Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back

BOOK: Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back
9.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“This is a clear, insightful program for lower back health, rooted in classical yoga and rich in Western and Eastern wisdom. The authors offer fresh and accessible yoga practices that are sure to inspire a lasting, healing recovery from pain in the lower back. I love this book!”

—Patricia Walden, author of
The Woman's Book of Yoga and Health

“This wise and practical book is full of helpful advice on relieving lower back pain. It offers a menu of therapeutic yoga practices to fit your needs. Recommended for novices and seasoned practitioners alike.”

—Timothy McCall, MD, author of
Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing

“Uniquely practical and informative, Owen and Rossi effortlessly integrate Western movement science with yogic wisdom. Highly recommended!”

—Chip Hartranft, PT, author of
The Yoga-Sutra of Patañjali


The sacrum, or lower back, is an incredibly powerful part of the human anatomy. It's what enables you to stand upright and tall, it unites your upper and lower body, it roots you to the earth—and it is one of the most common areas where people experience chronic pain and discomfort. Yoga practice can have a transformative effect on lower back problems: it allows the body to gain the range of movement and flexibility that short-circuits the mind's perception of limitation and pain.
Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back
will help you understand lower back pain and heal it through gentle exercises that can be done even by those with no previous yoga experience.

Liz Owen describes the anatomy of the sacrum and the region around it, including the hips and lumbar spine, and illuminates both the Western and Eastern approaches to understanding back pain. She then provides simple, easy-to-learn sequences of yoga poses for general sacrum health and then for specific issues or conditions such as pregnancy, fibromyalgia, and arthritis, among others.

LIZ OWEN has practiced yoga for twenty-five years and has taught it since 1990, focusing on alignment-based yoga practice as a tool for well-being and healthy living. She has conducted classes and workshops on healthy back care and healing back pain through yoga every week for the past ten years. She has published numerous articles on yoga on She is coauthor of an NIH-funded study at Boston University Medical Center, which focuses on yoga as a healing modality for depression. She teaches throughout New England and at yoga conferences elsewhere. 



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This book is not intended to substitute for medical advice or treatment.

Shambhala Publications, Inc.

Horticultural Hall

300 Massachusetts Avenue

Boston, Massachusetts 02115

© 2013 by Liz Owen and Holly Lebowitz Rossi

Cover photos by Robert Zinck

Photos: © Robert Zinck

Illustrations: © Ann Boyajian

Chakra Symbols: (Illustration 16) © Viktoriia Protsak—

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Owen, Liz.

Yoga for a healthy lower back: a practical guide to developing strength

and relieving pain / Liz Owen, Holly Lebowitz Rossi.

pages cm

eISBN 978-0-8348-2902-2

ISBN 978-1-61180-049-4 (pbk.)

1. Backache—Popular works. 2. Backache—Alternative treatment.

3. Yoga. I. Rossi, Holly Lebowitz. II. Title.

RD771.B217O94 2013

613.7' 046—dc 23


For Ryah,
mija bonita
, and Peter Freeth Belford.
Los amo más de lo que la lengua pueda decir
.   —

For Rob and Ben, with quiet prayers of thanks for the sunlight each time I see your faces.   —



1.  The Journey into Wellness

2.  Your Hips

3.  Your Sacrum

4.  Your Lumbar Spine

5.  Your Abdominal Core

6.  Your Middle Back, Upper Back, and Neck

7.  Maintaining a Healthy Lower Back

8.  Practices for Specific Lower Back Conditions and Diagnoses

Sacral Sprain

Referred Sacral Pain

Sacral Joint Dysfunction

Lordosis, Lumbar Muscular Pain, and Strain

Herniated Disc and Pinched Nerve

Arthritis, Spinal Stenosis, and Spondylolisthesis




Glossary of Sanskrit Terms

Recommended Reading for Lower Back Health

List of Yoga Poses by Chapter

E-mail Sign-Up


Gratitude can be such a powerful thing to feel but such a difficult a thing to express. Knowing that, we can only attempt to acknowledge, with grateful hearts, the broad community of mentors, experts, guides, resources, and friends who have been part of the process of creating this book.

Let's start at the beginning, when Steve Dyer designed our proposal with great skill and care. Raea Zani created a piece of art for the proposal that showed the sacrum in all its grace and glory. Susan Piver is not only an inspiring colleague and gifted writer but she was also kind enough to make our introductions at Shambhala, where Dave O'Neal took us in and put our project in the helpful, encouraging hands of Beth Frankl and Ben Gleason, who have guided us with great kindness and intelligence throughout this process.

The images you see throughout this book are the result of a great deal of work, planning, time, and, most important, artistry. Robert Zinck's photographic skills, equipment expertise, and time commitment—not to mention his yoga modeling—were invaluable. Thanks are due also to Shelley Zatsky for her photo-editing help that got us across the finish line. Christiana Melton not only modeled the yoga poses in this book with stunning beauty, she and her husband, Rex, allowed their home to be transformed into a photo studio on several occasions. We are also grateful to Chip Hartranft, of The Arlington Center, not only for founding the yoga studio where our personal and professional relationship was born but also for allowing us to shoot some of the book's photographs there. Finally, in the visual arts department, Ashley Lorenz and the Lilla Rogers Studio connected
us with the gifted Ann Boyajian, whose exquisite anatomical illustrations have illuminated our text so beautifully.

Our book is greatly enriched by the experts we were fortunate enough to be able to consult for feedback and reactions. We are especially grateful to Jonathan Beasley of Harvard Divinity School for helping us find a Sanskrit consultant, and to Benjamin Williams for answering that call with such passion, enthusiasm, and intelligence. Chris C. Streeter, M.D., of Boston University School of Medicine, was so generous with her time and expertise in advising us on anatomy and Western medical concepts. We are also indebted to authors whose work has fueled and deepened ours, especially B.K.S. Iyengar, Edwin F. Bryant, Harish Johari, Vasant L. Lad and Anisha Durve, Thomas W. Myers, and Judith Hanson Lasater. Finally, a special
to Georg Feuerstein, whose work was so valuable to us, and who passed away while we were working on this book.

Finally, some personal thanks from each of us.

From Holly: Thanks to Keith Puri of ChiroCare Associates for opening his bookshelf to us and for, together with Robert Kum, caring about my lower back all these years. Thanks are also due to Jill Feldman for her help with our contracts at the front end of this project. And gratitude of course to my family, especially Mom for being the first person to teach me about good posture; Dad for being my
in all things; and my husband, Rob, and son, Ben, for keeping me upright in every sense of the word. This family list would not be complete without a note of thanks to my Gaga, Elaine Bassler Mardus, who sparked in me the curiosity and love of learning that inspired me to be a writer. Innumerable other friends and family members have offered their support, encouragement, and help in ways that are too great to list here. And finally, the most obvious but important thanks of all—to Liz Owen, an exceptional teacher and an exceptional person. My lower back has been transformed by my years in your class, and I'm so grateful that others will now get to learn from you, and from your yoga, as I have. I'm proud to stand beside you on this project.

From Liz: My first words of gratitude are to Holly Lebowitz Rossi, without whom this book would not have happened. The experience of collaborating with you, with your superb writing and editing expertise and your deep love and understanding of spirituality, religion, and yoga, is a true gift to me. I am so appreciative of your sure-footedness and graceful countenance, especially giving feedback on the first drafts. The going could have gotten rough, yet in your hands it was illuminative and joyful! From
the day you said, “Let's write a book together,” to the present, your congeniality has made our work flow more smoothly than I ever thought possible. I appreciate you so much.

To my longtime teacher and mentor, Patricia Walden, my heart is full of gratitude for your teachings, your insight, and your
. There are so many yogis, alternative- and complementary-medicine practitioners, and others whose wisdom has infused my path with insight and inspiration through the years. Some of them are B.K.S. Iyengar, Karin Stephen, Zoe Stewart, Rod Stryker, Erich Schiffman, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Dr. Ben E. Benjamin, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, T.K.S. Desikachar, Paul Muller-Ortega, Ramanand Patel, Chip Hartranft, Richard Freeman, and Kit Laughlin. One thousand eight
to each of you.

To my family, I am ever grateful for the light you bring to my life. A huge thanks to all of you, and especially to Pete and Ryah for your patience during the writing of this book, and for understanding when I was basically a no-show everywhere but at my computer. To Vivian Everett, thank you for your encouragement and steadfast support—you always have my back. And to my amazing students, I am honored to share yoga—and life—with you. You bring me fullness and delight, and your bodies are
teachers, which constantly illuminate new insights and knowledge. This book would simply not be possible without you.



On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure.


BOOK: Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back
9.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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