During our stay at Kaivalyadhama Yoga Hospital, the facility’s resident physican, Dr. Bhalekar, gave an hour lecture on Yoga and the treatment of back pain due to spondylosis. He did a great job of explaining things and provided a basic program of therapy. Here’s a recap.
Essentially, spondylosis is a general term for the degenerative changes of the spine that tend to come with aging. The disks between the vertebrae, which usually act like spongy jelly-filled donuts to cushion the bones, get dehydrated, squished, and narrowed. Sometimes they pop out in places along their circumference. When they do, the disks can compress nerves and even the spinal column itself. Bone spurs form. The spurs can also narrow the spinal canal and compress nerve roots. The facet joints, the spaces between the posterior connecting points of the vertebrae, narrow. The bones may then rub against each other causing arthritic pain.
Dr. Bhalekar recommends that anyone suffering from an acute episode of back pain lie down in makarasana for twenty minutes. In this asana, you simply lie on your stomach with your feet a little more than shoulder width apart and rest your head on your forearms for a pillow.
To do any more than that, he suggests waiting at least four weeks before starting a program of Yoga after any sudden injury or severe pain.
His program includes:
- Niralambasana – on your stomach on the floor with your chin cradled in your hands similar to sphinx pose
- Ardha Shalabhasana – the locust pose on your stomach with hands at your sides and then extend each leg upward for five seconds at a time
- Bhujangasana – the cobra pose on your stomach with the torso raised upwards and resting on your hands with elbows slightly bent for 30 seconds repeated three times.
- Marjarasana – the cat pose – on your hands and knees intermittently arching and rounding your back, then a variation with the extension of each leg straight out behind for a few seconds each
- Supta tadasana – flat on your back, reaching and stretching above your head with your hands and pointing your toes for a full length stretch of the body
- Pavanamuktasana – the wind releasing pose – on your back on the floor with your knees bent and brought up together to the chest holding them with the hands or even grasping opposite elbows if possible
- Pavanamuktasana variation in which you keep the back flat on the floor but roll the hips and bent knees to each side for a few seconds
- Konasana – standing with one hand on the hip and the opposite one stretched over the head, bending laterally as far to the hand held hip side as possible.
The avoidance of the back bend, chakrasana, and rajakapotanasana is recommended for anyone with a history of back pain due to spondylosis or disk injury. Sun salutations, more vigorous exercises done quickly, are also best avoided when there’s been a history of injury or trauma.
As with many different styles of Yoga, the asanas at Kaivalyadhama have their own names, and they cant always be matched to poses in other styles. For Yoga therapy patients with a history of spondylosis, Dr. Bhalekar provides a summary paper of these asanas with photographs of their demonstration. The papers may then be used as a reference for continued home practice.
For others, the publishing department may be contacted here to order asana charts and books with photographs. They also have a specific title related to back pain, Notes on Back Care