Yoga is often thought of as a restorative practice, since many poses are gentle and focus on stretching and flexibility. And plenty of people, including some athletes, even use it to help them recover from an injury, as the slower pace of yoga helps them ease back into movement. However, on the flip side, yoga also has the potential to cause injuries or worsen them, especially if you already have back problems.
"If you have impingement issues or any kind of structural imbalance, you'll want to let your instructor know ahead of time," says Angel DeSantis, instructor at CorePower Yoga in Austin, TX. While people with back pain can certainly practice yoga, there are several yoga poses they ought to avoid or modify to make them safer. Here are six to watch out for.
This article was originally published by our partners at Prevention.
This pose is supposed to make you feel a stretch in the abdominals, but it, and any type of backbend, can also stretch out the lower back. Skip it if you have low back pain or a disk issue, says DeSantis.
If you have a hard time transferring weight or you have an issue with bulging disks in your lower back, stay away from any type of twist. "Twists can put too much pressure on the disks," says celebrity yoga instructor Kristin McGee. "People tend to over-muscle themselves into it instead of using their abdominals to lead the movement, which can result in serious injury."
You shouldn't be asked to do this in a beginner or even intermediate class, as it requires a lot of strength and flexibility. (Here are 6 times you should ignore yoga instructions.) But even experienced yogis should steer clear if they have back issues. "You risk putting pressure on the back and spine," says McGee. "Stick with half wheel or half bridge instead, which keeps the spine neutral for the most part."
It makes you tilt your lower lumbar spine in a way that can exacerbate back pain. You might be able to perform a variation, like tucking your pelvis instead of sticking your backside out, says DeSantis.
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Designed to relieve pressure and stretch the calves and hamstrings, this pose causes you to round your spine as you tilt the vertebrae toward one another. "That might pinch nerves and cause greater pain for anyone with disk problems," says McGee. Pass. If you do pinch a nerve, try these solutions for sciatic nerve pain.
This pose can put a dangerous amount of pressure on your back and neck if you don't perform it correctly. "Many newbies and lots of yogis who have tight shoulders end up on their cervical spine instead of the back of their skull," says McGee. "Plus, if you have weak abs and slouch in the pose, you risk compressing the lower back."
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