Steve was an avid sportsperson until he was struck with chronic back pain, leaving him no other choice than to give up his beloved football. Keen to stay active, he turned to hot yoga.

Case study: combating backpain with yoga

Can yoga fill the fitness void in your life?

Steve Wilkins is a busy man managing a number of popular pub-restaurants in North-Buckinghamshire. As if a demanding career and helping to raise his three children wasn’t enough, Steve has always enjoyed an active life out of hours too. Right up until his late 40s, he played a number of sports, in particular team-based contact sports such as football.

But when severe back pain forced Steve to give up his favourite sports, it was hot yoga that stepped in to fill the void.

Dealing with back pain

Whilst enjoying a skiing holiday six years ago, Steve was struck by sudden chronic back pain. “I was simply lifting up a bag when I was suddenly in agony,” he explains, “I could barely move, I couldn’t even get out of bed.” The condition became so severe that at one stage he experienced 70% loss of muscle control in one leg.

Steve had suffered a prolapsed disc in his spine, a very common complaint which could have occurred at any time.

Steve’s chiropractor suggested a routine of exercises to gradually develop his flexibility and protect his sensitive back muscles. These simple yoga-based movements seemed to do the trick. Steve soon felt he was on the road to recovery and returned back to the sports he loved.

“It was whilst I was out on the football pitch that I suddenly felt my back go again!” Steve said. Regretfully, he realised he would probably have to give up the football and running, yet at the same time was keen to continue with some sort of regular exercise. “I was looking for an activity that would be safe for my back. I considered cycling and swimming, but you often end up doing that on your own, it all seemed so boring.”

Having walked past Sweat Yoga Studios in Milton Keynes on a number of occasions, the idea of taking a yoga class began to take shape. “I had done a little yoga previously as part of a recovery process after sporting events, and the idea of joining a class with other people and the fact I could do yoga at any time, whatever the weather, appealed to me. I knew the benefits of flexibility would be especially valuable as I got older, and it might be a great way to deal with my back.”

Yoga: a safe way to exercise

Despite the obvious plus sides, it was only after gaining weight over Christmas, an inevitable pitfall for anyone working in Steve’s line of work, that he finally decided to give Sweat Studios a try. “I was really unhappy about the shape I was in, I knew I had to do something.”

“I was quite apprehensive, I assumed that because I was a male in his fifties, in less than peak shape, I’d stick out like a sore thumb. Speaking to the Sweat Studios team, I was reassured that that wouldn’t be the case at all, so I signed up for the studio’s offer for new clients.”

Steve’s first experience with us was a hot yoga session. “When I entered the studio for that first class, I was relieved that I wasn’t the oldest one there and I wasn’t the only male either. The atmosphere was really welcoming and un-intimidating.” But as that first class progressed, Steve admits he was unprepared for how much of a workout a hot yoga class can be. “After about forty minutes I was exhausted.”

Undeterred, Steve found things got gradually easier over the next couple of classes, as he acclimatised to the heat and became more attuned to the various poses and stretches. He soon decided to take up a monthly package with us and eventually became a year member.

Eliminating aches and pains, boosting energy, losing weight

Before too long, Steve clearly noticed how his yoga postures were improving. How he was able to stretch further, for longer and with greater control and balance. Steve started to really enjoy how the hot yoga classes were physically challenging. “The movements may be slow, but your heart is racing, it is a great workout.” He also noted just how well he slept on those days he had a yoga class.

After just a couple of months at Sweat Studios, Steve was aware of even more dramatic benefits: losing those unwanted pounds, muscle tone and having more energy in everyday life. And as for his back? “My back problems are really a non-issue now,” he explains, “My chiropractor couldn’t be more delighted with my improvement. He explained to me why yoga has been so good for my back; how it develops key core muscle groups to protect your back.” Like any fifty-something, Steve would experience general aches and pains in daily life. But even that has changed. “Before, I might come home, collapse on the sofa and then struggle to get up again. But not now!”

These noticeable benefits of yoga have encouraged Steve to be a regular visitor to Sweat Studios, attending classes on average three times a week. He particularly enjoys our dynamic fast-moving Sweat Flow class which provides a really heart-pumping workout. He also appreciates the rewarding sense of accomplishment in setting your own goals and achieving them. “In the class, you have to really focus on what you’re doing all the time. It is a fantastic way to switch off and forget any hassles or problems you have.”

Advice for those trying yoga for the first time

Steve has a few words of advice for others who may be considering hot yoga for the first time. “Firstly, forget your inhibitions and just give it a go.” He adds, “From my experience at Sweat Studios, you are never made to feel judged or feel inadequate as a beginner. Secondly, commit to doing it for a month before making a decision about whether to carry on with it. You probably will find the first couple of classes quite a challenge and surprisingly exhausting, and that might put a few people off. But if you’re determined to give it a shot, with gentle guidance from the instructors, you will soon start getting the hang of it. After a few lessons, you will soon notice your technique improving and will certainly start feeling the many benefits yoga can bring.”

Achieving spine health

One of the biggest causes of back pain are our work habits; being sat at a desk, or behind a steering wheel all day, or even lifting heavy objects. A yoga class will keep your spine supple by moving it and protected by strengthening the core muscles that support it. Backbending is a key focus of a yoga session which you don’t get in other exercise classes and it is integral to spine health. But it is important that backbends are done carefully. Come along to our Better Backbends Workshop on Saturday 14th October 12-2pm, where you’ll get expert help to make sure that you’re doing your backbends safely.

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