Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spaces in the spine where the spinal cord and nerve roots transverse. The narrowing of these passageways results in pressure on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots that exit the spine creating pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. The spinal passageways can be further closed off due to inflammation that arises after these tissues become irritated. Central stenosis is narrowing of the central cannal where the spinal cord travels. Lateral stenosis is the narrowing of the openings between vertebrae where the nerve roots exit the spine.
Conditions that cause spinal stenosis include infection, tumors, trauma, herniated disc, arthritis, thickening of ligaments and growth of bone spurs. Spinal stenosis most commonly occurs in older individuals as a result of vertebral and disk degeneration.
Yoga’s ability to correct posture, improve vertebral alignment and increase range of motion makes it an excellent therapy to reduce the symptoms of spinal stenosis and curb its further progression.
With central stenosis backbends can close off the spinal canal and must be approached with caution, backing off if symptoms are reproduced. Forward bends open the canal diameter and will help to reduce symptoms. For lateral stenosis, side bending and twisting away from the painful side will open up the spaces between the vertebrae to reduce pressure on the nerve roots and alleviate symptoms. For both types of stenosis practice inversions to reduce inflammation and use poses that emphasize good posture and lengthen the spine such as mountain, staff, bound angle, downward dog, joyful baby and wind relieving pose.
It is important to not practice any poses that reproduce or aggravate the symptoms of stenosis as this can damage the spinal nerves and increase inflammation.
A complete list of yoga postures that benefit stenosis is now available in our premium yoga therapy section.