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back pain

Pregnancy

Prenatal Yoga: Is It Safe Late In Pregnancy?

Many pregnant women often ask me about the different ways they can keep active during the later stages of their pregnancy.  It is quite common for their regular exercise routines – running, cross-fit training or resistance training – to become increasingly painful and uncomfortable in their the 3rd trimester.

Never fear mama…Yoga is here!

 

Yoga is a great way to keep active during all stages of pregnancy, but especially in the later stages of pregnancy.  While previous exercise routines focused on strength building and high impact cardio exercise like running, yoga focuses on stretching, relaxation and breathing which can help through the last stages of pregnancy and prepare the body for labour and childbirth.

However, there are a few precautions you should take when you are pregnant – even in a yoga class!

Remember every pregnant woman’s favourite hormone – relaxin?  Relaxin is the hormone released to help “relax” and open the pelvis, giving your baby the space it needs to descend into the pelvic inlet and pass through the birth canal.  What you may not know is that relaxin also affects other joints in your body, and can create hyper mobility (or looseness around joints that should be stable).   You may notice that getting into certain postures or poses may be easier than before pregnancy and that your flexibility has increased. These effects however can result in injury due to the instability or looseness of your joints.  Pushing yourself too far can cause you to damage a joint or over-stretch a ligament or muscle.  You may not even feel the result of this damage until well after baby is born and after the relaxin has left your body.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind during your next prenatal yoga class:

  • Tell the instructor how far along you are in your pregnancy and if you have been experiencing any joint or muscle pain or discomfort.
  • Avoid any poses that put your head below your waist this includes downward dog in the later stages of pregnancy (try the posture against a wall instead of on the floor).  It’s a good alternative and gives you the openness in your chest and shoulders that this pose encourages.
  • Focus on standing poses with both feet planted at a hip width distance apart for stability.
  • Take advantage of savasana (or dead body pose) in side-lying position as an opportunity to connect with yourself and your baby.
  • Avoid the straight arm plank.  The plank position puts too much pressure on the connective tissue that keeps your abdominal muscles together (particularly if you have Diastasis Recti – abdominal separation).  Try side planks instead!

And most importantly, enjoy a few moments of relaxation and practice your breathing!  Only a few short months left!

Om, Mama.

Read my Q&A expert column and get amazing mama and baby advice & resources at BabyPost.com.

For more information on prenatal yoga, visit torontoyogamamas.com 

(Original post at babypost.com)

Health + Wellness

Spine Strengthening Series: Locust Pose – Salabhasana

Full expression of this posture may mimic a locust at rest, however there really isn’t anything “restful” about this pose.  For yogis, this pose encourages mental focus and determination as well as upper and lower back strength and core stability.  It also helps to stretch and induce blood flow to the elbow joint, which is often repetitively strained (e.g tennis elbow, golfers elbow, carpal tunnel, tendonitis).

The pose has many of the same benefits as Cobra Pose, but is even better for relieving disc related back pain and sciatica.

Essentially a back bend, Locust Pose can serve as a blueprint for finding good alignment in other back bends such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Locust Pose strengthens the back and abdominal muscles and cultivates the mindfulness needed for a balanced back bend.

However, if you focus your attention on how high you go, you may feel strain in your lower back. Instead, you want to distribute your weight throughout your upper and middle back. Although the back muscles contract, you also want to lengthen the spine so that you feel as though you are simultaneously reaching backward through the legs.

Locust Pose – Do’s and Don’ts

The Do’s

  • Place your elbows against your abdomen, making sure they are straight (bending the elbows will only cause more strain and thus more pain)
  • Spread your fingers (only posture in the series where fingers are spread apart) so that they are pointed toward your knees
  • Keep your leg muscles contracted; “the tighter you are the lighter you are”
  • Make sure your hips square and always touching with your arms while lifting legs up
  • Try to shift your body weight to the top of your body (chest and shoulders)

The Don’ts

  • When lifting both legs, avoid separating the legs; keep them glued together
  • Forget to breathe – breathe normally in and out through your nose!

 

This pose can do no wrong! Another fabulous (back-friendly) asana that offers a great way to strengthen and stabilize the spine as well as increase flexibility of the elbow and wrist!

FEEL GOOD, BE GREAT!

Blog-4_Locust-Pose-Pic-300x221

 

Health + Wellness

The Science behind Cobra Pose: Why it helps back pain

A Case of Radiating Lower Back Pain

Back in March 2012, I first experienced lower back pain with tingling and aching in the back of my left leg and I had no clue what caused it. This sensation literally came out of no where. After many doctor’s visits and tests, it was determined that the lower back strain I experienced in November 2011 caused some nerve inflammation in my leg. My chiropractor, Dr. Aliya, suggested I couple my chiropractic treatments with weekly yoga classes.  Although hesitant at first, I started to notice that specific Yoga poses, in particular back bending and cobra pose always gave me some relief.

You may have experienced something similar to this patient if you have ever suffered from back pain, sciatica or nerve-related pain. Back bending (or extension) exercises have been found to provide relief to patients by helping ‘centralize’ or move pain away from one’s arms and legs towards the back, where it is usually better tolerated. The reasoning behind this mechanism of relief comes from a technique called the McKenzie Method or McKenzie Technique.

What is The McKenzie Method?

In the 1950s, physical therapist Robin McKenzie developed a system of assessment and treatment protocols based on observing how patient’s sitting, standing or moving positions or activities affected their pain.

McKenzie found that extension exercises helped centralize patient pain, moving it away from the extremities and towards the back. He theorized that centralizing the pain allows the source of the pain to be treated rather than the symptoms.

The McKenzie Method is a therapeutic approach that moves a patient through a series of activities and test movements to gauge the pain response.  The therapist then uses this information to develop an exercise protocol designed to ‘centralize’ the patient’s pain.

Think of it as bringing the pain back to the pain source.

Pain Centralization with Yoga

One of the centralization exercises for back pain utilized by the McKenzie method is the ‘Prone Press Up’.  Yogis call this ‘Cobra Pose’.  This pose provides relief from disc-related pain by alleviating compression of the disc on the nerve root (see last week’s post).

Named after the king cobra, said to have the strongest spine in the world, Cobra Pose is meant to resemble a snake before it strikes.  As mentioned, this pose is fantastic for your spinal health – but make sure you perform it correctly!

DOs and DON’Ts

The DOsPreview Changes

  • Squeeze your glutes tight and push your hips down into mat
  •  Use your eyes to start the movement – “where your eyes go, your body will follow”
  • Keep your heels together and lock your knees in order to lift them up from the floor

The DON’Ts

  • Avoid using all (100%) of your hand/arm strength; most of the strength comes from lower back muscles (remember it’s not a Push Up); Bikram recommends you use up to 15% of your hand/arm strength
  • Shrug your shoulders up to your ears; remember to drop your shoulders down
cobra pose

Cobra Pose performed by Bikram Choudhry (www.bikramyoga.com)

 

I continue to be amazed of the benefits of this Yoga and how it helps my patients get better and stay healthy.

Until next week…FEEL GOOD, BE GREAT!