Yoga for Injury and Trauma

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After a trauma, and the pause, you need to be discerning to determine when to get moving and grooving again. If you are healing from medical issues, it may be appropriate to ask your physician. When your body and spirit are ready for active healing, your intuition will sense that it’s time to get moving. Listen to your inner voice of wisdom!

THERAPEUTIC YOGA PRACTICES TO GET YOU MOVING AGAIN

SUN SALUTATIONS

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Sun salutations bring the energetic quality of the sun into your body. Warmth, growth, energy, lightness, upliftedness.

MOON SALUTATIONS

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Moon salutations bring the cooling, divine feminine, dark-side and circular energy. A complement to sun salutations, done as a flow that circles from the first to last pose in a mandala or a round fluid flow. Go as quickly or slowly as your body wants you to.

MEDITATE ON COMFORT

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This practice is a powerful agent to shift perception. Use this meditation to change focus from pain to pleasure. Appropriate for people dealing with chronic or acute physical pain, or a sudden trauma.

YOGA NIDRA

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Yoga Nidra is a deep relaxation that translates to “Yoga sleep,” meant to align the subconscious and conscious mind, allowing practitioners to behave more like their authentic self. By deeply relaxing and accessing the heart’s truest desire, yogis can then walk in alignment with their heart in thought, word, and deed.

WE ALL NEED SAVASANA

Regardless of where you are on a personal healing journey, you need rest. That is why you should practice savasana. Savasana may be used to relax, let go and surrender. There are many ways you can do savasana. Try out a few approaches to find what works best for you. You can simply lay flat on the floor on your back, palms up, legs relaxed. You may cover yourself in blankets, or place a heavy blanket folded over the hips and belly, for a more secure feeling. You may choose to prop your legs with bolsters, or legs up the wall, or on a chair.

YOGA POSES FOR BODIES RECOVERING FROM PHYSICAL INJURY

 

CHILD’S POSE ON A BOLSTER WITH A HEATED HERB PAD ON THE SACRUM

This pose will melt away stress; lengthen the spine safely for almost anybody, even if you have disc injuries. As with all forward folds, this pose is calming on a physiological level.

In this pose, your spread knees apart on a yoga blanket. The bolster, which is a supportive pillow, holds up the head and chest, keeping the back level, rendering it safe for most disc injuries. The warm herb pillow makes your spine happy as you breathe and relax.

PRONE SPINAL TWIST WITH BOLSTER

 

Source: Ace

This posture is safe for almost anyone. It combats the discomfort of sitting too much. It loosens up the hips and oblique muscles and opens the chest. It allows practitioners to slow down, which is where much of the magic happens.

In this posture, use a bolster lengthwise on the mat. Lay the chest onto the bolster and allow the hips to be on the mat below. Ensure that both knees and the face are looking in the same direction. Add a folded yoga blanket between the legs to protect the knees and ankles. Aim to take about 10-30 breaths, slowly letting the chest turn more and more toward the bolster. Drift deeply into relaxation before repeating on the second side. Make sure to transition from one side to the other gently and to remain in the pose on the second side for just as long as the first side.

DOWNWARD DOG ON THE WALL
Source: Suzanne Wright Yoga

This pose is safe for people with (most) shoulder injuries, pregnant bodies (although most pregnant bodies CAN do a typical downward dog) and for people who can not do weight bearing with the shoulders, to access the therapeutic benefits of spinal lengthening, blood circulation, and the alignment associated with downward dog.

This pose looks like the letter L turned upside down. Hinge your body at a 90° angle at the hips, arms extended. Place your palms and spreading fingers on the wall at shoulder width distance, your wrists and hips at hip height. You know your feet are far enough from the wall when they are flat on the floor facing the wall and, your hands flush with the wall, arms and spine extended. Be sure to bend your knees slightly and draw your tailbone backwards to lengthen the spine and protect the hamstrings.



Quadratus Lumborum and Mindful Back Health in Yoga

Low back pain is an increasing issue in our society dominated by poor posture, sedentary lifestyles, and chronic sitting patterns. The source of low back pain can vary, but a great deal of these muscular dysfunctions emanate from the quadratus lumborum muscles.

Most of us are quite familiar with the erector spinae muscles that travel from the hip crest/sacrum to various points up the vertebrae and ribs. These muscles function primarily as extensors of the back. Few people (including yoga teachers) are aware of the all-important quadratus lumborum muscles that are located deep toward the erector spinae.

The quadratus lumborum muscles sit on either side of the vertebrae. They originate on the iliac crest (hip bone) and insert on the transverse processes of the lumbar vertebrae and the 12th (last) rib.

When both sides contract, they extend the spine (and/or depress the ribcage from behind). When only one side contracts, the spine flexes laterally and/or elevates the ilium (hip) on that same side. In forced expiration, the quadratus lumborum will fix the 12 ribs.

When Back Pain Can Occur

Dysfunction and low back pain can settle into the quadratus lumborum under a few conditions:

  • If the erector spinae are weak or inhibited (as they often are in chronic seated postures), the quadratus lumborum attempts to take up the slack and loading in back extension and spinal stabilization leading to overall muscle fatigue.
  • If muscle imbalances build up across the pelvis (e.g., tight hip flexors), the lower vertebrae can shift into chronic excessive curvature (lordosis), which will shorten and weaken the quadratus lumborum and erector spinae.
  • If poor posture and upper body muscle tension forms across the chest and shoulders, rounded-back posture (kyphosis) will pull the rib cage up and away from the hip crest. This places stress and drag on the quadratus lumborum and portions of the erector spinae.
  • The deep gluteals (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) are responsible for hip abduction and pelvic stabilization in walking and other gait patterns. If these deep gluteal muscles are weak and inhibited, the quadratus lumborum and tensor fascia latae have to compensate to stabilize the pelvis.
  • Some physical experts have also found that tight hip adductor muscles (groin) can inhibit (through reciprocal inhibition) the gluteus medius muscles. As mentioned above, the quadratus lumborum muscle may compensate for the gluteus medius muscle’s lack of activity and pelvic stabilization.

How to Keep Your Back Healthy with Yoga

Understanding that the dysfunction residing in the quadratus lumborum is often the result of dysfunction and tension imbalances coming from other muscles, here are some initial approaches to maintaining health of the quadratus lumborum:

  • Develop a strategy to maintain fluid balance in upper and lower body posture patterns to avoid chronic hip flexor tightness, back extensor tension, and loss of natural vertebral curvature and pelvic placement
  • Stretch the chest, front of the shoulders, hip flexors, groin, and lower back frequently
  • Strengthen back extensors and overall core stabilizers
  • Strengthen and stretch deep gluteals to unload unnecessary engagement of the quadratus lumborum
  • Engage in proper therapeutic treatments when discomfort and pain develop

Need help with yoga for back pain? Sign up for our Yoga Foundations Guide with Rodney Yee & Colleen Saidman Yee!

Do These Yoga Poses for Back Pain

Here are some basic, accessible stretches readily prescribed to restore and maintain flexibility in the quadratus lumborum muscles:

Child’s Pose

Seated / Supported Side Bends

Lying Bend Knee Twists

When aiming to stretch the quadratus lumborum muscles and other lower back musculature, I would personally recommend avoid using forward bends like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), Paschimottasana (Seated Two Leg Forward Bend) and other similar poses.

Due to the nature of intervertebral disc compression in spinal flexion, these types of forward bends would be better served to actually involve engagement of the back extensors and transverse abdomen in order to extend the spine, shift the ‘flexion’ into the hips, unload the lower vertebrae and protect against disc compression.

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