1. Performing sit-ups will increase back health. In all reality there is very minimal research and true testimony to support this concept. The quality of actual core development you receive during core work on your back with full flexion of the lumbar spine in combination with excessive and repetitive disc stresses; this can in fact lead to lumbar damage in most people. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health states that repeatedly compressing the spine to levels higher than the NIOSH standards in a repeat fashion has been shown to increase the risk of low back disorders (Axler and McGill 1997).
2. Strengthening your back will aid in protecting your back from injury. You would think this to be true and many use this catch phrase to assure people that what they are teaching is helpful rather than hurtful. But it is important to understand that muscles work as a team and just because you are strengthening your back does not take into account that you won’t throw it out again or that your chances of injury will be lessened. Your back is a part of your unique core circuit and when I care for my own body and other people’s bodies, I try to make it a point to help people understand that they body should not be segmented into tiny little muscles or controlled areas, but rather seen as a unit. Think of back care as full body care. Many of times the need for back care is really an issue with the hip flexors, or sacrum, hamstrings, even the arches of the feet.
3. Stop crunching your vertebrae. And I mean exactly that. As a yoga teacher and educator in core health, I have seen huge success and head way for those who change their approach to back bending. Most of us lean back and call it a back bend, only to leave the back, particularly the lower lumbar and sacrum to suffer. Now that suffering may not be felt today or even in the next year, but that build up of negative compression over time will eventually lead to an unexpected pain or injury. Utilizing your pelvic floor and leading with your pelvis can allow you to feel a more complete spinal opening and also receive release in the groin, an area we have muscles attaching in and locating their opposite ends at our lower back and ribs. So stand up, find neutral, activate your pelvic floor and torso circuit and inhale raise your arms and leading with your pelvis lean back. Let your spine, neck and head follow in the action of the pelvis rather than the neck and head flailing back as a means to go deeper.
4. Strength and stretch simultaneously. When you work with back care do you find you have separate moves for strengthening and separate moves for stretching? If so, why? What if every pose was its own counter pose, what if what you were doing was able to work the entire body and the back reaps the benefits.
5. Our back muscles cover our kidneys which is an area all about detoxifying and letting go. You can do all the physical exercise you want, but sometimes the physical ailments you are feeling are of something much deeper. Look at your person body, mind and spirit. When I work with students one-on-one or in a group, I am constantly reminding them that their life and issues are not separate of their physical bodies. Our bodies are like a filing cabinet, and if they have not been emptied out in thirty years, well then, I think you get the idea.
6. Finally, in the end how you care for your back is really a mental change even more than a physical one. We as a society (this is just a generalization, not everyone) have a: give it to me now, quick fix attitude. And that attitude will reflect in our bodies’ responses to healing. If you want to improve flexibility, strength, or heal an injury, we need to start understanding and addressing that those things take time, both as the student and as the teacher to develop and maintain. A little goes a long way. Be detailed in what you are teaching and ask questions as a student. Just getting the movement done is not enough and just because something is hard or you are moving quickly doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So if your back could talk what would it say to you today?