What do to for a student with herniated cervical disc

There are often many questions about Yin Yoga and specific spinal conditions. Feel free to ask your question here, or check out other posts or contribute input from your own experience.
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Bernie
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Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

What do to for a student with herniated cervical disc

Post by Bernie »

I recently received the following questions:
  • I now specialize in yin and teach a lot of private lessons. I currently am working with a gentleman who has herniated discs in the upper spine (neck). We have been doing hatha yoga...but I want to do yin with him. This will help yes?! Any advice?! Poses to do, stay away from...
Here is my reply: Similar questions have been asked before and there are a couple of posts on the Forum that I would like to direct you to: But, having offered those, neither you nor I are doctors, and I don’t know your student at all, so there is no way I can offer any sensible advice for him. My advice for you is to ask him what his doctor told him to do or not do. Follow the doctor’s advice: if he says no flexion of the neck, don’t let the head drop forward in any postures.

The doctor’s advice will probably depend upon the nature and location/direction of the herniation. Without that understanding, there is no way you can prescribe postures for your student. Not all herniations are posterior, so not all students react well to neck extensions. The doctor may say that extensions are okay but not flexions, so postures like Sphinx may be great as long as your student hold the head up, perhaps resting his chin in his hands or his forehead on a block. The same caution in all flexions postures like Butterfly: keep the head up. But, the herniation may be lateral, in which case extensions of the neck may not be a good idea, nor would twisting be allowed. Again, what does the doctor suggest?

You can teach your student how to pay attention to his neck, to notice sensations and learn to determine what is organic for him. See my latest newsletter article on sensations and pain in yoga classes and maybe send it to your student to help him learn what to pay attention to.

It would be lovely if we could have one set list of do’s and don’ts for all of our students, but each student in unique and their conditions are also unique. There is no one set of instructions that works for everyone: it will take time for your student working with you and his doctor to work out his program to return to optimal health.

Good luck!
Bernie
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