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Can Yoga Cause Back Pain?

By: Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones, Guest Blogger

Defining the Sacro-Illiac Joint

The Sacro-Iliac joint is an interesting area. Located on each side of the back of the pelvis, it is the union between the sacrum (lower spine triangular bone fused since puberty)) and the iliac bone of the pelvis. Unlike other joint areas, there is not much movement. It is considered a “gliding” joint, where ligaments holding it together can shift, although there are not regular joint actions such as flexion, extension, etc.

The shifting happens in a myriad of situations, such as childbirth. When the hormone relaxin is released, it allows tissue to relax as the fetus passes through the area. Men, do not despair! You produce relaxin in the prostate gland, and although its role is not fully understood it may aid in the mobility of sperm cells.

The Dangers of Over-stretching

Another scenario of ligament release happens in over-stretching. When one goes beyond his/her normal range of motion, ligaments stretch. However, they do not bounce back to original shape as muscles do (they are not as elastic). The role of any ligament at a joint is to hold the bones together, so if over-stretched, the joint will become unstable. Hence, the S/I ‘syndrome’ (I use this term loosely). It is a pain felt on one side of the back of the hip (sometimes both sides) as we sit too much (as at computers), or stretch too much (possibly in yoga). Over time this can become chronic, and the area will inflame. Inflammation is not difficult to treat: ice is best, with rest from what the cause is. Do we follow this suggested treatment? Not usually!

Yoga: Deeper Isn’t Better

I have found forward bends to be culprits, as in Uttansasana (Standing Forward Bend) or Pascimottanasana (Sitting Forward Bend), as we try to reach the nose to the legs (to prove how flexible we are?) This is not the true role of the pose, or yoga: in all forward bends, it is actually complimentary to go toward spinal extension to create space betweenUttanasana advanced studio-269-Modifier_30x30 cm_300 dpi the vertebrae. We create spinal flexion when we try to go toward the knees, which will compromise the SI joint and lumbar area. A nice variation is to bend the knees so the belly and thighs connect, and breathe deeply to massage organs. This brings the thighs to the belly, not the belly to the thighs. See the differences in the photos provided, also found in the Concise Book of Yoga Anatomy, due out September 1.

Uttanasana studio-267-Modifier_30x30 cm_300 dpiOverdone forward bending is one link to lower back problems appearing in yoga. Another is spinal twisting done from the lumbar spine (where rotation is only 5-10 degrees) instead of from the thoracic area where rotation happens more smoothly. In both postures, the damage occurs when we try to force ourselves more deeply into the posture.

And why use force? Soften the grip, and practice Ahimsa, the first of 8 limbs of yoga found in Putanjali’s Yoga Sutras: do no harm. Over time and with practice we will naturally go more deeply into the posture without injury.

Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones, author, professor, international movement educator from NJ & Colorado, will be teaching this and other Yoga Anatomy insights in the South of France July 10-17. Up to 100 hours of CE/training hours can be earned. She is also a key presenter at the YTOC retreat Aug. 21-22 in Loveland, Co., and is teaching a full 200hr Training scheduled for 8/23-12/13 (2 weekends per month) in Winter Park, Co; visit under teacher trainings.

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Joanne Thompson

Joanne Thompson

Founder/Owner at Yoga for Self

Health is a precious gift and my goal is to help you live a healthier, happier life through yoga. Every private session is uniquely designed just for you. For a free telephone consultation call me at 303.818.4181. Discover whether personalized, private yoga instruction is right for you.
Joanne Thompson

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