At Last – Proof That Yoga Helps Back Pain Better Than Drugs!

Well, how about that!  Western science has shown that Yoga helps reduce back pain better than medication! 

In fact, the new guidelines from the American College of Physicians, states that people with back pain should avoid pain medicines if possible, and instead opt for alternatives such as tai chi, yoga and massage. Halleluiah!  Now, if we can get insurance companies to pay for these useful, preventative modalities we’d all be healthier. But then, insurance companies would lose money, and they don’t want that.

Those of us who are committed to our Yoga practice understand that this has been true for thousands of years and new science is simply catching up!

My classes and private sessions have been filled for years with people who are tired of taking or have no wish to get on strong, addictive drugs for their back pain and every one of them has found relief with the Yoga or Pilates exercises that I give them. AND not just back pain – neck and shoulders, hips, knees, etc. These happy people are the reason I continue to teach. They are why I wrote my book, “STOP Back Pain,” which has been on the Amazon bestseller list for most of five years. The human body benefits greatly from Yoga, which is the original Physical Therapy!

I read one article that talked about the need for more testing so that they can figure out which exercises, and exactly how, Yoga reduces back pain. OK……. I think it would be simpler if they just asked a Yoga teacher to explain. “Yoga” is not simply a series of physical exercises. It is a mind, body, spirit practice. What that means is that when people begin doing yoga, they learn to breathe more deeply which helps circulation; they learn ways to improve posture when sitting, standing, walking, etc. This benefits our spine health, heart health, AND circulation. After a few classes (taught by someone who is certified in Hatha Yoga) people begin to understand their own body more – how it works, what it needs and doesn’t need. This mind body connection means that when you shovel snow, move your furniture around, or in some way strain a muscle, you understand exactly where you have injured yourself and you know which exercises to do and how to help yourself. It is the complete practice of Yoga that helps people HEAL their back pain, not simply mask it with drugs.

I make note, above, about taking classes from a trained teacher, because I have seen some places like YMCA’s or gyms where a personal trainer had taken a weekend course (not properly certified) and then began teaching Yoga or even Pilates! These people do not have enough training to make sure that you are doing the postures correctly and they don’t know how to give you modifications so that you can do them without injury. They also usually only teach the physical postures and skip over the breathing and meditation parts and don’t remind you concentrate on rotating your leg in the hip socket instead of throwing the leg around with your hip, etc. So, when you take a class from an untrained person, you do not get the benefit of actually knowing your own body and what it needs. Every body is different!

If you’d like to know more about how to find the cause of your back or hip pain and what you can do to heal yourself, please feel free to ask. I offer coaching specific to back pain!

Today, I have also included a video of one Yoga pose that helps with lower back pain. Try it, you’ll like it!

Best of Health,


Pilates Proven To Relieve Back Pain!

So many people with back and or neck pain, and so many options for relief that they have not been told about...

It’s frustrating when you go your doctor, get an examination and a referral to a specialist, then go through more test and exams with that doc – sometimes after waiting months for your appointment, and then get yet another referral to a surgeon who then does more tests…

Well, many of you know the scenario. It happens all the time. STOP!

I have been saying for years “you DON”T have to live with back pain!”

My STOP Back Pain book, as well as my DVD and programs, have helped hundreds of people so far, and I’m aiming for thousands!

I have a good friend who suffered with back pain, went through months of docs, tests, etc., and then had surgery, but still has the same pain! She now says she would not have chosen to have the surgery if she’d known it would not heal her pain.

Unfortunately, her story is one I have heard over and over; but people are afraid of treatments that are not covered under their insurance. They have listened to their doctors tell them that there is no proof any of the complimentary modalities work. Notice I used the word “complimentary,” not alternative. There is so MUCH “anecdotal” proof for these complimentary therapies, in fact, that they cannot be called anecdotal any more, but because your doc did not learn about these modalities in medical school, in his or her mind, they do not exist. What a shame. I explain many of these therapies in my book. But some doctors are beginning to realize this, seeing the evidence, and some are even recommending things like acupuncture, chiropractic, Pilates or Yoga. Things are changing, just not very fast.

With that said, modern medical technology is amazing and can help a person get a definitive diagnosis, so don’t ditch your doc quite yet! Just remember that you are the head of your medical team and coordinating your care is part of the job you must do to get well.

I’ve had clients come into one of my Pilates classes so frightened of making their pain worse that they were literally shaking in their shoes. Chronic pain, especially back pain, is my specialty though, and I understand how to calm beginners and modify the exercises for them, so that they begin to feel better and eventually are not afraid and then we can begin to heal their pain.

As for the science behind what I do, here’s a study which showed improved core strength and stability, posture and balance, and fewer pain symptoms in people with chronic lower back pain, who took Pilates classes three times a week for 14 weeks. I have seen people’s back pain reduced with only one class a week, and one suggested exercise in between. It takes longer, maybe six months or so, but it can be done – WITHOUT SURGERY OR OPIODS!

Another study showed that a Pilates exercise program reduced back pain more than other interventions. This particular study looked at 128 scholarly articles on the topic, chose 29 to use in their analysis, and concluded “We found that there is a dearth of studies that clearly demonstrate the efficacy of a specific Pilates exercise program over another in the treatment of chronic pain.  However, the consensus in the field suggests that Pilates method is more effective than minimal physical exercise intervention in reducing pain.

I agree. Pilates does help.

I also use Yoga exercises for my clients with great success. All Yoga and Pilates exercises can be modified to help people who are stiff and sore, who haven’t worked out in a long time, who are in pain and/or scared of exacerbating their pain. Relief is possible!

Please don’t simply take any old Pilates class, however. There are some out there who have taken a weekend training course and then go forth and teach Pilates classes. These people are not really trained. ALWAYS check your instructor’s credentials. If you have questions about their certifications, drop me a note and I’ll happily check for you. There are some GREAT certification programs out there now, and I’ll be happy to look at your instructors and let you know if they have had sufficient training to help you.

If you’d like to work with me either in person, or via SKYPE, please contact me HERE.

Best of Health,


Do You Know How To “Stand Tall?”

I am always so pleased when one of my students "finds" their Serratus Anterior muscles. This muscle wraps around your bottom ribs and it's one that we do not use in our regular day to day activities, but one that is so important for keeping our spines aligned and preventing back pain! I'm sure we used it more when we were hunters and gatherers, but in today's world, not so much!

Not that any of us look like Arnold in the day, but here he is showing off his!Arnold showing Serratus Anterior

I work this muscle hard in my beginners Pilates classes and I use it in my coaching, as well, due to the effect it has on our posture. When this muscle is strong, it's so much easier to stand up tall. And when you can stand and sit taller, you also begin using other muscles along the spine as they were designed to be used. You'll notice faster improvement when you work out, and you'll breathe easier and feel better.

Standing up tall does not mean sucking in your gut, pushing your shoulders back and your chest out. This is what I was taught in school, it's the way military personnel are taught. Yet, it's completely wrong according to what we now know about the health of our spine. How many of us gals were taught, as little tykes in dance lessons, to tuck in our pelvis? I know that back in the day, teachers believed that's what would protect our back, but we know better now. Sucking in that gut and tucking the pelvis causes us to lose that lovely little curve in our lower back and we need that curve for proper alignment! Standing or walking with a tucked pelvis on a regular basis can cause our lumbar disks to become damaged (bulging, herniation, etc.)

And how many have neck and shoulder issues right now? Check your shoulders when you are doing a routine task and see if you are tensing them or wearing them as earmuffs. I can't walk through a store or down a busy street without seeing a large percentage of people tensing their shoulders to walk, fold clothes, or ring up a purchase. Totally unnecessary. In fact, walking and working become easier when you can learn to relax your shoulders!

Good posture is much more important than most of us think. That pain in your back or neck can be caused by, or at the very least is exacerbated by, poor posture. So, what's a gal (or guy) to do?

  1. Stand in front of a mirror normally. Concentrate on raising your rib cage up toward your head as you inhale. (easier to do it on an inhale at first) Now, notice how your spine has lengthened, your stomach has reduced in size a bit and your shoulders have squared automatically.
  2. Turn sideways in the mirror and do it again. Notice the same things. But also notice that when you do this, your lower back curve remains, it's not forced backwards. 

Now you are truly "Standing Tall" as our bodies are designed to do. No tensing of shoulders, not harming the lower back, just plain old good posture. 

Practice this whenever you think about it, until it becomes second nature to you, to both inhale and exhale with a lovely long spine.

Best of health, 


Feeling Overwhelmed and Overwrought?

Rushing through your Holiday Season?

Want to make this December a little bit less stressful and feel less overwhelmed and overwrought by the end of the year?

Spend THREE minutes a day doing this and you'll reduce all that tension and stress, relax all the muscles in your back and neck, dissolve tension and arrive on Jan 1st pain free!

Keep those muscles in good health and avoid the pain and strain with this simple exercise!

Best of Health,



Gardening Overworking Your Back? RELAX!

I am excited to say that I have planted my garden this year BEFORE Memorial Day! Can't remember ever doing that before; hope that means an early and fruitful harvest...

Spring is gardening time in the Berkshires and, once again this year, most of my friends and neighbors are walking around with stiff backs from all the weeding, tilling, planting, etc. Each spring I find time to remind everyone of the single most important way to help your back when you know you have done too much - RELAX!

This is the only position which will relax all the muscles along your spine at the same time. Do it every day for at least 5 minutes to reduce that tension and give your back a break. You'll be glad you did!

relaxation pic - me

Make sure that your butt is right up against the couch, with your calves resting on the seat of the couch. If your neck is arched up, you can place a small pillow or folded towel under your head (not under the neck) so your neck is also resting. If you want more information on how to prevent back pain, click HERE!

Best of Health,


Exercise – How Often, How Much?

This week a new student asked me if I do Pilates every day. She said she didn't think that she could exercise every day and was worried that coming to Pilates class only once a week wasn't going to make any difference for her. I explained why she was wrong, and if you are also wondering - not to worry! Yes, I have my own combination workout that I do most days, but I have been teaching these classes for more than 13 years and I see fabulous improvements in women who only come once a week. It takes longer, but doing a once a week class definitely makes a difference. People see their clothes fitting differently, they can walk farther and more comfortably, their flexibility improves, as does their mood!

Some of the reasons for this improvement are:

  1. A workout is like drinking an energy drink - without the caffeine and chemicals! It makes our brains feel more alert and our bodies feel more alive. This, in turn, gives us a greater sense of well being. That makes daily tasks feel less strenuous and gives a greater sense of accomplishment. This happens whenever you exercise, whether it's once a week or three times a week.
  2. As we age, both muscle and bone density are lost, so our posture takes a hit. With either Yoga or Pilates, you build lean muscle, especially in your core and along your spine, so you begin to naturally stand taller. Many women find that after a Pilates class, they need to adjust the rear view mirror in their car because they are sitting taller! I have found that the breathing and posture tools that you learn in Yoga or Pilates become part of your daily life after a while, so you are integrating these in everything you do all day!
  3. Also as we age, our muscles and joints can become stiff and achy, making us feel weak. Strength oriented routines such as Yoga and Pilates, give us more flexibility,while at the same time improving our mind body connection, so we become more aware of our own strength. This translates into accomplishing more at home, too. We find ourselves completing tasks that we had given up on, or performing them for longer periods, like raking leaves, or running upstairs to put a wash in, instead of waiting until you have to go up anyway. 

All of these, put together, make us feel better about ourselves, which means that we have the confidence to take on both more physical activity and mental challenges. The one thing that I notice about students after several weeks of a weekly class is this added confidence. Many of my students have started classes with back, neck, hip, or some other joint pain and are timid about doing anything physical. After a few weeks, the improvement I see in ability, flexibility, and confidence brings a smile to my face and reminds me why I love teaching!

So, if you are thinking about taking a class but are afraid it won't make much of a difference, think again! In a few weeks, you'll be very happy that you took that step!

Best of Health,


Take a Hike! Doctors Orders…

HERE is a link to a report that reinforces what other studies have proven how taking some exercise time in nature benefits our mood and brain. Ned and I went for a long hike last weekend and I felt soooooo much better afterward. I was glad that he insisted we get outside!

Get outside and exercise! In this recent study, researchers investigated whether spending time in nature affects rumination, and they found that hiking in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts. Cool – we can all use more positive thoughts…

In this study, researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through an urban environment and a nature environment. They found that those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment, a grassland near Stanford University, reported lower levels of rumination and also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is associated with mental illness. Those who walked through an urban environment didn’t enjoy these benefits.

These researchers indicate that our world is becoming more and more urban and that urbanization is linked to depression and other forms of mental illness. Visibly, simply removing us from an urban environment to spend time outdoors where there are fewer mental stressors, less noise, and fewer distractions can be advantageous for our mental health.

In another study by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer, creative problem solving was improved by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. In this study, participants hiked while backpacking in nature for approximately four days and they were prohibited from using technology. They were asked to perform tasks requiring creativity and complex problem solving. They found that those immersed in the hiking excursions had increased performance on problem-solving tasks by 50 percent. Wow!

Not to mention that we all know the benefits of walking/hiking for osteoporosis prevention.

So get out there and “take a hike!” And then when you come home, relax your spine with this simple Yoga inversion.

Best of Health,


Is Stress Giving You A Pain In The Butt?

This is a good time of year to bring the breathing practice,"Brahmari Breath," back out.

Great stress reliever, can be used to help the little ones who are about to have a melt down, and also helps lower blood pressure!

For many people stress goes right to their backs – what a pain in the butt!  

If you need a little stress relief to help calm your back pain try Brahmari!

In fact, let's try it right now:


Ahhh, feel better?

Best of Health,


Sept is Yoga Month!

I've been trained in Integral Yoga, a traditional form of yoga which includes a meditative practice, breathing practices, deep relaxation, and service to others, along with the physical asanas (yoga poses). 

This, to me is Yoga. There isn't any aerobics, or use of weights, etc. Yoga is a lifestyle of healthy habits!

I specialize in helping people with back, hip, knee pain.

Below is a great yoga asana that opens the hips and makes walking easier! Try it - you'll like it.

And if you want more help with your chronic pain issues, contact me HERE for your very own personalized coaching plan!