Yoga for Your Back and Much More
(Page 1 of 5)               © By Philip L. Milgrom, RYT, CYT

The main focus of this article is the benefits of Yoga, and primarily those benefits for your back. However, such a limited approach would be a great disservice to you, and disrespect to the great teachers who have handed down to us this wonderful and sacred discipline from over two thousand years ago. The value of Yoga is much, much greater than what it can do for your back, just as your true value is much greater than that of your back, or of any other part, for that matter! Nevertheless, I will start with your back. That is a good place to start, for your back is your primary support, and without a healthy back, your journey — whether it be to your office, a vacation spot, or your spiritual awakening — will be much more difficult and troublesome.

First, if you are someone whose back goes out more often than you do, do not despair! You are not alone: 80% of us will have a back problem sometime in our lives. Next to the common cold, back pain is the most common malady in the United States. In fact, low back pain is the leading cause of restricted movement and disability between the ages of 19 and 45.

Many people who suffer from severe back pain believe that their only resort is surgery. This is tragic, because the amount of pain one suffers has little to do with the efficacy of surgery. Despite extensive medical literature on unsuccessful surgery and evidence that repeat procedures rarely improve outcomes, there are numerous examples of patients who have had as many as 20 spine operations. What's more, surgery for back pain is twice as frequent in the United States as in most developed countries, and five times as frequent as in Great Britain.1

What alternative do we have other than surgery? I have had an interest in that question for many years. During high school, I was already experiencing stabbing pain in my thoracic spine, caused by lifting weights improperly during training for football. I watched both of my parents suffer from agonizing back problems, including slipped and ruptured disks; and yes, both parents ended up on the operating table several times. So, it is no surprise that I sought ways to avoid the same fate for myself. A few months after graduating from college in 1969, I was introduced to Yoga: it was love at first stretch. With consistent practice, my back pain was soon forgotten.

My rewards from the practice of Yoga inspired me to share it with others, so I started teaching Yoga in 1974. However, in spite of the success I experienced with Yoga for my own back and the many years of teaching since then, I did not have 100% confidence teaching students with back problems until 1997. That is when I was introduced to the Svaroopa™ style of Yoga and its originator, Rama Berch. Since then, with hundreds of hours of intensive training under Berch's tutelage, and several years of teaching Svaroopa™ yoga classes, I am now firmly convinced and confident in the power of Yoga for healing even the most difficult back problems. I have seen many wonderful results. For example, many who had all but given up on their backs, as well as on themselves, have come to experience a new lease on life as a result of Yoga.

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1Dr. Richard Deyo, professor in the departments of medicine and health services at the University of Washington, and a world renowned expert on low-back problems, told me that the best rate would be somewhere in the middle, where Canada and most of Western Europe are. Some of these statistics were discussed in his article, "Low-Back Pain," which appeared in the August, 1998 issue of the Scientific American.

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