How Does Yoga work with students who have Stenosis and other disc issues?

How Does Yoga work with students who have Stenosis and other disc issues?


I am beginning a new gig soon for folks 60+. Very excited to share all I’ve learned from you! One student asked how yoga would work as she has stenosis and other disc issues.


Answer from Justine

With central and foraminal spinal stenosis, back bends can trigger pain and spasms due to compressing the nerves. Forward bends open the foramen and spinal canal and give relief – I always say with deeply bent knees when standing, and always look for a forward tilt of the pelvis and sacrum so that the spine and sacrum are tilting the same way to avoid hinging in the lumbar spine, which can compress the intervertebral discs. If she has disc damage, back bends are usually more healing – so it is a bit of a catch 22. Let pain be her guide – any ‘uh-oh’ pain, come out. Mild movements linked to breath, as though she is breathing directly into the area of pain, can be profoundly helpful – it doesn’t take huge movements to get great effects 🙂 Twists can be risky – no leverage…..but using her core strength to rotate her body around the axis of her spine (even if it is just a very small movement) can be helpful – like ‘flossing’ between the vertebrae and bringing in circulation and space. Lateral bends are helpful as they stretch the quadratus lumborum – which when tight can compress the vertebrae and foramen and increase pain.

Stenosis is very similar to osteoarthritis – it is the location of the excess bone growth that makes it stenosis. I always say use heat to relieve pain – ice and cold can make it worse. The first video below talks a little bit more about stenosis, and the bottom video offers a gentle back bend practice – if it hurts to lift the pelvis high there is much benefit to just staying at pelvic tilts or coming up only as far as is comfortable. I think this pose (dvi pada pitham, aka rolling bridge) is one of the things that has helped my back tremendously.

I hope that helps. Please feel free to reach out with any questions 🙂

Much love,