According to 'Global Burden of Disease 2010', about 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point. It can come from many aspects of daily living and stems largely from bad posture, whether standing, seated or prolonged bed rest. Hatha Yoga can be a marvelous way to create a better posture, maintain a healthy spine and also rehabilitate. The later finds a perfect environment in warm water.
Lengthening the spine as hip hinge '
Lower back pain in particular can be mischievous as it renders many people incapable of showing up for work, and is the leading cause of disability. Common issues are sprains in ligaments, muscles and disks which hinder the complex weave in the ladder of the spine.
The amount of curve of the spine will tend to denote the overall health of the spine and it is designed to keep us upright with optimum strength and mobility as well as help the cartilage to absorb shocks as we walk and run. Bad posture can cause a squishing of the disks and this uneven character can result in nerve pain as the space between bone is lost. L5 and S1 seems to be the most prone to injury as they bear most weight.
The birds eye view we get from teaching yoga from the pool deck gives us great insight on foot position and body alignment generally. People may be in the water but 'Duck feet' are not a good idea (heel in, toes out), as this flattens the lower back and puts stress towards the back of the spine. Moving the hyoid bone back takes a whole new perspective from above.(think chin to base of skull)
Once the foot position is corrected, thigh bones are pressed back and tail bone is anchored, there is every chance of the water buoyancy and hydrostatic pressure cultivating an environment where the student feels more in control of remedial self-care and hope, for both correcting and avoiding future issues. In the water very often students have much more proprioception of what spinal curve feels like and how to lengthen the spine upwards.
One of the wonderful gifts of yoga alignment is that there is a bone towards muscle action and this is the antithesis to muscles spasms. In our every day lives, very often arms are not extended forwards or raised overhead but as part of a conscious practice, as long as there are no shoulder issues, this can be a wonderful place to begin to cultivate inner body length and bring curves back to the spine. The water pressure will gently squeeze the cardio/vascular system also as a bonus and help to lift depression.Thinking about an anchor on the tail bone can be an important visualization along with a long and light inner body.
Side bends,balancing and twists, as long as they come from inner body length can help bring nourishment to the spine. Addressing spinal issues like scoliosis have been written about in the yoga community for a while, but in the water away from the gravitational field,inflating the squished kidney is much easier to feel and correct in the water from what students have told me. Back bends may elude people on land but in the water is more accessible across very diverse populations. The water environment may be a place where for the first time in years, an open chest and heart can be experienced and really enjoyed in a semi supported back bend.
Studies are showing that exercise vs rest are very effective in dealing with lower back pain. Keep movements proximal then distal and for greater trunk stability, try water walking,swinging the arms forward and backward to strengthen the lattisimus Dorsi muscles in the back.
* Consider vertical exercise graduating from deep to shallow water depending upon levels of pain.
Aqua Yoga can improve and sustain good posture by lifting, literally away from pain, which improves our sense of well being.
In the Kriya Dharma
Camella pioneered and developed Aqua Kriya Yoga from the experience of her students over the course of 2 decades. She trains people in the discipline and can be reaches at email@example.com or visit www.aquakriyayoga,com