On Saturday, the HIC’s Total Health Center hosted a public event titled Yoga to Relieve Back Pain. Resident yoga instructor Virat Xavier and Total Health consultant Joan Fomum led the group in stretches and exercises to strengthen the muscles of the back and abdomen.

Xavier explained, “The inner core muscles of the back are so deep that it’s difficult to feel where the stretch is taking place. What you’ll notice instead is, after you do these exercises, your back might not hurt so much the next morning, or you’ll bend over to pick up something and feel as if your back is really loose.”

Lower back pain is a problem that spans both the developed and developing world, but what is attributed to long hours behind the desk or computer in one is, in the other, for people like Lawong of Kumbo, simply the price of doing labor. Lawong is a man in his mid-seventies. He holds the title of a traditional lineage head (faay) and is the husband of a parliamentarian. He came to the yoga class because he wanted to learn more about what causes chronic back pain. “Anyone who has labored on the farm,” he said, “knows very well this back ache.”

Lawong, like many others in Kumbo, has been dissatisfied with the painkillers prescribed at the local hospital for back pain. As one participant said, “If you buy the drugs, your back ache might go away, but you don’t know when it will return, and so then you’ve already spent this money but you haven’t solved anything.” Yoga is a method for discovering and correcting the subtle imbalances that lead to disease. Providing people with the tools and the knowledge they need to heal themselves is the ongoing goal of the Himalayan Institute’s Total Health program.


Joan helps a participant into the “cobra” pose