There are many classic jokes about bad backs (“How long have you had a weak back?” “Oh, about a week back…”). But real back pain isn’t funny. It can be difficult to treat and can cost you plenty in medical, massage or chiropractic bills. The Bikram yoga program, sometimes known as “hot” yoga, also claims to have answers for back problems, including misaligned spines. If other methods haven’t worked, or you’re interested in an alternate approach to back problems, Bikram yoga may be worth a try. Always check with your doctor before beginning a yoga program, especially if you have a misaligned spine.
Bikram yoga is definitely hot. Not because it’s a fad, but because it’s practiced in rooms heated to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In his book, “Bikram Yoga,” Bikram Choudhury states, “a warm body is a flexible body.” And while you may feel like you’re baking in an oven, the high temps are also supposed to flush toxins and impurities out of your system. Choudhury created the Bikram yoga program, which includes 26 postures designed to work the entire body, including your back and spine.
If your spine is healthy, Choudhury says, “the world is yours.” Many Bikram yoga poses are designed to stretch the spine and create space between the vertebrae. The natural spaces between vertebrae can be compromised over time, due to aging or trauma. Choudhury calls his yoga poses “natural, human traction,” which takes pressure off the spine, including the discs between vertebrae and the spinal nerves.
Partial Spine-Bending Poses
Several of Bikram’s poses target parts of your back and spine with the goal of relieving scoliosis -- curvature of the spine -- as well as treating back pain, arthritis and slipped discs. The Cobra pose targets your lower back. You lie face down with your legs together and raise your middle and upper chest off the floor. The Locust pose is somewhat of a reverse of the Cobra, as your torso remains flat on the floor while you raise your legs. The Locust targets your upper back.
Full Spine-Twisting Pose
The Spine-Twisting pose is the only Bikram posture that twists the entire spine. The advanced pose -- which is also supposed to help realign your spine -- is performed late in the session when you’re completely warm. You begin by sitting erect with your right leg bent, knee on the floor and right foot tucked by your left hip. Your left knee is lifted up and the left foot placed on the floor on the outside of your right knee. You reach your left arm behind your back, and the right arm hooks in front of the upraised left knee; in the final position your right hand either grasps the left knee or the left big toe. You complete the twist by rotating your head to your left. After you unwind, you repeat the pose in the opposite direction.
- Bikram Yoga; Bikram Choudhury
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.