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One, 75-minute Viniyoga class per week relieves chronic lower back pain better than staying home and doing exercises from a self-care book, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Do you suffer from back pain? You are not alone.
- Is one of the most common health conditions for Americans
- Is the number one reason people turn to complementary and alternative therapies like yoga, meditation, and massage
- Affects more than 50 percent of adults
- Results in $33 billion in medical costs annually
1 Viniyoga Class per Week for 12 Weeks
Is it possible one yoga class per week could relieve your chronic lower back pain better than a stretching class or following the exercise instructions in a self-care book? Researchers from the University of Washington felt it was important to find out because “chronic low back pain is a common problem lacking highly effective treatment options.”
This Viniyoga yoga study enlisted 228 men and women who:
- hadn’t done any yoga in the past 12 months:
- were between the ages of 20 to 64
- experienced low back pain for three months or more
- rated their pain as at least three on a ten-point scale
The researchers split the back pain patients into three groups:
- GROUP I: 92 patients completed one, 75-minute Viniyoga class per week (yogic breathing, yoga asanas & guided meditation) and were asked to practice yoga 20 minutes per day with a CD
- GROUP II: 91 patients completed one, 75-minute conventional stretching class per week (aerobic exercises, strengthening exercises, and stretches held for 30 seconds each) and were asked to practice stretching 20 minutes per day with a DVD
- GROUP III: 45 patients followed the instructions in the self-care book The Back Pain Helpbook, “which provides information on the causes of back pain and advice on exercising, making appropriate lifestyle modifications and managing flare-ups.”
Both the Viniyoga class and the stretching class were “designed for people with chronic low back pain unaccustomed to yoga or stretching.”
What is Viniyoga? It’s a therapeutic style of yoga emphasizing safety and ease of learning.
Viniyoga Is Better than Self-Care for Chronic Lower Back Pain
It turns out the yoga group experienced results superior to the self-care group, but equal to the stretching group. The results show those with moderately impairing low back pain experienced moderate benefits whether they attended the Viniyoga class or the stretching class. So, if you prefer yoga classes to stretching classes, the good news is you can keep on doing yoga.
The Viniyoga Sequence for Chronic Lower Back Pain
Here is the 75-minute Viniyoga sequence shown to give moderate relief of chronic lower back pain. Before you begin 12 weeks of this simple routine at home, get your doctor’s approval. For detailed instructions on these asanas, consult my favorite yoga book Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha and/or visit Yoga Journal’s Pose Finder.
When you replicate this class, take note that you won’t perform all the listed yoga poses every week. Next to each yoga pose on the list, the numbers indicate the week to perform the pose. The first four yoga poses on the list were performed in every class.
Pose 1: Breathing exercise; introductory and final – All yoga classes
Pose 2: Bhujangasana a.k.a. Cobra pose and variations – All yoga classes
Pose 3: Supta Pawanmuktasana a.k.a. Knee to chest pose and variations – All yoga classes
Pose 4: Chakrasana a.k.a Wheel pose variations – All yoga classes
Pose 5: Kandharasana a.k.a. Bridge or shoulder pose variations – Yoga classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 11 and 12
Pose 6: Titli Asana, supine a.k.a. Butterfly pose lying down – Yoga classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 11 and 12
Pose 7: Padotthanasana a.k.a. Raised leg pose or extended leg pose with variations – Yoga classes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12
Pose 8: Virabhadrasana a.k.a. Warrior pose variations – Yoga classes 2, 3, 11 and 12
Pose 9: Padahastasana a.k.a. Standing forward bend – Yoga classes 2, 3, 9, 10, 11, and 12
Pose 10: Balasana a.k.a. Child’s pose or kneeling forward bend with variations – Yoga classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 9 and 10
Pose 11: Utkatasana a.k.a. Chair pose – Yoga classes 3, 4, 5, 6, 11 and 12
Pose 12: Supta Udarakarshanasana a.k.a. Lying twist – Yoga classes 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12
Pose 13: Ardha Shalabasana variation a.k.a. Swimmer’s pose variations – Yoga classes 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12.
Pose 14: Tiryaka Tadasana a.k.a. Extended side stretch – Yoga classes 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 12
Pose 15: Lunge – Yoga classes 7 and 8
Pose 16: Side-lying hip strengtheners – Yoga classes 7 and 8
Pose 17: Standing lateral pose – Yoga classes 9 and 10
1. Archives of Internal Medicine; A Randomized Trial Comparing Yoga, Stretching, and a Self-care Book for Chronic Low Back Pain; Karen J. Sherman, et al.
2. Trials; Comparison of Yoga Versus Stretching for Chronic Low Back Pain Yoga Exercise: Protocol for the Yoga Exercise Self-Care Trial; Karen J. Sherman, et al.
3. Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha; Swami Satyananda Saraswati.
Photo credit: SanDiego Personal Injury Attorneys