Back pain is a very common complaint, especially in people who lead less active lifestyles. Yoga is a mental and physical practice that can help calm the mind and stretch and strengthen the body.
That said, it may be best to pair yoga poses with other forms of exercise, including both cardio and weight training, to get the best results.
Keep reading to learn about some yoga poses and how they may be useful in relieving back pain.
Yoga poses can help a person stretch the muscles in the core and back. This can help strengthen muscle areas that may not get much use otherwise. By doing so, a person may be able to avoid injuries that occur due to weak or overworked muscles.
To prevent injury during yoga, it is important for people to practice these positions slowly and gently. Making sudden movements or twisting forcefully may overstretch or strain the muscles.
There is growing evidence to support the use of yoga for certain types of pain. One 2020 study suggests that a yoga program tailored to each individual’s needs can improve both pain and quality of life scores.
Yoga is also gaining popularity as a treatment for issues such as chronic low back pain. One 2016 study notes that yoga may reduce pain, improve function, and boost mood in people with chronic low back pain.
A review in the International Journal of Yoga also notes that some types of yoga appear to treat back and neck pain in the short term, as they release muscle tension that leads to the symptoms of pain. However, the practices alone may not be as effective in the long term.
A 2016 review suggests that yoga appears to be a safe and effective treatment for chronic low back pain. It also suggests that yoga may have a positive effect on depression and other psychological conditions.
The following sections will discuss six effective yoga poses for back pain and how to do them.
Child’s Pose is both a resting position and an active stretch.
It is a core position in many yoga practices and may be useful for those looking to reduce back pain and tension.
- Start on all fours, with the legs together.
- Now, move the hands forward, so that the arms are fully extended.
- Sink the body back, so that the butt sits gently on the heels.
- Place the forehead to the ground.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds to 5 minutes.
Downward-Facing Dog is a popular pose in many yoga practices.
This position may be especially helpful for people with lower back pain and sciatica, as it helps gently stretch the muscles in the back of the leg.
- Start in an all-fours position, with the knees under the hips and the hands aligned with the wrists and shoulders.
- Push the weight into the hands and bring the body up off the knees.
- Bring the tailbone up toward the ceiling. The shoulders should naturally move back as the spine and legs lengthen. Keep a gentle bend in the knee, and feel the tailbone rising to the ceiling.
- Keep the heels slightly off the ground at first, easing them back as the position gets more comfortable. Press into the hands and arms to feel the stretch in the lower back and legs.
- Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
The Cat-Cow Pose helps bring movement to the spine and muscles of the back and shoulders.
It also stretches the neck and chest.
- To do the Cat-Cow Pose, sit on all fours, with the wrists lined up beneath the shoulders and the knees lined up underneath the hips. Keep the back straight yet relaxed.
- With each inhale, keep arms and legs straight and look up with the head, letting the stomach gently push toward the floor.
- With each exhale, bring the head down and tuck the chin into the chest. Pull the navel in toward the spine and let the back arch high toward the ceiling.
- Continue with these gentle motions for at least 1 minute. Notice anywhere there is tension in the body and try to release it and relax the area.
The Sphinx Pose is a gentle way to extend the back and activate muscles along the spine.
This may help ease tension throughout the back and is good for most beginners.
- Start by lying face down. Keep the feet in line with the hips, placing the tops of the feet on the floor.
- Bring the elbows under the shoulders, with the palms of the hands facing down on the mat.
- Use the hands, forearms, and elbows to gently lift the trunk up off the mat. Push into the floor with the forearms and hands, while gently pulling the chest forward.
- Try to raise the top of the head to the ceiling. Protect and strengthen the lower back by pressing the pelvic triangle into the mat and lengthening the tailbone toward the heels. The extension in the back should be gentle but cause a noticeable stretch and activation in the spine and muscles along the spine.
- Hold the pose for 1 minute.
Bridge Pose is a back-bending exercise that both works out and stretches the spine, hips, and hamstrings.
- To perform the pose, lie on the back with the arms at the sides and the palms of the hands on the mat.
- Bend the knees and bring the heels to sit near the buttocks, with the feet flat on the floor.
- Press into the feet and arms, lifting the tailbone off the floor toward the ceiling. Lift until the thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
- Slowly release the body back to the ground, from the torso down to the tailbone.
- Alternatively, hold this position for 5–10 seconds, then gently lower back to the ground. Repeat the pose 10 times as an active workout.
The Two-Knee Twist is a gentle way to help open the hips and back.
It also gently works the shoulders, abs, and chest.
- Lie flat on the back with the arms extended out to either side of the body.
- Draw the knees up to the chest and relax.
- Slowly lower the legs to one side of the body, keeping the knees close together the entire time.
- Rest the knees on a pillow or the ground. Relax into the position, holding for 30 seconds.
- Gently bring the legs back up to center and repeat the process on the other side.
It may be advisable to perform twisting movements under the guidance of a certified yoga trainer or physical health specialist. If a person does them incorrectly, twisting movements may worsen back pain symptoms.
Back pain is common problem. Some yoga poses may be able to help with this symptom. Regularly practicing gentle yoga stretches safely and correctly may help reduce or prevent back pain.
That said, simply doing a few yoga poses each day will typically not be enough to treat back pain in the long term.
Yoga poses may help in addition to other lifestyle changes for improving back pain, such as getting regular exercise and maintaining a moderate weight.