When I was 19, I got in a terrible car accident. I had whiplash and ended up with 2 herniations in my low back. I also worked in an office all day sitting behind a desk which didn't help my sedentary lifestyle. Luckily, at the age of 27, I found Yoga and Pilates which helped me tremendously but I still often had flare ups where my back would just "go out" for weeks at a time. It wasn't until 6 years ago, when I discovered the core connection. I truly believe that our bodies are designed to heal themselves and that in most situations, you can greatly improve your pain with just a few simple exercises. Movement is the key to spinal health and consistent core maintenance for me, has been the answer to getting rid of back pain.
Let's Talk About the Core
So, the core is just our abs, right? Wrong.
The core isn’t about just about our abdominals. Think about the core as a beautiful tree trunk. Without a strong trunk the branches (our arms and legs) won’t be supported as well as our neck, shoulders, and head. The “core” muscles include the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis), longissimus thoracis, and the diaphragm. The core muscles are so important to our overall function that if we have a “weak core” it can cause certain muscles to become fatigued and over worked leading to tightness and pain. It can also cause stronger muscles for example, such as the Psoas, to become a core "stabilizer" instead of its primary function to flex the hip. This can cause the Psoas to be chronically tight which can lead to pain in not only the back, but the hip, knee, and ankle as well!
If you sit all day, or don't move the spine, the discs in our back don't get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Limited movement of the spine can also cause it to become inflexible which only furthers our pain. If you have ever suffered with back pain, you know just how much it can not only ruin your day, but affect your entire overall mood. Pain causes us to be hyper sensitive, short tempered, and irritable.
If that wasn't enough, having a weak core can also create imbalances in our brain. Weakness can send signals to the brain thinking we are either falling backwards or forwards when we are just standing still. It is not uncommon for people with weak core muscles to struggle with anxiety due to the constant sense of falling happening in the brain. This can be a chronic “stressor” the brain sends out that can manifest as anxiety, fatigue, and mood swings. By working your core muscles you are stimulating the midline cerebellum in the brain that is responsible for movement, coordination and posture, creating lasting effects that go beyond the physical. As someone who has lived with back pain for years, I know just how debilitating and depressing it can be.
I'm such and advocate for a strong, healthy core that I make sure to do 10-15 minutes of core work everyday regardless of how tired I am or if I'm not feeling well. Since creating a consistent core training routine, I haven't suffered with chronic back pain. Anytime, I feel my back starting to ache it has been because I am slacking on my core work. It is a good reminder that this is a lifestyle and not just an exercise program. To help myself and others, I have even designed a Quick Core Program on my Playbook App to help me (and you) stay motivated. Finding 10-15 minutes 4-5 days a week isn't as hard when you have support!
Below are my top 5 Yoga poses to help you move, flex, stretch, and strengthen the core. I suggest you start with each one of these with a goal of holding for 5 breaths. You may also choose to flow in and out of them as you feel comfortable.
I hope this blog helps inspire you to move your spine and keep your core strong and healthy and I hope you get out of pain! Please send it to anyone who suffers from back pain or feel free to share it on FB or Instagram. If you would like to take my 30 minute Freedom From Back Pain Class on Playbook, click here. I have classes for all levels of fitness including Chronic Pain, beginner and intermediate yoga, Pilates, and fusion classes.
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