8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back - A Book Review
I am lucky that I've rarely had problems with my back. Occasionally I've had twinges from overdoing yard work, from sitting for too long, or pushing a little too hard while practicing certain yoga poses, but that discomfort doesn't last very long.
But not too long ago I had the opportunity to try out the local indoor trampoline park with my friend. Very cool! Very fun! Except toward the end of our bouncing session, I realized that my back was starting to feel achy. Time to stop.
Trampolining is Not Good for My Late-50s Back
Later that day my back began to spasm, and for the next few days it continued to be very unhappy. As long as I walked and sat carefully, and didn't make any sudden moves I was okay, albeit somewhat sore, but getting into and out of bed, and turning over caused excruciating pain.
(Note to self, "Remember you're in your late 50s, sweetie, and maybe trampolining isn't for you!".)
Helpful Back Book
I finally remembered that I have the book by Esther Gokhale. I had bought it a number of months ago on the recommendation of a friend who said it helped her yoga students with back pain. I tried out some of the exercises to see how they felt, and how they compared to the mechanics of yoga poses that I'm already familiar with. The exercises seemed very helpful and they're compatible to an intelligent yoga practice, and I recommended it to my yoga students who've had trouble with their backs. 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back
But then I put it on the shelf and forgot about it until a few days after my trampoline trauma.
Learn Good Posture to Stretch and Stabilize the Spine
Let me tell you, the exercises in this book are very effective, and helped me quickly ease my back pain!
Author Esther Gokhale sets out a series of lessons for learning how to restore what she calls our "primal posture", and to learn healthy, natural ways to stand, sit, and move. Throughout the book she illustrates her lessons with clear images of what to do and what to avoid, and includes photos of good posture and bad.
To start, we need to learn how to keep the spine long without tucking the pelvis too much, or tipping it forward too much (swayback). Gokhale's first lesson is learning how to sit with a lengthened back, which she calls stretch-sitting. This simple exercise is what first started to relieve my back pain (see the stretch-sitting video, below).
I tend to stand with too much of an arch in the low back (sway back), which results in tight, short muscles in that area. My trampoline trauma compressed this area even more, causing the already tight muscles to spasm. An exercise that helps me reduce this over-arching and relax the low back muscles is to take the lower front rib cage back rather than to tuck the pelvis. (See the rib adjustment video, below.)
The Methods in this Book are Compatible With a Good Yoga Practice
I've been practicing and teaching Iyengar Yoga for a long time, and I do know enough to help my students and myself with minor back problems by intelligently practicing the yoga postures. Read Yoga for Back Pain Relief if you're interested in this avenue for helping your back.
But not everyone wants to practice yoga, or people may not have access to a teacher who knows how to intelligently help them with specific back problems. This is where 8-Steps to a Pain-Free Back is so helpful.
Watch These Videos Demonstrating a Few of Gokhale's Techniques
Here are a few videos featuring simple methods to help start improving our posture easily and naturally, without excessive effort. The TEDxTalk by Esther Gokhale includes photos that illustrate good posture and bad postures, and a demonstration of how to sit well using a method that she calls "stretch-sitting".
The shoulder roll was the first exercise I learned from Gohkale's book. It's very simple and very effective for taking the shoulders back.
Stretch-sitting is probably the single-most useful technique to begin lengthening your spine in a healthy way.
For those of you who practice yoga, you'll recognize "stretch-lying" as a modified savasana. This is very comfortable for my back.
Learning our "primal posture" will help us move without pain.
Learning the rib anchor adjustment is a big help for me since I tend toward having a swayback.
A Good Companion to the Book
Back Pain: The Primal Posture Solution DVD is the perfect companion to the book 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. While the book has great instructions and images, many of us learn better if we can also follow along with video demonstrations. This DVD shows in detail the methods that Gokhale sets forth in her book.
Good companion to the book.