Tag Archives: Yoga

Raising awareness of how yoga and Pilates can cause back injuries

This article has been at or near the top of the New York Times most emailed articles since it was published last week: How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body, adapted from a forthcoming book The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards, by William J. Broad:

The Science of YogaBlack has come to believe that “the vast majority of people” should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm. Not just students but celebrated teachers too, Black said, injure themselves in droves because most have underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable.

Instead of doing yoga, “they need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition,” he said, to strengthen weak parts of the body. “Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.”

Four years ago, I blogged about my back in a post titled Geezer report: how a trip to the Northfield Library ended my 20-year struggle with low back pain.  I found relief in a book titled Back RX : a fifteen-minute-a-day Yoga-and Pilates-based program to end low back pain forever, by Vijay Vad.  I still do the exercises three-times a week.

But even Dr. Vad has a warning about yoga and Pilates (excerpt from this web site):

Back RX : a fifteen-minute-a-day Yoga-and Pilates-based program to end low back pain forever, by Vijay VadThe paradox is that although yoga and Pilates are ultimately the best possible way to maximize back health, in the short run the vigorous twists, turns, and bends of advanced yoga and Pilates can actually cause back injuries.

It’s quite a catch-22: the very thing that can help you the most can very easily hurt you. Back Rx solves this problem with a carefully sequenced introduction of yoga- and Pilates-based movements and poses that will strengthen the back without traumatizing it.

I’ve heard horror stories from fellow Northfielders who’ve been injured at local yoga and Pilates classes.  I’m not interested in ‘outing’ any local instructors or classes so if you comment on this blog post, please refrain from using names.

Geezer report: how a trip to the Northfield Library ended my 20-year struggle with low back pain

I blogged about my high-tech hearing aids over a year ago. So it’s time for another report from the front lines of impending geezerhood, but this time, the topic is low back pain.

lo_bk_pain I had my first episode of low back pain in 1988. I was working late at night at a job in Eden Prairie when suddenly, I couldn’t stand up straight. I literally had to crawl to my car to drive home. I started standing at a desk back then and have been doing it every since. But I’d still have episodes where I’d pinch a nerve in my low back (sometimes doing nothing strenuous, other times, doing stupid stuff) and then hobble around for a week or two. I would always get immediate relief from a variety of chiropractors, and then I’d try umpteen different back/stomach exercises to prevent it from happening again but nothing ever worked longer than 3 or 4 months.  Until a year ago.

That’s when, after another pinched nerve episode, I found this book at the Northfield Public Library:


Back RX : a fifteen-minute-a-day Yoga-and Pilates-based program to end low back pain forever, by Vijay Vad. (See Dr. Vijay Vad’s web site for more about his books and DVDs, research, etc.)

Also see this NY Times video: Strengthening the Core – The science of back pain and how to prevent it: Dr. Vijay Vad of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City explains.

Dr. Vad prescribes a combination of muscle strengthening, stretching and endurance with one main difference that I’d not heard of ever before: an emphasis on the hips.

… The other was to conduct a research study into why low back pain is so prevalent among professional tennis players. The study I conducted found that the players most susceptible to low back pain had the least range of motion in the hips. In 2001 the PGA asked me to do a parallel study of professional golfers. This study produced the same results, showing a significant link between a restricted range of motion in the hips and the incidence of low back pain. This finding is important for the rest of us, whether we are fitter than average or committed couch potatoes, because of the sedentary nature of modern life and work. Sitting in chairs, which most of us do for long hours every day at work, school, and home, leads inexorably to a restricted range of motion in the hips. The Back Rx program accordingly features exercises specifically designed to counteract this tendency and increase the range of motion in the hips.

I started with the set of Series A exercises in Feb. 2007, 20 minutes, every other day. It took me 2 months to do those completely pain free. I was feeling so much better that I went back to both racquetball and motorcycle trials competition early last summer. No problemo. By fall, I was pain free doing Series B so I started with the most difficult set of Series C exercises. I was pain free doing those by December and was feeling so cocky that I decided to return to snowboarding after a 5-year layoff. Yeehaw! I wiped out dozens of times every time I went with no problems. (I dinged my shoulder but that’s another story.)

I’m still doing Series C every other day and expect that I’ll need to do that for the next 50-60 years so I can still keep doing the sports I love.

Moral of the story: support your local public library.

And if you want a copy of the book to own, support your local bookstore. I’m sure both Locally Grown regular contributors David Schlosser at River City Books or Jerry Bilek at Monkey See Monkey Read can get it for you.