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Yoga Therapy for a Bulging Disk

author image Zara Mizrahi
Zara Mizrahi is a fitness enthusiast and instructor based in Los Angeles. She spent nine years teaching and competing in tennis, which kicked off a lifelong passion for health and wellness. Mizrahi is a Schwinn-certified spinning instructor and Hatha yoga instructor who loves sharing her expertise with fellow fitness lovers.
Yoga Therapy for a Bulging Disk
A woman doing childs pose with a trainer at the gym. Photo Credit 4774344sean/iStock/Getty Images

If you have a bulging disc in your back, exercise might feel like the last thing you can do. Yoga, however, can be a powerful method to solve the problem -- or at least bring you greater ease and comfort. All the vertebrae in your back have discs of fluid between them that allow your spine to rotate and provide padding for impact while walking and running. If one of these discs is thrown out of place, you find yourself with a bulging disc, which is a serious injury -- so you must get checked by a doctor before practicing any exercise. Once a doctor recommends that you should exercise, there are a number of effective practices to support the lower back. If you are among the 90 percent who have a bulging disc in the lower spine caused by heavy lifting or an over-rounded lower back, forward bends should be avoided completely while practicing yoga. Backbends -- in conjunction with the right poses and core work -- can be an effective way to straighten out your lumbar, or lower, spine. And remember -- always be careful while practicing these poses and make sure to do them with a certified professional and the approval of your doctor. Listen to your body and use these poses in a way that works best for you.

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose is a light and therapeutic way to take the pressure off your cervical and thoracic spine -- which are both upper sections of the back -- while gently aligning your lumbar spine. Lie on your back with your knees bent and place the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Carefully lift your hips up in the air, leaving your head, neck, shoulders and feet on the ground. If you feel comfortable enough, interlace your fingers underneath your back, bringing your shoulder blades closer together. This will raise your hips above your head, taking pressure off of your vertebrae and discs by spreading them apart and giving them room to realign.

Upward-Facing Dog/Cobra Pose

Upward-Facing Dog is another great yoga pose for relieving stress in your lower back. To do Upward-Facing Dog, or Cobra, lie down on your stomach, put your hands on either side of your chest and slowly lift your upper body. If you feel comfortable enough, let your head drop back. In Upward-Facing Dog, your thighs and knees come off the ground, while in Cobra Pose, you leave your thighs, knees, shins, ankles and the tops of your feet on the ground. Both poses can work magic in helping a bulging disk by lifting your shoulders off of the ground, giving your lower spine a curve that shifts all the discs into place. Like in Bridge Pose, the backward round of your back can be extremely therapeutic for bulging or herniated discs.

Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose is an excellent way to get the natural curve in your spine back to its normal position. To do Child’s Pose, sit on your knees and collapse your thighs onto your calves. Then, fall forward, placing your stomach on top of your thighs and your arms straight above your head. Rest your forehead on the ground. Take deep breaths while you’re in Child's Pose and feel your body shift into alignment.

Core Work

Having a strong front of the body is key to having a strong back of the body. That's why core work is so important. Your core includes your abs, obliques, pectoral muscles, glutes and back. The strength of these muscles is necessary for good back support. If these muscles are all strong and healthy, they will help your posture, preventing you from moving in ways that aggravate your discs. A strong core also allows you to lift and move from the muscles in the front of your body, not from your spine, reducing the chances of getting a bulging or herniated disc.

Core work is a common supplement to yoga poses, giving your body the ability to do more postures. Crunches are particularly helpful. To do crunches, lie flat on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor. Slowly curl your upper body off the floor, lifting your shoulder blades and then resting them back down. Repeat until you feel your abs working.

Slow bicycles are also a great core exercise. To do bicycles, lie on your back, lift your legs off the floor and alternate bending and straightening each leg, bringing one leg and then the other toward your forehead. As you bring in your right leg, lift your left shoulder-blade off the ground to connect your left elbow to your right knee. Then, switch sides -- straighten your right leg, bend your left toward your chest and lift your right shoulder blade up to connect your right elbow to your left knee. Continue as long as you feel comfortable.

Core strength will help you gain stability, strengthen the muscles that support your lower back and prevent future back injuries.

Warm Up First

Light warm-ups -- like walking for five to 10 minutes -- are always a good idea before practicing yoga. Standing twists, in which you stand and twist your upper body side to side, are also an effective way to begin. This warms up your back and gets your body used to moving.

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