This constant complaints from both my novice and long practicing students was becoming a matter of concern for a while now. In fact, many who practice ‘Kapalbhati’ also complain about back pain. Kapalbhati is also an abdominal breathing. Hence some connection did seem to exist between back pain and abdominal breathing.
Yogic world swears by the practice of ‘Abdominal Breathing’ for optimal benefits. The logical argument for ‘abdominal breathing’ is that when a baby is born, it breaths involving its abdomen. So it was an obvious inference that abdominal breathing is the most natural and effective mode of breathing. But the persistent and continuous complaints of back pain were a cause of concern and needed immediate action.
It was an interesting journey to get into the root of the problem. The results proved to be an eye opener:
- Wrong postural assumption was the obvious issue. When this was corrected, it did reduce the back pain but did not eliminate it completely in many cases. Despite the postural correction, students with weak back and core muscles continued to complain. The understanding that dawned was – practitioners without a strong core and back resort to ‘slouching’ after some duration into the practice. This results in back pain.
- As the name indicates, abdominal breathing predominately engages your abdomen. There is no involvement of the spine. The spine needs to remain neutral and firm throughout. On the contrary, however, repeated forward expansion of abdomen during inhalation unconsciously ends up engaging the lower back too into forward pull and thereby, into lumbar misalignment. With practitioners, who have extra flab around their tummy, this process of unconscious forward pull of lower back becomes even more prominent and stressful leading to back pain.
- Coming to the popular example of abdominal breathing by a new born – a new born’s spine is ‘C’ shaped compared to the ‘S’ shape of an adult. The ‘C’ shape seems more conducive to abdominal breathing. Not only that, the abdominal breathing for a new born happens in a lying down position where the back has a broad support of the floor. If an adult chooses to do abdominal breathing lying in a supine position, they might be able to do away with this complaint.
Tackling this issue, so that it is not a constant and recurring struggle is of critical importance.
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Shammi Gupta, founder of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an MA in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is a certified trainer from American College of Sports Medicine and holds an MBA in HR & MBA in Finance from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporate, Yogasana Workshops for Athletes and Yoga Therapy Workshops on different medical issues for patients. Among the celebrities Shammi trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporate world.