If you’re new to the practice of yoga, the thought of contorting your body into the shape of a pretzel might have you shaking your head, and understandably so. But devoted yogis will tell you that the practice has little to do with twisting and straining muscles beyond their capacity. This centuries-old practice has everything to do with focusing on breathing and mindfully moving through postures that increase flexibility and strength over time.
Yoga in any form may have been inconceivable to you before your back surgery. Now that you’ve made it to the post-surgery stage and are well on your way to a newfound physical freedom, therapeutic yoga postures can not only enhance your lifestyle, but also accelerate your recovery.
You’ll want to consult your surgeon first before undertaking any new fitness program, but when you’re ready, these yoga poses are ideal for regaining your flexibility and strengthening your back. Start slowly and remember to fully inhale and exhale as you move through the poses so your body’s circulation works in tune with your movement. Don’t worry about the number of repetitions as much as getting the most out of each move.
A simple, yet extremely effective pose for relieving stiffness from post-surgery inactivity, the reclined twist is performed lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. With your arms out at your sides in a T-shape and your palms facing up, slowly move your knees to one side of your body while moving your head gently to gaze in the opposite direction. TheNest.com suggests using bolsters or folded blankets on either side of your legs to ease into this pose. Repeat the movement on the opposite side using slow, controlled movements.
Cat pose, formally referred to as Bidalasana in yoga circles, mimics the graceful movement of a feline stretch. Yogawiz.com recommends this posture for post-surgery recovery because it encourages using your core to stretch your spine. On your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor, inhale while slowly dropping your belly toward the floor and gently stretching your neck up toward the sky. Hold this pose for about five seconds. Exhale as you relax your spine into a neutral position between each repetition.
Cobra pose, or Bhujangasana, can be a bit intense the first couple times but move slowly and mindfully and your torso will benefit from a controlled, deep stretch. Lying on your belly, place your hands under your shoulders. Exhale as you slowly push your upper half up while keeping your thighs and legs touching the floor and your elbows bent. Hold this pose for about five breaths. Yoga.com advises that post-surgery patients stop for the day at the slightest feeling of discomfort when practicing this pose.
Also called Savasana or Shavasna, corpse pose is a posture that promotes deep mental clarity. Lying flat on your back, with your arms comfortably at your side and your legs slightly spread, allow your entire body to relax. Consciously release any tension in your tailbone and torso. If you feel any discomfort, modify the pose by using a blanket under your head or a pillow under your knees. Let your breathing slow to a normal pace, close your eyes and simply relax for about five minutes. Although most yoga practitioners end their session with this pose, Yogawiz.com suggests using it after each posture to relax the body before the next move.
If yoga postures are not appealing to you, you do have options. The physical therapy experts at Laser Spine Institute offer a comprehensive series of videos with post-surgical stretches and safe alternative exercises. Whether you choose to incorporate yoga or another fitness discipline into your recovery plan, remember that consistency is the key to a healthy spine. The bottom line is that if you make regular exercise a habit, in any form, you’re well on your way to lessening your back pain.
Image above by OblongLandConservancy via Flickr.