Yoga Postures to Avoid With Herniated Discs

Spinal disks are soft and provide cushion between vertebrae. They have an exterior casing that keeps the soft center intact. A herniated disk is the rupture of the exterior casing that allows some or all of the soft center to push out. Herniated discs typically heal on their own, but if you have a regular yoga practice, there are some poses that you should avoid and other poses that you can perform with modification. Consult your physical therapist about your yoga practice.

Yoga instructor demonstrating pose to class (Image: Jeremy Maude/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Avoid Rounding the Spine

Forward bends are popular in most yoga classes, but these are the poses you want to avoid when recovering from a herniated disc. Roger Cole, a certified Iyengar yoga teacher, states that you should avoid folding forward past the hips whether standing or sitting. The rounding of the spine tilts the vertebrae in toward one another. If you have a herniated disk, two vertebrae surrounding the herniated disk might pinch nerves and create greater pain. Forward bends can also worsen your condition and prolong recovery time.

Avoid Abdominal Specific Exercises

Julie Gudmestad, physical therapist and Iyengar yoga teacher, indicates that abdominal strength will help protect the back, but focusing solely on abdominal exercises may increase the injury. A herniated disk can be the result of overworked abdominal muscles and weak back muscles. Avoid poses such as boat and cow, which are core-intensive and may result in spinal curvature. If you have weak back muscles, core-focused poses will lack integrity and result in a forward bend instead of a long spine and lifted chest.

Yoga During the Recovery Process

Apart from forward bends and core intensive exercises, avoid any yoga pose that causes pain. Depending on the location of your herniated disk, the yoga poses that you can do comfortably will vary. Some people suffering from herniated disks might find spinal twists helpful, but other people might experience debilitating pain. If you continue to attend yoga classes, let your yoga instructor know about your injury so he can suggest modifications and substitutions as you practice. Opt for yoga classes that are restorative and gentle in description as opposed to athletic types, such as vinyasa or power yoga.

Poses That Can Help

The most helpful poses during your recovery process will be those that keep the spine straight, lengthen the hamstrings and strengthen the muscles of your abdomen and back. Supine poses -- those that are done lying down -- are helpful because the floor protects the spine from curving. You can perform reclining big toe pose by lying on the floor, lifting your right leg up and hooking the index and middle fingers of your right hand around the toe as you extend the leg. Repeat this on the other side. If using your fingers is difficult, wrap a belt or strap around the bottom of your foot instead. You can do reclining bound angle by lying flat on your back, arms extending on the floor to either side and bringing the soles of the feet together so that the legs form a diamond shape.

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