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Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs

by by Alison Trewhela and Anna Semlyen

listed in yoga

[Image: Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs]

This book gives a comprehensive account of a ground breaking piece of research conducted by the York Trials Unit, Department of Health Sciences at the University of York, funded by Arthritis Research UK. To date it is the largest piece of research done on yoga as a remedial aid.

There are ten million people in the UK who are suffering from arthritis and related conditions. The aim of the trial was to assess the role of yoga in pain relief for this group of people.

The trial involved three hundred participants, half of which were in the control group and were treated by conventional methods. The other half were the yoga group who had no previous experience of yoga. They were taught by specially trained teachers in various locations throughout England. All these teachers used the same teaching methods and materials.

The main outcome was measured by a recognized self assessment tool, the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ). The RMDQ was filled in by participants at the start of the trial and at three, six and twelve monthly intervals. Fourteen weekly classes each of seventy-five minutes, CDs and the book were offered as a guide. The students were encouraged to work at home and continue on their own after the formal classes came to an end.

The results were exciting for yoga practitioners and arthritis sufferers. They showed a statistically and clinically significant improvement in the yoga group compared to the non-yoga group, all having started from much the same base. The most dramatic improvement was after the first three months.

The content of the book presents the recommended poses or postures for people with chronic low back pain. Several sequences are offered for use at home. The sequences demonstrate a gradual progression. Having written a book myself on my own favoured form of teaching yoga, which has the same 'progressive' approach, I know how difficult it is to lay out the material without causing confusion. This on the whole has been achieved. The photographs are helpful, the descriptions have obviously been written by a teacher and the approach is friendly and understandable. However, the authors rely heavily on more detailed written descriptions, which can be found in the second half of the book. They suggest that some students like this approach. In my view, considering that people new to yoga may be using this book, it would be more helpful for them to have included more photographs or perhaps graphics with the descriptions. This would also make the book more approachable for those who cannot find a teacher.

There is an excellent chapter on What to do if you get a sign of a painful back episode, which begins "Don't panic"! Even if you read nothing else in the book, these suggestions are worth a look. They are helpful, basic, sensible and safe. Advice is offered for different types of painful backs.

The second part of the book, which is the main body of the book, describes what I would call a progressive approach. To summarize, this involves breaking the poses down to a simple and stepped progression working towards the complete pose.

Although the layout of the book requires some dedication to understand the proposed practice, it could be used by people without the help of a teacher, one of the main benefits of the progressive approach. However, it could also benefit yoga teachers as a way of helping clients who suffer from arthritis and back pain. I have used this method to help students with many different problems, in my own practice, to great effect. From anecdotal evidence, the practice of yoga has been claimed to maintain long term health of joints and musculature as well as improving outlook on life. Yoga is empowering as people can do it for themselves. A positive outlook can help to avoid negative neurological cycles including pain. The progressive approach makes yoga particularly accessible for people with limited ability such as arthritis sufferers. Personal practice can be tailored to suit the needs and requirements of the individual.

Despite my reservations on the use of written, as opposed to visual descriptions in the book, I did find the detailed advice interesting and helpful, if a little wordy. The authors do point out that their book should be used as an aide-memoir and that it is advisable to find a teacher trained in the system. There is such a course offered and the details are given in the book. It is offered only to those who are already fully trained yoga teachers.

Finally, a minor point, I felt that the front cover is rather stark and does not clearly reflect the contents of the book to the reader. There are some really interesting paintings inside the book which would have made a much more interesting and reflective front cover.

Altogether, I have to say that the book is an impressive record of a project which will surely encourage the use of yoga as a remedial tool in the future.

Further Information
Available from Amazon:

Yvonne Campkin
Published by Lotus Publishing

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