A person can “. . .fight heavy genetic issues with yoga and keep spinal surgery at bay,” says Vijay Vad MD, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery and faculty at Weill Cornell Medical College.
He’s also the author of Back RX: A 15-Minute-a-Day Yoga- and Pilates-Based Program to End Low Back Pain (Penguin 2004) and PBS national television special “Stop Back Pain Now.”
Dr. Vad’s study, “The Role of the Back Rx Exericse Program in Diskogenic Low Back Pain: A Prospective Randomized Trial” showed that when practiced regularly, yoga reduces back pain and symptoms, recurring back pain and the chance of surgery, as well as narcotics use.
According to Dr. Vad, “Proper exercise that increases the back’s flexibility, strength, and endurance makes good balance and posture possible and can dramatically retard these natural aging processes and moderate their effects.”
He focuses on three goals to maintain a healthy spine.
The first is to gain flexibility. Lifelong yogi’s, for example, frequently retain well-hydrated discs into advanced old age. Like the rest of the body, the discs depend on the circulatory system to bring them oxygen, so yoga like walking hydrates the discs of the spine. Exercising the back prevents the discs’ loss of water, keeping it flexible and resilient. “I’ve seen seventy-five and eighty-year-old yogi’s whose spines look great,” says Dr. Vad.
Second is the strength to move. Dr. Vad states that, “The stronger the core trunk muscles [from knee to midsection] the less pressure there will be on the spine’s intervertebral discs and facet joints and the more resistant a person will be to disc herniations, facet arthritis, and other back problems.”
And third, yoga builds endurance to withstand stress, that “Over time, the slow, steady, moderate stresses and focused breathing can build very healthy levels of endurance along with core strength.”