Yin yoga and herniated discs

There are often many questions about Yin Yoga and specific spinal conditions. Feel free to ask your question here, or check out other posts or contribute input from your own experience.
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Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Yin yoga and herniated discs

Post by Bernie »

I recently received the following questions:

  • Hi and thank you for the opportunity to contact you! I have a disc herniation c4-c5, bulging disc c5-c6, which have been confirmed via mri, and a possible herniation l4-l5. I somethimes have pain, tingling and numbness in my left arm and left leg, but the worst symptom is dizziness. I am a yoga practitioner for about 20 years, mostly hatha and ashtanga. I have been teaching yoga for 11 years now.. But, my main job is software development. The herniation in my neck happened after morning sarvangasana and halasana :( but, I think that my sitting for 10 hours every day on work and headstands practise did their job way before ...

    My question is can yin yoga help me with any of this and is it safe for me to practise at all..

    My practise since the injury is kinesiotherapy and feldenkrais and a little bit of hatha yoga.
    Thank you and all the best!
    Hari OM
Hello Hari OM

I am sorry to hear about your ongoing leg and arm pain and dizziness. Can Yin Yoga help? I really can't say. I would suggest first you get a qualified opinion as to what is causing the pain and dizziness. While you have correlated it to your neck disc herniation, many people have such herniations and yet have no pain at all. (In my book, Your Spine, Your Yoga, I cite the statistics that 30% of 20 year-olds have a bulging disc but are totally asymptomatic, and this rises over the decades evenly until 80% of 70 year-olds have bulging discs with no problems.) So, you can not know for sure if the problems are discogenic or not until you have someone test (usually through provocation). The fact that an MRI shows a disc bulge is not remarkable. I also have a cervical disc bulge discovered via an MRI but have I no pain.

First step: figure out the cause of your pain, then see if you can work out a way to stop it. Be aware that often pain does not have any notable biological source! The biopsychosocial model of medicine allows for many other factors that can give rise to chronic pain. Again, a specialist may be able to help.

But, let's assume your pain is caused by the disc bulge: the next thing to know is in which direction is it bulging because possibly moving the head and neck in the same direction may “push, the bulge back into the disc. You would want to avoid movements that make the bulge worse and slowly work on moving in the appropriate direction. Yin Yoga may be able to help but try it only with guidance from a health professional.

Twisting the head and neck is probably not a good idea right now. And, at this stage, given your symptoms, it is probably a very good idea to avoid headstands and shoulder stands. Legs up the wall will probably give you all the same benefits with little or no risk.

Good luck!
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