I know first hand how frustrating and debilitating back pain can be. Fortunately, yoga is an excellent way to manage your symptoms! Through mindful movement and relaxation techniques, yoga can help stretch out tight muscles, strengthen weak areas, improve your balance and alleviate overall tension. Read on to learn about some of the best poses for relieving back pain.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
Mountain pose is a great place to start your yoga practice. It helps you develop good posture and focus your attention on your body's alignment. To do Mountain Pose, stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your side. Make sure that your shoulders are relaxed, not tense or scrunched up by your ears. The crown of your head reaches upward and your spine is long, keeping your core engaged so your ribs aren't flaring out. Take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth as you hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
Child's Pose (Balasana)
Child's pose is one of the most restorative postures in yoga—it helps release tension from the entire body, particularly the lower back. To do this pose, kneel on the floor with your knees slightly wider than hip-distance apart. Then gently bow forward so that the top of your head rests comfortably on either a block or blanket if needed. If your hips dont reach your heels you can place a block or yoga bolster underneath your hips. Place your arms extended in front of you, or by your sides. Take slow deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth. Stay for 5-10 breaths or as long as you'd like.
Cat/Cow Flow (Marjariasana)
This classic yoga sequence is effective when it comes to releasing tension from the spine while also improving flexibility in the neck and shoulders—two areas that can also contribute to back pain. To do this pose, start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale round the spine like an angry cat. Push the floor away and pull your belly button into your spine, hollowing out though the front body. As you inhale arch the spine, tailbone towards the sky and imagine pulling the chest through the arms, gently pulling the mat back with your hands. Then exhale back into Cat, and keep this flow going with your breath for 5-10 rounds.
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward facing dog is a great pose for building stretch and stretching the hamstrings, shoulders and spine. Start on all fours with your hands slightly in front of your shoulders. Tuck the toes and push the hips up and back so you're in an upside down V-shape. Keep a bend in your knees as needed to really find length through the spine, your spine shouldn't round. Push the floor away and imagine pushing into the thumb and index finger area of your palms. Stay for 5 breaths.
Seated Side Bend (Parsva Sukhasana)
Seated side bends can be done on the floor or on a chair! They're great for opening up through the side body and stretching the quadratus lomborum muscles (big muscles in your low back) which tend to be pretty tight in most of us. You can sway from side to side with your breath or you can stay to one side and hold for 5 breaths before doing the second side.
Tree Pose (Vrkasana)
Tree pose is a wonderful yoga posture that opens up the hips, strengthens the ankles and feet, as well as improves your balance! Start with both feet hips distance to find your balance. Shift your weight over to your left leg and place your right foot either on your left ankle, on your calf or on the inside of the left thigh (avoid placing it on the knee). Press the foot into the thigh and thigh into the foot, for a stable base. Hands can be in prayer position or overhead for a more challenging balance. Stay for 5 breaths and then switch sides.
High Lunge (Ashta Shandrasana)
High lunge is a great way to counteract all the sitting we usually do during the day. It helps open up our front hips and also works leg strength, balance and core stability. Start standing with your feet hip distance, and take a big step back with one leg, feeling a nice stretch in the front hip of that back leg. Press into the heel of the front leg to really work those glutes. Hands can be on your hips or overhead for a more intense stretch. Stay for 5 breaths, then take a big step forward to return to the starting position before doing the second side.
Puppy Pose (Uttana Shishosana)
Puppy pose is my absolute favorite! It provides a yummy extension of the spine, especially in the upper back. It also helps open up the shoulders and counteract that hunching forward position so many of us spend our days in. Start in a tabletop position and walk your hands forward until your forehead reaches the floor. Press the hands into the floor and imagine trying to reach your armpits to the floor. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Legs Up The Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
This is a wonderfully restorative yoga pose and can feel so good for the lower back! Its a gentle inversion that helps calm the mind and nervous system, as well as help improve circulation and reduce any swelling in the feet. Lay on your back with your legs up a wall. You can be as close or as far from the wall as feels comfortable, depending on your hamstring flexibility. Its also ok to keep the knees bent. Feel free to have a pillow or blanket under your head.
Supine Twist (Supta Matsyendrasana)
This gentle twist can feel really good for the back as it can help stretch the spine and the back musculature. Start laying on your side with your legs together in a 90 degree angle. You can have a small pillow under your head. Take your top arm and extend it straight up and over to the opposite side. It doesnt have to reach the floor, just try to breathe into the stretch wherever you are. If it feels too intense in your sacrum, you can try keeping a yoga block or pillow between your knees. Stay for 10 breaths on each side.
These 10 yoga poses are just a few examples of how yoga can help relieve back pain. There are many other postures that may be helpful; experiment with different ones until you find what works best for you! Remember that yoga should never hurt; always listen carefully to what feels right rather than pushing yourself too far. With a consistent practice, yoga can help improve your posture while increasing strength, flexibility, balance, and range of motion—all key factors when it comes to managing chronic pain issues!
If you're looking for amore consistent practice, check out The Yoga Studio - my online yoga studio with tons of yoga classes, pilates classes, an entire category of back pain classes, guided meditations, and so much more! I hope to see you inside.
Namaste & happy practicing, yogis!