Many styles of yoga that you are likely to encounter in Western culture focus heavily on postures and sequences that are performed during a moving, or asana, ‘Yang’ yoga practice. Even though the asanas practiced in Yang Yoga will help you develop muscular strength, flexibility, and stamina, finding stillness with ‘Yin’ yoga poses is just as important for your lower back and overall health. Using Yin Yoga for lower back pain will start to loosen the connective tissue around your hips and spine allowing for even more relief from the pain.
What is Yin Yoga?
The world is full of opposing forces – good and bad, up and down, hard and soft – and the practice of yoga is no different. High-intensity asana practices like Vinyasa Yoga incorporate different postures into a sequence of poses that are practiced with the intention of building strength and flexibility in your body. This moving and strengthening is the ‘Yang’ side of your yoga practice.
Yoga routines that utilize Yang Yoga poses are necessary if you are looking for long-term relief from lower back pain but don’t really allow you to dig down into the connective tissue beneath your muscles.
Yin Yoga poses are the complete opposite of Yang Yoga poses in that they require you to be still and hold certain postures for an extended period of time, around 2 – 5 minutes per pose, while releasing any tension in your muscles and joints. Allowing your muscles to completely relax while in Yin poses opens up space for the connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, and fascia) that connects everything together to loosen up as well.
Because Yin Yoga poses are held for such a long period of time, it gives the harder, much less flexible connective tissue underneath your muscles and joints the time needed in order to loosen and heal.
Using Yin Yoga for Lower Back Pain
When you practice Yin Yoga poses that target your lower back and hips you will start to notice that the longer you hold the pose the more pressure you might feel in your lower back. If you suffer from chronic low back pain due to conditions like sciatica then the pressure that you feel while in Yin poses might actually override the pain that is already there and cause you even more discomfort as the connective tissue is activated.
It is important to listen to how your body feels and avoid moving into Yin Yoga poses too fast but the discomfort that you might feel is normal when practicing Yin poses.
Since the connective tissue beneath your muscles and joints rarely, if ever, gets stretched, you will most likely feel some resistance when attempting Yin poses until you advance further in your practice. As long as the resistance is in areas that are meant to be stretched, such as your lower back and hips, the further you are able to go to your edge in a pose will slowly increase your mobility and heal damaged areas overtime.
Also, because Yin Yoga poses are meant to be performed while completely still and all of your muscles are relaxed, stress sensors in the connective tissue of your lower back are able to help reduce inflammation that may be causing your lower back pain. As you slow down your breathing and focus on opening up space deep in the connective tissue, the chronic conditions that are causing your lower back pain will begin to fade away.
Keeping Your Practice Balanced
Maintaining a healthy balance of both Yin and Yang yoga poses throughout your practice is the best way to be sure that you are getting the most out of each routine.
Yang Yoga poses are necessary in order to build the strength, flexibility, and balance needed in order to be able to even attempt most Yin Yoga poses without feeling extreme discomfort in the areas you are stretching. However, only practicing Yang poses is only doing about half as much as you could be for your lower back pain.
Adding a Yin Yoga routine, or even just a few minutes of Yin poses, to your regular practice is going to drastically improve how your body feels. By keeping this balance of opposing Yin and Yang forces during your yoga practice you will not only increase the health benefits from your practice, but will also help rehabilitate chronic aches and pains in your lower back much faster.
Whichever type of yoga you decide to practice, consistently coming back to your mat week after week is the only way that you are going to find long-term relief from your lower back pain. As long as you stick with it, Yin Yoga, along with all other types of yoga therapy, are there to help relieve your pain – you just have to keep showing up.
How can you use Yin Yoga to relieve your lower back pain?
Stick With It!