Back Pain Relief Through Yoga

yoga sphinx relieving back pain

If you are one of the ⅔ of Americans who suffer from low back pain, you understand how much of an effect it can have on your everyday life. Depending on the severity, even the most basic tasks can be a burden. Many of us spend much of the day sitting, and this can be a big factor in what’s causing your low back pain. We wake up and sit down to eat breakfast, or drink coffee. Depending on your job, you might spend most of your day sitting at your desk. The commute to and from work involves more sitting. Sitting For lunch. Sitting for dinner. You see where this is going. We spend much of the day in one position and our muscles do not get to move and stretch as often as they should, which shortens your hamstrings and iliopsoas muscles.

We’ve mentioned the benefits of yoga before, with our 5 Yoga Poses for Migraine Headaches. We’d like to tell you about 5 more yoga poses; these ones are geared toward low back pain relief. You can do all of these from home, so you don’t have to worry about spending money on a class. There are many benefits to yoga, including:

  • Improving posture
  • Eliminating muscle imbalances
  • Reducing stress levels
  • Lowering blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improving your physique

If you have a slipped disc, or severe back pain, be sure to consult your doctor before trying these moves or anything that involves deep forward bends.

  1. Supine Hamstring Stretch

While on your back, bend your right knee inward toward your chest, and place a strap or rolled-up towel around the ball of your foot. Straighten your leg skyward. Push both heels outward. If your lower back feels strained while doing this, place your left foot on the ground and bend the left knee. Hold this position for 3-5 minutes, then do the same with the left leg.

  1.        Two-Knee Twist

Again while on your back, bring both knees toward your chest, and extend your arms into a “T.” While exhaling, lower your knees to the ground, to your right side. Both shoulders should remain firmly pressed to the ground. If you are having trouble keeping your left shoulder down, lower knees away from your right arm. Hold this position on each side for 1-2 minutes.

  1.    Sphinx

For this move, lie flat on your stomach and prop yourself up on your forearms. Your elbows should be aligned directly under your shoulders. Push through both your palms and the top of your feet, while pushing your pelvis forward. Be sure to breathe through the sensations you feel in your back. This move will help with blood flow to your lower back. Hold pose for 1-3 minutes.

  1.     Thread the Needle

For this one, lay on your back and bend both knees, while keeping both feet on the ground. Pull your right knee toward you, lifting your foot off the ground. Cross your left leg on top of your right quad. Your left calf should be parallel to the ground. As the name suggests, thread your left arm between your legs, and with your right arm on the right side of your thigh, lock your fingers while pulling slightly toward your body. Your knee should be roughly at a 90-degree angle. Hold for 2-3 minutes, then repeat on the other side.

  1. Legs Up the Wall

While in a seated position, scoot your buttocks all the way against the wall, then bring your feet and legs up the wall. This move drains stagnant fluid from the feet while relaxing your lower back muscles. Hold for 5-10 minutes.

As you relax, focus on your breathing. Like working out, or getting a massage, breathing is key. After this beneficial stretching is completed, be sure to drink plenty of water to help flush out any toxins. For best results, be sure to do these stretches regularly. We hope that these stretches aid in making your low back pain more manageable.

Learn more about low back pain clinical research at

The Unexpected Dangers of Menopause: Osteoporosis and Heart Disease

protenium woman in park

Women go through many seasons of change in their lives. They get married. They have children. They climb the corporate ladder. They deal with teenage angst. They watch their children leave for college or get married. Most of these changes are predictable, coming with the expected joys and challenges. However, during mid-life, many women feel like they’ve been thrown off course and it’s all because of menopause.

Many of the symptoms and side effects of menopause are unexpected. Sure, most women have heard about hot flashes, but they didn’t know they would feel this bad. Many women are surprised when they have difficulty sleeping or “getting in the mood” with their husbands. Even worse, most women don’t realize that menopause presents some serious health concerns.

Most of these menopause-related health issues are due to fluctuating hormones. Those pesky hormones are a lot more powerful than most women imagine. They influence everything from the bones to the heart. Read below to learn the top two ways hormones influence the body after menopause and see how women can stay healthy during the post-menopausal years.

#1: Osteoporosis

Picture this: a hunched over elderly woman who looks like she can’t sit up straight. Although this scenario is sometimes an unfair stereotype regarding older women, the main point is true: women’s bones weaken as they get older. This weakened, hunched over appearance is due to osteoporosis. The condition refers to the deterioration of bones and women are most susceptible during menopause and the years that follow.

Men and women of all ages can be subject to osteoporosis, but menopausal women have two reasons to worry: bones naturally start to weaken when a woman is in her 40s and the drop of estrogen during menopause causes bone breakdown to rapidly outpace bone building.

Don’t worry—not all women are doomed to become brittle-boned! There are several easy and natural ways to prevent osteoporosis. Try doing weight-bearing exercises at least three times each week, taking in at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day, going outside for at least 10 minutes daily to soak up the “sunshine vitamin” (vitamin D), and stop using tobacco products.

#2: Heart Disease

When it comes to cardiovascular health, women have bragging rights. It’s true—women have a lower risk of heart problems than men do. But, that decreased risk only lasts up to a certain age. Once a woman hits menopause, her risk of cardiovascular complications goes up drastically. In fact, a post-menopausal woman is twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease as a woman her same age who has not yet gone through menopause.

Just like osteoporosis, estrogen is at play here. The hormone helps to prevent plaque from building up in the blood vessels and provides a level of protection for the entire cardiovascular system. This is wonderful for women during their reproductive years—they’re protecting their heart without even knowing it! But once menopause hits, the hormones decrease and women need to pay special attention to their heart health.

During the premenopausal years, women should speak with their doctors about potential cardiovascular risk factors. This includes things like smoking, family history, lack of exercise, obesity, high blood pressure, and many other health criteria. By evaluating the risk factors early, women have a few years to implement healthy lifestyle habits before they get into the full swing of menopause.

If you think you’re at risk for osteoporosis or heart disease, please speak with your doctor as soon as possible. In addition to lifestyle changes, doctors may recommend several medications to boost bone health or protect the heart. Possible medications include hormone therapy and supplemental estrogen. These types of prescription drugs have been extremely controversial in the past. Be sure to speak with your doctor regarding the comprehensive risks and benefits of any medical treatment for heart disease or osteoporosis.

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Perimenopause: The Change Before “The Change”

Tired woman

The skinny on menopause has made the rounds.  You know about the hot flashes, mood swings and that any reference to “the change” is likely to bring your favorite middle-aged woman out swinging.  But did you know that most women experience perimenopause prior to menopause?  Similar to an opening act at a concert, perimenopause is the body’s way of saying “Batten down the hatches – the storm is coming.”

Perimenopausal symptoms are not much different from menopausal symptoms.  Common symptoms are hot flashes, breast tenderness, decreased libido, fatigue, urine leakage, mood swings and insomnia.  Less common symptoms are vaginal dryness, incontinence, memory lapses and uterine bleeding.

The average length of perimenopause is about four years but there are outliers.  Some women may only have it for a few months while others can have it for a decade.  Onset usually occurs in the 40’s but some women may go into perimenopause in their late 30’s.

During perimenopause, estrogen levels are on an infinite roller coaster.  Menstrual cycles may be affected and periods may become longer, shorter, heavier, lighter or just more irregular.  The declining estrogen levels signal the body to stop producing eggs and the erratic hormone supplies cause a mass of confusion.  Pregnancy is still possible during menopause.

So aside from a lovely preview of your menopausal years, what do you get out of this?  Admittedly, not much.  The symptoms have during perimenopause are likely to mirror the symptoms you’ll have in menopause.  It’s important to note that perimenopausal symptoms can mimic other issues like thyroid dysfunction.  Consult with your physician to get an accurate diagnosis.

Thankfully, there is help.  Gynecologists may prescribe hormone replacement therapy in the form of oral medication or topical creams.  Adjustments in diet, supplementation and exercise may help alleviate uncomfortable symptoms.  Working out strategies to deal with symptoms during perimenopause will better prepare you for “the real thing.”  Knowing ahead of time what you’ll be dealing with should give you a little… pause.

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What Causes Hot Flashes? Ask Your Brain

brain causes hot flashes

If you’ve ever had a hot flash, you know the symptoms are undeniable. Your heart races, the sweat pours off your brow, and your face turns red (good-bye makeup!). While each hot flash might only last a few minutes, many women report that hot flashes have a substantial negative impact on their lives. In fact, up to 15 percent of menopausal women seek medical help because of their hot flashes.

Millions of frustrated menopausal women have spent countless days and nights wondering why they’re having hot flashes. Is it old age? Is it stress? Is the thermostat just set too high? The real reason behind hot flashes is actually quite scientific. Researchers believe they are caused by a complex interaction between a specific part of the brain and a woman’s hormones.

It all starts with the hypothalamus – the part of the brain that regulates body temperature, appetite, sleep cycles, and a variety of hormones. The changing hormones brought about by menopause directly affect the hypothalamus and its regulating capabilities. Estrogen, follicle stimulating hormone, testosterone, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, and cortisol may all play a part in hot flashes. In the case of body temperature, these hormone imbalances cause the hypothalamus to go off the deep end. It mistakenly tells the body that it is way too hot. This faulty response triggers the common symptoms of a hot flash: the heart speeds up, the blood vessels open wide, the skin flushes, and the sweat glands go to work.

Because hot flashes are the result of a miscommunication in the body, scientific researchers have found several different classes of medications that can suppress the mistaken reactions. Examples include blood pressure medications, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, and some herbal remedies. Doctors also suggest that women employ practical tips to lessen the impact of hot flashes: dress in layers, turn down the thermostat, avoid alcohol and caffeine, practice relaxation techniques, and exercise regularly.

Now that you know what’s causing your hot flashes, do you feel better? The scientific reasoning might not give you much comfort, but rest assured, hot flashes usually subside completely in the first or second year following menopause.

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Hot Tips For Menopausal Women with Hot Flashes

lady.fanIf you’ve ever experienced sudden and profuse sweating, you’ve probably had a hot flash. If your family is wearing sweaters indoors mid-summer, you just might be experiencing “nature’s change.”  Can’t unload the dish washer without burning up?  Yep, hot flashes.

Hot flashes, often referred to as vasomotor symptoms, are a short but extreme sensation of heat.  They can last just a few minutes or up to an hour. They will leave you splotchy, red-faced and covered in sweat.  So much for today’s make-up and good luck finding an anti-hot flash antiperspirant! In most cases, hot flashes are associated with menopause and perimenopause.

Perimenopause, also called the menopause transition, is the period of time when a woman experiences noticeable shifts in her cycle and/or hormone levels.  Perimenopause is the precursor to menopause.  Menstrual cycles become longer or shorter.  Fertility decreases and mood swings are common.  LDL cholesterol may rise with the decline of estrogen.  Interest in sex and sexual function may drop off.  Night sweats may cause sleep disruption.

The normal menstrual cycle includes hormone surges and as such, a woman’s hormone levels change as she moves through her cycle.  In the later stages of life, the ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone.  The end result is a stable hormone level but in the interim, women experience difficulty with the body’s ability to regulate temperature, called thermoregulation. It is a thermoregulation disorder that is primarily responsible for the flinging off of clothes at potentially inappropriate times, marital arguments about the temperature of the bedroom and the temptation to cool down via the refrigerator.

Hot flashes are just one of several symptoms of menopause, but they will affect nearly 75% of all women. Menopause (and consequently, hot flashes) is unavoidable.  Nevertheless, there are things you can do to keep cool-headed and cool-bodied.

  • Dress in layers that you can peel off without offending anyone.
  • Keep fans at home and work.  Keep a personal fan in your purse for stuffy/warm places.
  • Note any specific triggers that precede your hot flashes (spicy food, caffeine, sugar, etc.).
  • Wear cotton nightclothes and keep breathable cotton sheets on the bed.
  • Sip iced beverages throughout the day.
  • Upgrade your bed to a king for less heat transfer from your bedmate.
  • Try a cool shower.
  • Keep fabric ice packs in freezer for a quick cool-down.
  • Exercise can ease the frequency and severity of hot flashes.
  • Reduce stress levels with massage, meditation or yoga.
  • Go for a swim.
  • Try supplementing with black cohosh.  There have been mixed opinions about its efficacy but it’s worth a try.
  • Increase your consumption of phytoestrogen-rich foods such as, lentils, soy, and chickpeas.

It’s important to remember that your hot flashes WILL end.  Perimenopause and menopause are simply stages of life.  You just have to keep your cool. Related Article: What Causes Hot Flashes? Ask Your Brain Hot Flashses CTA