Posted by: Yoga in Borve | October 8, 2014

Yoga book review: ‘Yoga for a healthy lower back’

‘Yoga for a healthy lower back: A practical guide to developing strength and relieving pain’, by Liz Owen and Holly Lebowitz Rossi, is available from Portree Community Library.  Or at least it will be if I ever give it back…I’ve had it out on loan since the start of September and it’s inspired the six week block of classes I’ve been teaching since then.  I promise I’ll give it back to the library this Friday – and then I’m going to buy my own copy.

This makes it sound like it might be the Best. Yoga. Book. Ever.  But it wouldn’t actually be to everyone’s taste.  If you’re new to yoga and want a little straightforward advice about what to do at home to help your back, this book might be rather overwhelming.  I’m often asked to recommend good simple books to help start a home practice – to the extent that (*yoga geek alert!*) I’ve put a few likely contenders on my birthday/Christmas list, so I can check them out over the next few months.  ‘Yoga for a healthy lower back’ is not one of them.  However, if you have a bit of yoga experience, like detailed expert information, and have a history of back problems – this could be the perfect book for you.

Liz Owen has been teaching yoga for many years, specialising in helping students relieve their back pain.  Holly Lebowitz Rossi, a writer as well as a student of yoga, came to Liz looking for help with her own lower back pain, which is now a thing of the past.

The book begins with a great introductory chapter which gives an overview of spinal anatomy, the link between stress and pain, what yoga is, and how it can help you.  It runs through the basics of how to breathe, stand, sit and rest well – things we often take for granted, and do both automatically and poorly enough to affect our health.  The chapter ends with a section on how to use the book and how to start a home practice, including descriptions of some simple yoga props and how to use them.

After that, the book is divided into chapters 2-6, each focusing on a different area of the back, from the hips and sacrum right up to the neck – and not forgetting the importance of your abdominal core.  These chapters follow the same format of short sections: the first ‘through Western eyes’ (a bit of anatomy and physiology), the next ‘through Eastern eyes’ (what the authors describe as the energetic view, including chakras, meridians and Ayurveda), followed by ‘the holistic view’ uniting both perspectives – and finally a much larger section devoted to yoga poses specifically geared towards stabilising, stretching and strengthening that area of the back.

Chapter 7 suggests several yoga routines which can be done at home to maintain a healthy back, for example ‘releasing sequence for computer over-use’ and ‘quieting sequence for an over-active day’.  Finally, Chapter 8 provides yoga routines for specific diagnoses and conditions, e.g. arthritis, herniated disk, lumbar muscular pain, etc.

Different parts of the book will appeal to different people.  For me, the bits I’m returning to over and over again – the reason I’m buying my own copy – are the lengthy and detailed sections of exercises in chapters 2-6, focusing on particular areas of the back.  I’ve been doing yoga for decades, with some very good teachers, but Owen’s approach to certain key yoga asanas (postures) has helped me see them in a different way, with deeper understanding.  She has also introduced me to several interesting little exercises which are apparently low-key and subtle but also (as I know from the feedback of a few people in my classes and from my own back!) extremely effective.

My recommendation?  If you are prepared to work on your back issues regularly at home as well as attending a yoga class, borrow ‘Yoga for a healthy lower back’ from the library and see if you enjoy it before investing in a copy.  If you’re wanting a short and simple book/routines, I’m aiming to post reviews of a few options before the end of the year.



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