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by Brent A. Bauer and Randy A. Shelerud, Rodney Yee
Gaiam, 2008
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D. on Mar 5th 2009

Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions for Back Pain

This DVD is part of a series from lifestyle company Gaiam and the Mayo Clinic, an integrated group practice treating every medical condition.  The DVDs in this Wellness Solutions series take an Integrative Medicine approach to various conditions; as explained by Dr. Brent Bauer, Director of the Mayo Clinic's Complimentary and Integrative Medicine Program, this includes a combination of traditional and alternative healing methods with exercise and diet to produce relief.  The Main Menu of the DVD reads as follows:  Chapter 1, What is Integrative Medicine? (a 4-minute overview by Dr. Bauer); Chapter 2, Understanding Your Condition:  Back Pain; Chapter 3, Action Plan; and Chapter 4, Behind the Scenes (includes meet the doctors, credits, other Gaiam products, etc.).

The heart of this DVD lies in Chapters 2 and 3.  The second chapter features two doctors:  Dr. Ralph Gay, a Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician, and Dr. Randy Shelerud, Director of the Mayo Clinic Spine Center.  Between the two of them, they provide a 25-minute discussion of back pain issues.  First of all, they explain that 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their adult lives, and they instill hope that the condition can be treated.  They also address common myths about back pain.  Finally, they review some very general treatment strategies, such as the importance of proper posture and keeping active.  Chapter 3, the Action Plan, is further broken down into three segments:  Eat Well to Feel Well (Nutrition Options), Soothing Therapy (Meditation for Back Pain), and Soothing Therapy (Yoga for Back Pain).  For the first 11 minutes of the nutrition segment, a doctor leads you through "smart shopping" at the grocery store; this information is common to all the Mayo Clinic Wellness Solutions DVDs.  The next 6 minutes features a dietitian explaining basic nutritional information such as the benefits of a plant-based diet and portion control.

The meditation and yoga segments are led by renowned yoga instructor Rodney Yee.  For the meditation portion, Yee is alone, and he instructs via voiceover for two separate 5-minute meditation programs.  The first is a seated meditation; Yee instructs you to sit on a block or towels and focuses your attention on lengthening in this position.  The second meditation practice is restorative:  for this practice, Yee has you roll two blankets into a bolster and lie with your legs over the blankets, focusing again on lengthening the back in this reclined position.  For the 30-minute yoga practice, Yee is instructing live, and he is accompanied by two students, one of whom shows modifications.  The focus of this practice is on the lower back, and it begins on the floor for reclined knee-to-chest, reclined leg stretch (a strap is used), and thread the needle pose.  Coming to a standing position, Yee leads his students through triangle pose, side angle, and down dog.  The students then return to the floor for a simple seated twist and sage 3 pose.  They spent a few minutes in a supported child's pose over blankets, and finally, they conclude with a modified cobra and a brief (1 minute) supported savasana, although Yee encourages you to remain longer in relaxation pose if desired. 

All of the Wellness Solutions DVDs, which are packaged in Gaiam's "eco conscious" cardboard cases, include a 48-page booklet entitled "My Stress Solution."  This booklet is not specific to the particular condition address in the DVD (although it does include a quick overview of the major points inside the back cover), but it provides an excellent overview of the basic principles of stress management.  I am a psychologist, and this booklet reviews the same strategies which I would use with my clients, including changing negative thought patterns, dealing with anger, learning to say no, improving communication, incorporating leisure activities, and finding ways to relax.

I think this DVD would be helpful to those who are frustrated by their back pain and who are not sure where to turn.  The educational information included is fairly basic, but it is hopeful and encouraging.  Furthermore, the meditation and yoga practices are very accessible and would be appropriate for both those new to yoga and those currently experiencing back pain. 

© 2009 Beth Cholette

Link: Gaiam website

Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students at SUNY Geneseo. She is also a Top 100 Reviewer at Amazon.com and the official yoga media reviewer for iHanuman.com.