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According to Philadelphia-based neurologist Julio Kuperman, M.D., who has been practicing yoga for 25 years and teaching for 10, being diagnosed with a hernia does not mean the end of your yoga practice. In fact, he cured his own inguinal (groin area) hernia with yoga. For all types of hernia, it’s important to consult with a trusted medical professional (and a qualified yoga teacher). Both Dr. Kuperman and Dr. Jeff Migdow, M.D., a practicing yogi with a holistic medical practice at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, Massachusetts, believe that a gentle yoga practice can help bring strength to the musculature where the hernia is occurring.
According to Dr. Kuperman, abdominal (or umbilical) hernias like are a result of weakness in the rectus abdominus muscles, which run from the pubis to the rib cage. He suggests beginning with some yogic sit-ups. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, knees bent, and lift just your head off the floor (no curling or crunching!). You may want to avoid poses that put excess pressure on the abdomen, like twists and full Navasana (Boat Pose). “Practice standing poses like Vrksasana (Tree Pose), which stabilizes the psoas and lumbar spine,” says Dr. Kuperman. Even if you are drawn to a stronger practice, nice and easy is what you need now.
Many also suffer from a hiatal hernia, which is a protrusion of the stomach into the diaphragm. People who suffer from this should also avoid postures which put pressure on the abdomen, like Cobra, Bow, and Bridge. Practicing slow, deep breathing can firm the diaphragmatic muscles. And with a hiatal hernia, it is best to avoid inversions, which can send acids from the stomach back into the esophagus.