By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – With all those different positions and contortions, some might think yoga would aggravate back pain, which is an issue for millions of Americans.

But this research that was released within the hour says yoga can actually be helpful for some people with lower back pain.

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Judith Zaborowski takes regular yoga classes.

“I apparently have a spine that is covered with arthritis,” she says.

The 74-year-old says yoga helps ease her back pain.

“I’m much more comfortable with movement,” she explains.

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Now a new study backs that up.

Researchers looked at more than 300 low-income patients with chronic lower back pain. Some took yoga classes designed for back pain once a week. Others did physical therapy.

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“We found the yoga was as effective as physical therapy for reducing pain intensity, improving people’s physical function and perhaps most importantly, reducing pain medication use,” Dr. Rob Saper, the author of the study, says.

Instructor Debby Green says yoga cultivates balance in the body, which can relieve back pain.

“Different kinds of poses as well as we use tractioning, using our equipment to help people to free up where they’re not moving well or where they can’t move, where they are caught, where there’s compression, so that then they can learn to move without that,” Green says.

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Carol Shapiro, a yoga student, has scoliosis and has suffered with back pain for much of her life.

“When you’re in severe pain–I’m really not one for medication,” she says. “It is truly debilitating.”

She says yoga has allowed her to be much more mobile.

“ I feel really strong powerful…connected,” Green explains.

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Researchers say based on this study, they hope more doctors will recommend yoga to treat chronic back pain but they caution it won’t work for everyone and you should always check with your doctor first.

Stephanie Stahl