Bikram yoga has so many health benefits – and just one of the most common reasons people are keen to try it is because of the benefits to your spine. The short explanation for why this is: is this form of yoga focuses very much on spine strength and flexibility – and many of the 26 postures during a Bikram yoga class directly impact spinal health.
Great… But will hot yoga help my back pain?
In addition, the breathing and meditation aspects of yoga induce a “relaxation response” that has been found in many studies to assist people in decreasing their pain. Bikram Yoga has also been found to be helpful in the treatment of depression and anxiety that often accompany pain problems…. more on this at the end.
… So, exactly how could doing yoga in a hot room help?
The foundations: Understanding our spine
Why our spines become unhappy
So, that’s the bad news; the good news is that Bikram Yoga can help decompress the spine – hooray – as there are many postures in the class that involve back bends; which help the spine as they put space between the disks and spinal nerves in your back, and decompress the front of your vertebrae. Some of the postures that are particularly good for decompression are standing bow pose and bow pose, camel, and cobra.
Flexibility is our friend
Yoga Journal sums it up with the following: “when the hamstrings are tight, they pull the pelvis down and create more pressure for the lower back. Plus, there is less stress on the spine when the hip flexors and pelvic muscles are flexible. Flexibility can also ease tension and soreness in muscles to relieve pain in the back and other areas of the body.
Poses that are particularly useful for pain caused by inflexibility are half moon pose, rabbit pose and spine twisting pose; as they gently stretch the spine – which when done regularly, leads to greater flexibility.
Also be aware that tight hamstrings can also exacerbate back stress and pain. If you know you have tight hamstrings, postures such as standing separate leg stretching pose and even just fully releasing in corpse pose helps lengthen the hamstrings; thus helping to relieve the pressure on your back.
All of which helps create… Less back pain
He explains that it has been shown by measuring electrical and chemical activity during yoga that the amygdala – the part that controls fear – shrinks. This is why it can be an effective treatment for anxiety, depression – and pain – because much of the problem is feelings of hopelessness that come with endless discomfort.
…. Which is another super fascinating and rather brilliant benefit for our happy-to-be-bendy backs.