Most adults are walking around with mild to chronic back pain and ignore until the pain is so severe that they must seek drastic alternatives.
If you are like me you may be harboring herniated or bulging discs for years, doing more and more yoga because it “feels” good and mistaking sensation and pain. In fact, most of the culture I grew up in and some yoga “vinyasa styles” do not encourage less is more and backing off. More is more, until you are in chronic debilitating pain. Make no mistake, if it is your back in pain it can be excruciating.
Yes, I am a yoga teacher with multiple trainings and different types of practices and techniques under my belt, BUT the majority of trainings do not specifically address back pain. However, I believe it is the number one education we as teachers and students must start to look at specifically as the practice of yoga becomes more and more mainstream and students are walking into classes only two or three times a week and not practicing every day, the way the practice was originally intended.
We must learn how to move ourselves optimally and functionally so that we may continue to practice for years to come.
Deciding to educate ourselves on back care for yoga is sacred, compassionate work. It is the deepening of a selfcare practice or as teachers the care we may extend towards our students.
Here are 10 reasons you need to have back care education:
One in Ten People Suffer Back Pain
A recent study conducted by the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases shows that about 10% of the world’s population are afflicted with lower back pain, making this condition the single leading cause of disability in the world.
Back Pain is One of the Most Common Healthcare Complaints
The journal, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (2012) for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation for Chronic Low Back Pain, proves that back pain is so widespread that it has become the fifth most common healthcare complaint in the United States.
Back Pain is the Leading Cause of Pain-Related Suicide
A 2018 research found that back pain led to over 20% of pain related suicides. It is only closely followed by cancer and arthritis.
Over 50% of Americans are Desk Workers
Back pain used to be a major problem for those who spend most of the day on their feet, but not anymore. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), about 54% of Americans who experience back-related problems spend most of their day sitting at work.
Back Pain Impacts Daily Life
Following one APTA study which covered the experiences of 2600 persons, 39% of adult respondents noted that lower back pain impacted their ability to engage in their daily activities. Among this figure, 37% reported that lower back pain also affects their sleep. Chronic pain further impacts sleep quality, with over 50% respondents reporting poor sleep quality.
Stress is a Major Cause of Back Pain
Most Americans suffer moderate to high levels of stress, with about 29% of them stating that stress is the cause of their back pain. Along with stress, factors like being overweight, poor exercise quality, and a physical job could also lead to back pain.
Primary Cause of Back Pain is Identified in Only 10% of Patients
About 10% of those who seek medical care for back related problems are unable to find out the primary cause of pain. This is especially because a range of factors, like physical activities, can still cause pain, though this may not directly be linked to back pain.
Number of Hospital Visits Continue to Increase
There is an increasing number of hospital visits for back related problems. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, there was a rapid increase in back pain related hospital visits – from 11.8 per 100 persons in 1998 to 16.4 per 100 persons in 2010.
Over 2 Million Emergency Room Visits Due to Back Pain
According to APTA, there are about 2.6 million emergency room visits in America every year, with most of these patients only receiving opioid prescriptions for their pain.
37% of Low Back Pain Patients in America do not Seek Medical Help
APTA also highlights that while about two-third of the American population suffer low back pain, 37% of them do not seek medical help to provide relief to their pain. In fact, 8 out of 10 patients experiencing low back pain only seek help from a chiropractor, subspecialist, or their primary care physicians.
Now more than ever, it is important for yogis – teachers and students alike – to develop awareness about self-care, especially regarding back care. As the stresses of our day continue to increase, it wouldn’t be surprising to experience increased back pain related concerns and reports. As a teacher, you understand not only shapes that may alleviate back pain but also know that those same shapes may aggravate and even exacerbate if not taught correctly, with compassion, understanding and awareness.
It is up to us as teachers and students to know whether we are holding shapes for strengthening, utilizing the practice for stretching and relaxation to reduce stress, training the body in posture, balance and alignment, or even developing increased body awareness with mind/ body connection.
There are many goals of yoga asana, but the most important goal of the teacher is the safety and care of the student. The most important goal of a student in asana practice is the care of oneself.
Want to learn more? Inlet Yoga is hosting a Intro to Yoga for Back Care and Scoliosis for students and teachers on November 9 and 10 and would look forward to meeting you!
Jennifer Vafakos began practicing yoga regularly in 2008 in NYC. Though Jennifer started years earlier it wasn’t until she met a a group of yoga instructors that changed her life and where she become a serious yoga practitioner and student. Registered with Yoga Alliance at the ERYT500 level and YACEP, Jennifer currently runs a yoga studio, leads weekly classes, yoga teacher trainings, workshops and international retreats. In 2016 Jennifer left a 20 year career in Fashion Design and purchased Inlet Yoga from Emma Clagett in Manasquan, NJ. In 2019 Jennifer founded a podcast with New Jersey Yoga Collective’s Bridget Riepl called “Here for Savasana.”
In her weekly classes you will notice a strong influence of Jennifer’s Laughing Lotus training (Dana Trixie Flynn), with layers and influence of Katonah Yoga (as taught by Nevine Michaan) and Seasonal Yoga. Jennifer will reference and inform on alignment, healthy transitioning between shapes, themes of seasons, cycles discovering and uncovering human existence and of layering in music, poetry and laughter in her classes, trainings, and workshops.
She believes yoga is for everyone, and gives you the ultimate tools to engage life fully to recreate and work towards your potential to heal and live well as we age.
Jennifer’s Training Background includes over 1,000 plus hours of formal Yoga Teacher Training, and more:
Baron Baptiste 100hr
Laughing Lotus- 200 hr, 300 hr (twice)
Laughing Lotus India- study of Bhakti and advanced asana- 100hr
Katonah Yoga- currently working towards 200 hr certification
Ayurveda Foundations- Dr Claudia Welch (current)
What Jennifer is working on now for you and launching soon!
Lead trainer for Inlet Yoga’s 200 RYT Teacher Training 2016, 2017, Year Long Seasonal Yoga 200 Hour 2018 to 2019 and launching again in 2020 (student signups currently being accepted)
Lead Trainer 300 RYT Inlet Yoga launching in 2020
Retreat 2019 and launching again in 2020 in Costa Rica
Here for Savasana Podcast founded in 2019
Regular Blog contributor New Jersey Yoga Collective
Beginner Video Online series Inlet Yoga launching late 2019
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