“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured, and endure what cannot be cured,” said B.K.S Iyengar, the founder of Iyengar, a type of yoga that focuses on the alignment of posture and breath control. B.K.S. Iyengar started practicing yoga at an early age to improve his poor health. He began to feel better through his practice and got well enough to begin teaching his asanas to others. When he got into a scooter accident in 1979 and dislocated his spine, he began using props such as blocks and blankets, and even incorporated them into his teachings (Andrew Buncomb, The Independent). Let’s explore how we can follow Iyengar’s lead and help end back pain once and for all.
Scoliosis is a condition in which the spine curves to the side. You might be surprised to learn that it affects 6 million people in the U.S. every year. Those with a spine curvature of less than 45 degrees often require the daily use of a back brace. Individuals with severe scoliosis, or a spine curvature of more than 45 degrees, may have to resort to more invasive options such as surgery (Honor, Whiteman; Medical News Today). Before resorting to more invasive options, we should ask ourselves: Is there anything natural we can try first to relieve the pain? Can we prevent back issues from forming in the first place?
Eat To Beat Back Pain
Milk Does a Body Good
Your bones start losing mass in your twenties, which can weaken the vertebrae in your spine. Excessive weakness and brittleness is known as osteoporosis. To prevent osteoporosis and future back issues, try calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, orange juice, whole grains and dark leafy green vegetables (Scott D. Boden, MD, Spine-Health). Remember: Be mindful that dairy may worsen inflammation in those with lactose intolerance. If lactose causes you discomfort, opt for a dairy substitute, calcium supplement, or get your dose of calcium in non-dairy foods.
How is it that we can throw back a few glasses of wine so easily but it is so hard to drinks 8 glasses of water a day? Some people genuinely like the taste of water, but if you are like me – you find the taste of water a bit boring. To increase the likeliness that you will get in your daily H2O intake, infuse your water with fruit, vegetables and herbs. My favorite two combinations are lemon and cucumber and strawberry and basil.
Simply fill a filtered pitcher with water, ice, and infusing ingredients the night before and voila! – you have delicious tasting water when you wake up the next morning. You can buy a Britta at Bed, Bath and Beyond for $34.99 or try my money-saving tip: Visit your local dollar store. I recently purchased a filtered pitcher for $2.99! Be creative with your water infusions and let us know what combinations you come up with!
Want Your Scoliosis To Improve? Try This Move
A new study by Dr. Loren Fishman of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, NY, claims that performing the Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana) can reduce the spine curvature in patients in as little as 3 months. It is recommended that patients perform a side plank on the the side of the spine that is curved outward (Honor, Whiteman; Medical News Today). If you suffer from back pain, try this pose regularly, and let us know if you experience relief similar to the patients who participated in this study. Warning: for more severe cases of back problems, please consult with your doctor before attempting this pose.
Side Plank Made Simple
Many people dread side plank pose. I have no statistics on this other than the number of groans I hear when our instructor asks us to complete this pose. When I first started yoga, I dreaded this pose as well. However, by strengthening our arms, legs, shoulders and abdominal muscles through a regular yoga practice, we can master this pose and even take it into more difficult variations. I’ll show you how in 5 easy steps.
Step 1: Start in plank, or push-up position. Your shoulders should be over your wrists and your hands and feet should be hip-distance apart. The majority of the pressure should be on your finger pads to take the pressure off of your wrists. Your shoulder blades will hug into the back of the spine to support your back, and your arms will rotate so that your “elbow pits” are facing forward.
Step 2: Turn your body to one side. Keep your legs straight, while balancing on the outer edge of your bottom foot and your palm. Make sure to keep your glutes and abdominal muscles tight to lift up into this side stretch. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.
Step 3: Try a side plank with a tree pose variation. While in side plank pose, lift your top leg and place your foot on your bottom leg in a tree pose position. Make sure your bottom leg remains strong, and your abdominal muscles continue to lift you into your side stretch.
Step 4: For a harder variation, lift your top leg and reach for your big toe. Seem impossible? Try it, you might find that it is easier than you think. Keep practicing and you will eventually conquer this or a variation that works for your body type.
Step 5: For a simpler variation, try a forearm side plank. Start in a forearm plank and do a similar rotation as you did with side plank, so that you are tilted on your side. Balance on the outer edge of your bottom foot and your forearm, while tightening your glutes and abdominal muscles.
Remember: Be comfortable with where you are in this pose. As long as you achieve an adequate side stretch, you will receive the same benefits, no matter where you are in the pose.
Side Plank in a Stylish Tank
If you are going to put in the work to complete a challenging pose like side plank, you might as well look good while you are breathing through it. You may have noticed the yellow boxy crop style tank top with the NYC skyline image I am sporting in the picture above. This is my favorite new workout top, courtesy of Sas Graphic Designs.The coral wave tank top, another one of my favorites, is shown on the model below.
Besides loving the look and soft material of these tank tops, I am inspired by their urban and yoga-esque designs and even more so by the story behind the brand.
The designs are hand-drawn and manufactured by Sarah Somers and Angela Cardaci, two talented twenty-something female entrepreneurs who were determined to create their own clothing line and profitable business. Despite market competition, they have flourished by believing in their own potential, and motivating others to do the same.
These tank tops are currently available in four colors: coral, yellow, mint, and white; and three designs: lotus, skyline, and wave. I have one of each…shopping problems! For $22, I can’t even feel guilty. Click here for more information and/or to purchase one of these phenomenal designs.
The Takeaway – The Harder The Battle, The Sweeter the Victory
Despite having debilitating health problems as a child, B. K. S. Iyengar lived to age 95. By using beneficial yoga poses and eating anti-inflammatory foods, we can work towards improving our health and overall well-being. Iyengar’s ability to cure his own health problems afforded him the opportunity to help individuals with similar ailments.
Robert Tew said, “There is no need to be perfect to inspire others, let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.” Therefore, you may have limitations, such as back problems, or challenges when starting a new business. However, your success in the face of adversity, makes you a more noteworthy and relatable example for others hoping to follow in your footsteps.