, tai chi, yoga, mindfulness training or chiropractic manipulation. Doctors don’t often have a referral system for therapies outside the allopathic medical system.
Here is what I recommend if you’ve got non-chronic back pain. Stop doing what’s causing the pain. Much back pain is from our lifestyle, like sitting, doing stupid things or periodic tasks like weed pulling or a weekend pick-up basketball game. After resting the area for 24 hours or so, start some gentle movement, but staying out of pain. As time goes on, you’ll be able to move a bit more. You can add massage, acupressure or acupuncture, or other modalities you’re comfortable with. Of course, there are reasons to see a doctor and to seek emergency medical care. I’ve added a list in the Notes below.
If you’re interested in how yoga can help with low back pain, I have lots of information, so please feel free to ask me.