Let’s first examine what a normal back is like, then go into what a diseased back is and see how pain starts arising. Finally, we will explain how the yoga we are practicing in this centre takes this pain out.
So, how does a normal back looks like? We have two humps in our back: One at the top of the shoulder and the other in the buttocks area. This is how normal back looks like, as long as the spine maintains its rightful curve. The moment these curves change, it becomes imbalanced. We spent all our life bringing our back in non-balance.
Gravity does not spare anyone; look at a coconut tree, this defies nature. If your spine is imbalanced, gravity will still act on your spine and pull you down. Now something has to hold.
Try to resist gravity to maintain your back straight; those are called tensions, and when tensions stay on for a long time they become painful. How do we get rid of this pain?
Our back has become tight and has lost the capabilities for knowing what is straight because of bad habits. Bad habits come from our thinking process. If bad habits were only coming from the body it would be easy to correct. The habit of mental process means “how I think”; we all have a direction of thought; that direction of thought is inspired/influenced by the things that are important for us in our lives such as our desires, our fears all the things we like and dislike etc. Hence, in order to be aligned and to heal a painful back, the first thing to deal with is the mind. We need to take away the mental causes creating imbalances. Why do you think that most physiotherapies do not last long? Because they do not deal with the mind; hence, the old bad posture comes back. Actually, any diseases or pains are stemming from habit pattern of thinking. Fortunately for us, the yogis figured this out long back before science came.
What are we doing in our yoga practice? On the first hour that you are with us, we make you feel what is straight, not a conceptual understanding but an experience felt from within. Tadasana is the perfect pose for this to be felt. We point ¬¬out very clearl¬y how you can bring that straightness on a daily basis. We are working on resetting everything in line with gravity so that when something goes out of line, we know it because we feel it in our body.
All the postures that we are doing here are meant for one thing: to release tightness and tensions in various muscles of the body. Pain is coming from contractions. Back bends, forward bends, twists and standing poses, all deal with different muscles and can bring benefit to back pain. Take standing poses; they work on the different layers of muscles which are holding the spine; they are particularly amazing for lower back issues. Back bends are fantastic to counter-act the constant hunching forward which characterises our society’s postural works habits (e.g. sitting in front of the computer). By freeing muscles from tension and tightness, muscles are being provided with the necessary nutrition.
Note that a tight muscle cannot absorb blood properly. Release tension and blood rushes in. This brings healing.
Another very important aspect of the practice is to bring awareness on what it feels like to be balanced. In this yoga, we are reconnecting all our muscles with our brain by becoming aware of the muscles. Awareness arises in every part of the body from doing the programme. When going deep inside our body sensations, one becomes aware and we start understanding by ourselves how to deal with the pain and take it away. The more aware you become, the earlier you start noticing that something is not right and this long before the arising of pain. That is the reason for which daily self-practice is so important! Because every day you have to reach into the cells of your body. Once grown, that awareness changes the way we are doing things in our daily life. Your body intelligence is taking over and your habit patterns are dissolving, slowly but steadily. It is this constant development of body awareness that makes the difference into your day to day life, posture and attitude.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Yoga Master Teacher Sharat Arora