Question: I've been doing yoga and loving it for just over one year now, at home with a video, at least 2-3 times per week. I'm a 57 year old female and I've had lower back pain for many years. Over the last few months, the pain has been worse and after doing some research on-line, I've determined that I have SI Joint pain. My butt bones and the whole area across my lower back (way below my waist) hurts. I really don't want to give up my forward bends, nor my yoga . I've read how to avoid this pain, but I'm afraid that I still might be doing damage to my joint. Am I better off to switch to Pilates? Will Pilates also aggravate this? Any comments or suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
Answer: I can completely relate to your situation. I suffered with SI (sacro-iliac) joint pain a few years back that was very painful and difficult to manage. I don't necessarily recommend that you switch to Pilates yet as this may not be the immediate answer. I personally recommend getting assessed by a chiropractor or physiotherapist for any musculoskeletal imbalances first.
My SI issues surfaced with my Yoga practice, but NOT DUE to my Yoga practice. I have found that as much as Yoga can heal and balance the body, it can also exacerbate pre-existing conditions.
In my case, I have one leg slightly longer that the other (limb length discrepancy-very common). This discrepancy creates a slight difference in flexibility in the sides of the legs, thighs, and hips for me. When I was doing Yoga, one side had far less resistance (ie in half twist yoga pose I could fully bind on 1 side and not the other). Instead of going only the limits of the weaker side, I went to the full edge of the dominant side. This created further imbalances that lead to SI instability.
So, I recommend working with a qualified sports medicine professional to assess if you have any joint issues that generate imbalance and muscle dominance. Also consider if you are doing other activities that are highly imbalanced - ie snow boarding, golf, work posture and movements. If you are engaging in activities that produce muscle imbalances, your Yoga and exercise programs should focus on rebalancing those energies.
Again, modification will definitely be required for your practice until you know the cause(s) of the SI pain. Switching to Pilates may not be the answer just yet.